Monday, December 28, 2009

Building Fences - Hawaiian Style

There's nothing like a fencing project to make one feel right at home! Turns out Pete's lovely lab, Venus, was hopping over the stone wall at the bottom of the garden. Add to that the problem of the reddish volcanic dirt she was tracking into the swimming pool and, well, a fence was inevitable. Several shopping trips later, essential tools and equipment procured, we set to work.

Everybody - Dani, Pete, Dad, Hitomi, and two of the neighbours all chipped in and we not only got all the fencing done, the crew also managed to get the three new fruit trees planted (more on those in a future post).
Yes, it is a LOT hotter here than at home. Fortunately, there is a handy swimming pool close by to prevent labourers from dropping with heat stroke! And for those who can't wait to swim, there's always the hose...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Local Food Solution for Sinful Pleasures

I know I am not the only one caught on the horns of a dilemma when it comes to trying to eat locally. Where on Vancouver Island am I supposed to procure a steady (guilt free) supply of coffee? Chocolate? Bananas? Citrus fruits? Today at the KCC (Kapiolani Community College) Farmers Market,I discovered the obvious solution: move to Oahu!

Ka 'u coffee is, according to the sign, one of the top ten in the world. It was certainly the best cup of coffee I had today - so delicious, in fact, I went back for a second round. The rich flavour of the coffee was matched only by the superb mouthful of chocolate glory I enjoyed at the Malie Kai Chocolate stand! Oh my - was THAT ever good!

Thus fortified and fairly buzzing with cocoa flavonoids (or whatever it is in chocolate that produces that exquisite chocolate high), we shopped for locally produced butter, incredible bread, and fresh organic tomatoes.

Fresh grass-fed beef burgers (okay, okay - I know burgers do not eat grass) were available, though in the end we forgot to go back to the stand to buy some!

One of the great things (and there were many great things to note about strolling around in a market situated at the base of Diamond Head) was the fact the stands were exclusively selling food and other items that are GROWN here. Flowers, honey, beef, bakery goods, all manner of fresh produce, etc. and nary a bead earring or floral sun dress to be found! A real farmers' market, in fact.


Am I kidding about moving here? Not really... All I need now is a nice Hawaiian rancher with room for my horses...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Eat Wild - In Praise of Grass Fed Food

Looking for information about grass fed food, free range eggs, and more? The Eat Wild website has tons of useful resources... There are articles about the benefits for farmers, consumers, the environment and, of course, for the animals. The site also lists a number of reference books and includes links to some handy dandy kitchen gadgets.

Looking for a local source of pasture fed beef, chicken, pork, or lamb? Follow the links to find a farmer near you... Click on your state (or follow the link to Canadian producers) to find out who is producing the following:
  • beef
  • pork
  • lamb
  • veal
  • bison (buffalo)
  • rabbits
  • chevon (goat meat)
  • deer, elk, yak
  • wild-caught seafood
  • chicken
  • ducks
  • turkey
  • eggs
  • milk, butter, cheese
  • produce
  • honey
  • nuts

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Excellent Regional Winter Gardening Handbook

Want to extend your growing season and enjoy fresh produce from your garden pretty well year-round? Well, if you live on the coast of BC, here's the handbook for you...

This is not a flashy, full colour, luscious gardening book (it's black and white and spiral bound) but this down-to-earth format in no way diminishes the value of the information contained inside. I love the idea of being able to harvest things when the rest of the country is shivering under a blanket of snow (I know that's a bit mean, but winter bragging rights are counted among the many benefits of living here on the island...). At the moment I'm waiting to see if, indeed, my kale and winter greens mix will bounce back after the chilly few days we've had. This afternoon I was surprised to see the heart of a couple of the larger plants sort of fluffing up a bit (most of the rest look decidedly sad!). The onion tops look a bit droopy, but they are still green and I'm hoping that underground, things are still in good shape.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pollan on Food

  Another reading suggestion for those long, chilly winter nights...

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan (Penguin)
In a nutshell, here's Pollan's position on food: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

It's a simple enough premise - eat real, actual food (and not imitation food, food products, edible oil products, etc.) and not only will you be healthier, the planet will thank you, too. What is most astounding about this is not the premise (which falls into the 'well, duh' category) but the fact that we seem to need a whole book to remind us of some pretty basic principles.

Even more interesting is the fact that these simple ideas have got some industrial food producers' britches in a twist (here's an interesting blog post about Pollan speaking at Cal Poly SLO).

Want to introduce some of Pollan's ideas to younger readers? Check out this version of Pollan's earlier book, The Ominvore's Dilemma:

December rainbow!

Ah... sun showers. Much, much better than the way too frosty weather we've had recently. Took this shot as the sun was coming up this morning and we were about to commence the paddock mucking...
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sprout - Local Food Website

We're fortunate to live in a corner of the world blessed with a fabulous climate and lots going on in terms of urban agriculture/slow food/sustainable living initiatives. The Sprout website brings together the many organizations and individuals working on food-related projects in the area. From the website:

Sprout Victoria is a volunteer not-for-profit support network that acts as a hub connecting all urban agricultural activities in the Greater Victoria Region.  It enables people interested in urban agriculture to become involved by accessing current urban agricultural initiatives, workshops, events, projects and other relevant resources.

The community events calendar is an effective tool aimed at connecting all urban agricultural grassroots initiatives in Victoria for community members; public, university students and professors, governmental bodies and small to large-scale non-government organizations.  This will aid present and future generations in creating sustainable food sources on Vancouver Island.

The Sprout Victoria project has the following objectives;
  • To enable local and surrounding community members to become engaged in urban agricultural activities in Victoria and the Greater Region,
  • To spread a greater awareness of pertinent issues such as the island’s food security and accessibility,
  • To create a larger network of people now connected and talking about sustainable food sources on the island,
  • To provide resources and a support network for communities interested in urban agriculture.
 Check out the calendar, list of resources, and if you are an event/course organizer, local farmer, or are otherwise involved with local food issues, get in touch and get connected. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Good reading while the garden is frozen

I know there are plenty of places dealing with far worse than we are, but for us wimpy westcoasters, it's cold out there! My greens are looking rather unhappy - their row covers blew off in the big windstorm. They may well bounce back when things warm up again, but ewww...

Also annoying is the frozen water system... We rely on miles of buried water pipe which leads to various standpipes, attached in turn to more miles of hose that eventually winds up at the various animal shelters and paddocks. When things freeze we are reduced to hauling hot water in containers several times a day. It is during our rare cold snaps that I am reminded just how much horses drink every day!

Around here, cold snaps are usually accompanied by clear skies and glorious sunshine, and I must say that the break in the rain is nothing short of delightful. One cannot have everything all at the same time...

Being inside a bit more at the moment (another reality of the season is the short, short length of day - it's more or less dark by 4:30 in the afternoon) means more time to read, so I thought I'd post a few book reviews of titles I've particularly enjoyed.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Written with the help of her husband, Steven Hopp and one of her daughters (Camille Kingsolver), this is the story of her family's challenge to itself to eat food produced locally.

Living on a small acreage (or, at least, the amount of usable land is quite small), the family manages to grow quite the range of produce. Not only are they efficient in the gardening department, they throw themselves into tasks like canning tomatoes and coming up with creative ways to deal with excessive amounts of zucchini. Their adventures in everything from bread and cheese-making to farmers markets and travels abroad are related in a conversational, easy-to-digest style full of anecdotes and musings both practical and philosophical.

One of my favourite things about the book is the discussion of raising one's own chickens and turkeys. It has long seemed illogical to me that we are more squeamish about the idea of slaughtering our own meat than we are about purchasing packaged meat containing who-knows-what additives, raised in who-knows-what horrible conditions, and bereft of nutrients found in more traditionally raised animals.

As one would expect from a great spinner of yarns, the book is eminently readable. The addition of nutritional information, meal plans, and recipes (contributed by Camille) and a bit of scientific context and resources (pulled together by Steven) gives this book some serious heft in the practical/usefulness department. An index would have been handy, but the Kingsolvers have recognized this oversight and have provided one on their official website.

I'd love to hear what books you've found particularly inspiring. Drop me a note in the comments field and I'll compile a list of favourites.