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  • Peeling the Onion
    packaged by people in places as far apart as Thailand Mexico India Holland Malaysia and Canada I believe that this binds us together and creates a relationship of mutual responsibility It is also undeniable that we live in an unjust world with unequal access to the basics of life in addition to the luxuries that many take for granted â like water coming out of a tap shelter from the heat safety in our communities and a reasonable workload and compensation for our efforts My interest is primarily focused on food and agriculture and how we all organisms share this globe in a sustainable and just manner My passion for this work is based in my concerns about the economic social and environmental impacts of the industrial food system on our global community With each passing day I learn more and deepen my understanding of my role and my responsibilities as a member of the community that inhabits this planet I peel another layer off the onion Comments 0 Pages About Blog Contact Hello World Photos What Where Why Categories Blog Archives August 2010 July 2010 January 2010 December 2009 April 2009 March 2009 October 2008 Links BC Food Systems

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  • Peeling the Onion
    ones tall ones and stubby ones And intermixed with these plants in waiting for spring were the conifers sometimes loaded with snow and other times lightly frosted And then of course there is all the tree that we donâ t normally see under ground their roots  I was told a wonderful story by a woman who runs a lovely B B in Cranbrook Shortly after Cranbrook was hit by a tornado she had attended a permaculture course  During the course people were talking about all the trees large and small that had been uprooted by the force of those powerful winds  Yet at the B B none of the old trees had been touched  The permaculture instuctor explained that because her yard has many well established trees they essentially hold hands roots under the ground and hold each other down during such extreme weather events With that story fresh in my mind I was hiking through the woods on a road cut into the side of a steep hillside  Sure enough where the road had created sharp banks the exposed roots could clearly be seen to be intermingled sharing the space the soil nutrients and holding each other up and down My relationship with trees had a lot to do with why it was so hard for us to decide to leave our home in the forest and move into town  My kids were growing up and heading off to university and independent lives my partner was commuting 100km to work 4 days a week and our house would soon be ridiculously large for the two of us  But it was the sound of the wind in the trees tracking their beauty and character through the changing seasons and the haven they provided that was so hard to leave It took six years but eventually we did decide to make the big move into a city of 10 000 people  Within a very short space of time our dog had us trained to our new environment with twice daily walks in the woods four blocks from our new home  I missed my familiar paths and woods but those new daily walks soon became routine in all the right ways I noticed when different plants came into flower the volunteer cherry trees in the woods gifts of the bears and the trees holding hands I also really noticed for the first time how much of a role the trees play in softening the rainâ s impact on the ground below   We would walk the four blocks to the woods after a rain and then enter the woods to an extended and gentle shower as the water from the skies was slowly released from the canopy above our heads  I could not help but think how grateful all the living creatures under those great trees must feel as do I I spent a good portion of my free hours recently creating a support system for an espaliered Asian pear tree we planted last year  It is one of six fruit trees in my small urban orchard  Other than the well established cherry tree that was here when we bought the place we have planted all the trees â two apple a plum the Asian pear and a peach  My childhood in an orchard only prepared me so far for having full responsibility for fruit trees  I will always be able to spot a cherry tree simply by its bark â but knowing how to protect that same tree from leaf rollers cherry fruit fly and all the birds who come to share in the harvest â that is a whole other kettle of fish so to speak  But each week I learn something new about better caring for these diverse trees and I enjoy the work of tending to them â not just for the eventual harvest but to enjoy all that a tree is right in my own back yard Comments 0 From sous chef to baker extraordinaire Filed under Blog January 24 2010 11 05 am When I left home for the big city and life at university I joined two of my sisters in a shared apartment  Since they both had more experience in the kitchen than I did I quickly became the de facto sous chef I washed and tore up a lot of lettuce leaves rolled countless chapati and quickly became quite adept at cutting apart the whole chickens we would purchase to make our student dollars go as far as they could After time and the confidence that comes from repetitive tasks I decided to take the plunge and try baking bread  I still vividly remember my first attempts at creating the magic of bread from a mix of flour water yeast and a few other ingredients  I remember hovering and praying over my rising dough hoping desperately that I had inherited my mother s touch with all things bread and turn out beautiful and scrumptious works of art for the nose eyes and tummy As I recall my early trepidation and fervent prayers were based on some pretty impressive failures  In hindsight I am guessing that some of my brick like creations may have been due to stale whole grain flour since this was long before the days of my bicycle flour mill  And despite any shortcomings in the quality of the flour I was able to acquire during my university days it seems that I did indeed inherit my mother s instinct for knowing the right blend and consistency when one has kneaded enough and what a properly cooked loaf of bread or batch of buns looks and sounds like when they are ready to emerge from the heat of the oven When my kids left home to have their own university experiences not only did I loose ready access to my son s powerful flour producing quads my motivation to bake bread also fell by the wayside since there was no one but me left to consume it  However a happy convergence of factors has got me baking up a storm again One of the many advantages of living in Upper Uphill of Nelson is that the regular walk up the hill to home can t help but build up the old quadriceps  So though I will likely never rival my son s flour generating power I can cycle up a goodly amount of flour in no time  Combine that with an inspiring array of local grains within easy reach of my mill and I can t help but play in my kitchen once the flour has been freshly ground of course  Today I even tackled my old nemesis corn and ground up some fresh cornmeal Turns out that after a year and a half of walking up and down the Nelson hills corn really isn t that hard The recipe below is inspired by a breakfast cereal blend that came to me via my wonderful dairy friends Wayne and Denise Harris who received it from the hands and fields of the Gailius family likely in exchange for some of their marvelous cheese Kootenay Alpine Cheese website farming in the beautiful and adjoining communities of Lister and Canyon BC Canyon Multi Grain 1 2 cup warm water 1 tsp sugar or 1 2 tsp honey 1 tbsp yeast 1 cup mashed potato 1 cup warm water ideally from the cooked potato if possible 1 2 cup multi grain breakfast cereal porridge 1 2 cup milk scalded to destroy the anti gluten proteins in the milk 3 tbsp butter 1 tbsp salt 1 4 cup sugar in as natural a form as you can get it or substitute 2 tbsp honey 1 1 2 cups each whole rye and whole wheat flour as freshly milled as possible approx 2 cups sifted wheat flour as needed Mix sugar or honey into the 1 2 cup of warm water it should feel slightly warm on your inner wrist add the yeast and mix it in gently  Place in a draft free area and ignore for 10 minutes or until the yeast has bubbled up Meanwhile in a large bowl thoroughly blend the potato water breakfast cereal milk butter salt and sugar  When the yeast is ready blend into the potato mix  Gradually stir in the whole wheat and rye flours Continue to stir in the sifted flour until you are no longer able to blend it in by hand turn out onto floured sturdy surface and knead for 8 10 minutes or until there aren t any more sticky spots  Place in a lightly oiled bowl cover with a cloth tea towels work well and place in a draft free warm location  Let rise 1 1 2 hours or until doubled in size  Punch down thoroughly and turn onto floured surface knead it a couple of times to be sure to remove any air bubbles Divide the dough into two  Flatten each one until it is about 1 2 inch thick and then roll up to fit into a greased standard bread pan I use old butter papers to grease the pans this is a good use of the remaining butter and will not leave that horrible sticky residue that baked vegetable oil does  Cover and let rise again out of drafts for another hour or until doubled in size  Bake in pre heated 375 F oven for 40 45 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when you knock on them with your knuckle  Remove from the pans and let cool on racks Canyon Multi grain Bread Comments 1 Food sovereignty community Filed under Blog January 9 2010 12 41 pm I was interviewed the other day by Sarah Martin as part of her work on a masters degree  The topic at hand was food sovereignty and how it is involved in my work The interview sparked some interesting exchanges and forced me to articulate ideas that I may not have otherwise taken the time to do so I have used the language of food sovereignty for a number of years now but the concepts underlying it for much longer  I have long believed that when we have some measure of control over our food system then we can bring our values and priorities into that system  In that way I find the language of food sovereignty more useful and inclusive than that of food security which tends to be closely aligned with hunger and poverty  Food sovereignty relates to those actively engaged in their food systems rather than mere passive subjects of it  And I for one believe that our food systems are so incredibly vital that we have no choice but to be actively engaged if we want to ensure that they will be around to nourish us this year and next and 50 years down the road While there are many who have worked on food systems and agriculture for much longer than I have as someone who has worked in and devoted much mental effort to this realm for the better part of the past 20 years it has been interesting to watch the shift in the general population when it comes to our relationship with food  I was actively involved in customer education in the late 1990 s and was somewhat bemused by the level of concern locally about y2k in the year or so leading up to 2000  Quite a few people spent a lot of time and money procuring a large stock of dry goods and other foodstuffs that could be stored for long periods Clearly they perceived that the long supply chains were vulnerable and sought to protect themselves and their families against a break in that chain  The health food co operative where I worked took a pro active approach and we provided a range of educational materials and opportunities to the general public to help to re skill people in the ways of food storage making food from scratch growing sprouts and nutrition In the past decade I have seen other groups of people re examine their relationship with their food from a range of values and perspectives Some started making changes in how they sourced their food based on environmental concerns others based on health and nutritional considerations and still others on considerations of the role and treatment of animals in our food systems  And then there was the whole move to put a face on a farmer to actually consider the hands muscles and heart that go into producing the food The exciting thing from my perspective was a greatly increased level of awareness and prioritizing of food and the systems that bring it to us through this happy convergence of many different values and priorities Which takes me back to food sovereignty for me food sovereignty allows us to imbue food systems with our values and priorities be they about how those involved in the food system are treated human plant or animal whether or not the ecosystems that support us all can continue to do so for generations going forward whether different forms of food provisioning are respected and given space to be Which takes me to my next point for me food sovereignty is inherently connected with healthy communities  I am not speaking about our physical well being though that should be a consequence of food sovereignty  However I believe that diversity in humanity is as important as biodiversity in ecosystems Which means that we will frequently have different opinions and priorities amongst us A healthy community knows how to live with that diversity and work out the compromises I think that I have an ingrained instinct for community likely based on growing up in a family of 13 I was the runt and the eighth child  I experienced first hand the necessity of the division of labour relative to each person s ability the mechanisms effort and compromises necessary to ensuring that each had enough food clothing space in a bed and that one has to learn to live together no matter anyone s mood or personality quirks  I believe that we can and will learn to live together and support each other in our communities come what may and that those efforts will be best supported by having the essentials of our lives under our own control to the degree possible sovereignty Food sovereignty is one important piece of what we need to do to live together peacefully and respectfully on this tiny burdened planet Comments 2 Thoughts on solstice pesto Filed under Blog December 23 2009 11 24 am As someone who dwells north of the equator and the 49th parallel I always get very excited by winter solstice  Somehow just knowing that the sun is returning on December 22nd brings so much more light and hope  However this autumn retained a lovely summer glow for a long time thanks to whatever good weather we got but also thanks to all the wonderful food in my larder my freezer and in canning jars from my own garden this year  Back in early October when heavy frosts threatened I uprooted all my tomato plants and removed any remaining tomatoes laying them carefully in a single layer in trays and box tops to ripen at their own pace in my basement  We used them all autumn long as they ripened red glorious yellow green and purple ones Our household diet changes with the seasons and the fresh tomatoes were a lovely but anomalous addition to our usual autumn and winter fare consisting primarily of root crops legumes and other hearty foods to keep the chill away drawing on the stock of foods put away in jars bags and in the freezer So it felt simply sumptuous to eat the last of our own fresh tomatoes a week before winter solstice Underneath those lovely tomatoes for our pre solstice dinner was a bed of pesto also made from fresh basil from my garden  We brought the basil in its terra cotta container inside our home in October and made sure it had a place of honour in the best lit corner of the house  Happily for us it just kept producing lovely green and fragrant leaves  I stopped harvesting them in early December to ensure that there would be enough for a pesto feast  I am attaching a pesto recipe to this post I have adapted the more traditional recipe to use pumpkin seeds rather than pine nuts since the seeds grow in my foodshed unlike the pine nuts  Any locavore purists will note that I have not yet found a substitute for good olive oil Basil Pesto Recipe adapted from Noel Richardson s Winter Pleasures Herbs Comfort Cooking 2 cups 500 ml freshly washed firmly packed basil leaves 2 4 cloves garlic peeled and crushed 1 2 cup 125 ml olive oil 3 tbsp 45 ml pumpkin seeds 1 cup 250 ml freshly grated hard cheese I use my friends lovely Mountain Grana made by the Harris family owners of the Kootenay Alpine Cheese Co http www kootenayalpinecheese com coarsely chopped fresh flavourful tomatoes Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry cast iron frying pan until they start to pop remove and allow to cool  Then place the seeds along with the basil garlic olive oil and grated cheese in a food processor  Process until the leaves are finely chopped and the whole thing is well blended Serve over your favourite pasta and top with fresh tomatoes Fresh Basil Basket of Tomatoes Comments 0 Mary Lou Bread Filed under

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