Local Food

Aug. 26th, 2015 11:10 pm
siglinde99: (Default)
I think a lot about food security, partly because it's what I do at work, but also because it's a local issue that I connect with. I live in a fairly wealthy neighbourhood but some of the poorest people in the city live nearby (including residents of one of the city's largest homeless shelters, right on my bike route to work). Food insecurity and access to healthy foods are two of the biggest problems people face here. At the same time, local family farms are struggling, and grocery stores are importing produce from across the world even though the same products are available locally.

Community gardens have become very popular as a way to provide healthy food (some donate a lot of produce to local food banks, as well as giving many families the chance to grow a little for themselves). I have been lucky enough to have a plot for three years now. With the pots of plants at my house, I am able to provide at least a few meals for my family - plus I get hours of entertainment as I try to save my own seeds and re-use them the next year, weed, and chat with people I meet at the garden.

This year, I gambled and bought in to a community-supported agriculture box. I share a small box with a colleague from work who happens to live nearby. At first I worried about the initial outlay and whether I would be able to use everything. After about 10 weeks, I am hooked! I have been learning to make new things (last week it was salsa verde), and I'm eating less meat because I need to save room for the veggies. Plus, the lady who owns the farm where I get my produce employs 16 people, which makes me very happy.

I also love harvesting local wild foods. Some are just greens (ie weeds) from my garden, but I also collect apples, rose hips, and sometimes other fruits or berries. This year, I finally got to volunteer with Hidden Harvest Ottawa, a local social business that harvests fruit and nuts from city-owned and private properties, with permission. So far I have made crab-apple preserves


and verjus (a medieval alternative to vinegar), given a bag of crab-apples to a friend for her cooking projects, and I have a bag of apples waiting to be turned into cider. 1/4 of all the fruit harvested goes to local food banks, 1/4 goes to the fruit tree owner (if there is one and they want it), 1/4 (if the harvest is at least 80 lb) goes to Hidden Harvest to donate to small food preservation kitchens, and 1/4 is divided up among the volunteer harvesters. I have volunteered to be a neighbourhood leader so that I can organize harvests for others. I love meeting interesting people outside my usual circle, and this is proving to be a great way to do just that.
siglinde99: (Default)
Yesterday we read Psalm 148. It's a fine praise song (it even has dragons), but with one glaring omission. It mentions children, young men, maidens and old men, but no older women. Is it a sexist omission, or is it a reflection of the fact that, between early marriage, frequent pregnancy and poor maternal health outcomes, there were few old women who survived to praise the Lord?

Last night, I needed to look for a picture of Ruth using a quern in the BBC series on life in a 13th C castle (set at Gu├ędelon) and came across this: http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2014/nov/19/secrets-of-the-castle-review-good-old-fashioned-medieval-fun. I was appalled. What right has the reviewer to assume that the work done by Ruth (referred to as bandage-head because she has on a proper headdress) is any less interesting than that done by the men, just because it happens to be focused in the first episode around the household and garden? I re-read the article again today and it still makes me cranky. I can see that the reviewer is trying to be funny, but by disparaging the work that is done by the most articulate and apparently knowledgeable of the three stars of the show, simply because she is highlighting work that was gendered at the time makes me insane. Clearly, he thinks he is being all non-sexist by criticizing "women's work" but in fact he is contributing to the perception that it is less valuable than the work done by men.
siglinde99: (Ballet)
Last Monday I headed to El Salvador for a few days. It was lovely except for a few hitches.
1) On the way to the airport, I tidied up my knapsack and managed to leave my phone charger in the taxi.
2) I made my connection in Chicago, but my luggage did not. Luckily I had some essential clothing and supplies in my knapsack, as I didn't see my suitcase again until late Wednesday night. My colleague was not so lucky, as he forgot his wallet somewhere in Chicago or on the plane. It still hasn't shown up as far as I know.
3) I had bought a replacement phone charger at the Ottawa airport, but left it behind at my hotel in Usulután on Tuesday.
4) I didn't lose anything on Wednesday or Thursday, but I did forget to pay Clara back after she accidentally covered the cost of our hotel rooms on Wednesday morning. I'll need to mail her a cheque tomorrow!
5) Having managed to get my phone recharged thanks to one of my friends at the Embassy, I misplaced the phone on Friday morning. I had it in my hotel room just before leaving. I opened my knapsack in the car to take a picture of bunnies on the side of the road when we stopped to investigate a leaking tire; the phone may have fallen out then. Tomorrow I'll be putting in some calls to see if the phone showed up in the car; if not, I'll be getting my friend at the Embassy to see whether it was turned in at the hotel. Hopefully she will be able to mail it back soon.
6) The flight from El Salvador was delayed by an hour when two people decided not to travel at the last minute and their bags had to be retrieved. As a result, I missed my connection in Toronto and lost another hour in travel time. We won't even discuss how much sleep I lost during the week, staying out too late and getting up too early every day.

In non-lost news, El Salvador has made huge progress since I was last there. There is an impressive road network, the quality of houses and cars has improved significantly. I didn't see a single person selling fruit or other goodies on the street. Tourism is way up, according to the locals. There is still poverty, but nothing like when I lived there, except in very remote regions like the ones I went to visit.

Skraeling Althing bunnies are everywhere! These fearless fellows were on the side of a four-lane highway.

El Salvador 2014 093

Francisco, Sara, me, Esly, Karla and Romeo - all former colleagues at the Embassy.
El Salvador 2014 090

Proud graduates of the baking, construction and literacy courses in Ilobasco, partly funded by Canada
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A few of the grads in the literacy program. These ladies studied reading, writing and practical human rights skills for a year. The lady in front just turned 75. The one directly behind her broke into a dance upon receiving her diploma.
El Salvador 2014 081

Processing coffee beans in rural Usulutan. This project was born following land reform that gave landless peasants small plots of land, many of them with ageing coffee trees. Now, thousands of farmers in 13 communities have improved varieties of younger trees (with more on the way), and a guaranteed market for their beans. The same project has fair trade shops in all the villages so that farmers have access to essential goods and a place to sell their produce. The shops are run by community youth, who now are willing to stay rather than taking their chances with illegal migration or a move to the big city.
El Salvador 2014 044

Traffic jam in San Francisco, Usulutan
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View from my hotel room, Usulutan
El Salvador 2014 027

siglinde99: (Default)
I'm thinking about trying Live Below the Line fundraising and awareness campaign that challenges participants to live on the equivalent of $1.50 ($1.75 Cdn) for food and drink for five days. It starts April 28 and goes until May 2. Geoff leaves the morning of the 29th. I'm pretty sure I can live on rice, beans, home-baked bread, eggs, local vegetables and bananas for a week.

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