Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lamb's Quarters

Life is rather busy these days, but fortunately for my sanity, I signed up for a 'medicine of wild plants' course through Wild Rose College of Natural Healing a year ago before wedding plans had been made. Which meant I got to spend the weekend before the big day working on my freckle collection in Nose Hill Park instead of in the mall. It was a wonderful way to refocus and soak up the goodness of the wilderness there, spending time getting to know the plants I had previously walked by without a second thought. If you take a course like this your life is changed forever... weeds will never be the same. Now instead of weeding I'll be making salad. I had tried lamb's quarters previously, and had been looking for them in shishi grocery stores.. but guess what, they are in my backyard. Ha! I have learned that they are a wild cousin to spinach and are 'one of the most nutritious wild foods you can eat'. So remind me why anyone would pay 5.99 for 128 g (that's a direct quote from a local grocer..) of week old greens from California? Now that I am paying attention to what grows nearby, I am interested in finding out what's what. The ALCLA Native Plants site has a catalogue of local plants with descriptions that has come in handy.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why I pay 5.50 for a dozen eggs

I enjoyed this kitchn post on the many considerations at play in our food choices. 'Why I pay 7.50 for a dozen eggs' So many discussions I have with people curious about organic food revolve around whether it's worth the money. The idea that we should always pay as little as possible for everything, especially food, is so ingrained into our cultural psyche it is difficult to even recognize. However the negative consequences of that kind of thinking can be seen all around us, especially in the lives of farmers and agricultural workers. Free market captialism at its worst squeezes profits out of any exchange of capital, since the system requires profits to always go up in order to benefit shareholders. Unfortunately the most easily squished parts of the system are human beings; usually the human beings who are most vulnerable. I learned a great deal about what is going on in Canada and Alberta from Yessy Byl, a lawyer with the Alberta Federation of Labour. She discusses the problems with the current temporary foreign worker program at changingthecanvas.org.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Blueboxing

Did you know that there is an entire phenomenon on the internets called unboxing, wherein people document reverentially removing a new gadget from the box? Wacky. Well I guess everyone has their thing, because I actually screamed out loud when we pulled up to the house this afternoon and saw someone unloading our big blue recycling bin. Curbside recycling has come to pass in this city of giant malls, trucknuts (yes, I actually saw 'a pair'... shudder... the other day) and no garbage bag limits. So here you have, ladies and gentlemen.. the first blueboxing.

It took us about four minutes to fill it. I think it'll be a few more weeks before the basement is free of a thousand yoghurt containers. For an interesting look at residential waste in Alberta, take a look at Evan Osenton's (disclosure: I am marrying this person in three weeks) feature on the subject in Albertaviews, Beyond Landfill.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Two local sites/blogs I've been impressed with lately..

The New Resilient
From the 'About' section: "The economy of scale is over, and the decentralized, self-sufficient local economy has a real chance to change things for the better. The New Resilient is meant to spark dialogue and bring resources on food policy and the public economy together so we can do such thing."

Calgary Is Awesome
...because it's good to know what the young people are up to these days..

Ode to local broccoli

I'm not finding a lot of time in my schedule for blogging these days. It would be rather silly to sit inside and write about gardening with a beautiful garden calling to me right outside the door.. especially since the Calgary growing season is about eight weeks long, and getting shorter with every passing year of global weirding. I have to say, despite my love/hate relationship with this city of my birth, summer in Calgary is a dream. It really feels like a different world. One day, it's minus two and snowing, and the next day, it's plus 25 and there are thousands of people on the river pathway, drinking Trad on the patio at the Ship, and walking up and down 17th Ave. in a quarter of the clothes they were wearing the day before. It's hilarious.

A few recent highlights:

Let me start with the most important. Yesterday at the market I came across some LOCAL BROCCOLI, courtesy of the heroes at Hotchkiss Herbs and Produce. This is totally unheard of round these parts. I don't know anyone who has managed to grow it themselves. I don't think I have ever in my life had broccoli from anywhere other than California. It is weird to wax poetic over a bunch of broccoli? Because it really did taste better. It had a quality I had never experienced.. it was more flower-like somehow.. and the stem had a buttery quality that was rather spectacular. Ok, I'll try to get a grip now. But seriously, local broccoli, get it while it's in season.

Also exciting.. Albertaviews, the local magazine where my very talented partner works, was nominated for and won 'Magazine of the Year' at the National Magazine Awards. Not too shabby.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I have been trying to phase out as many strange chemicals as possible from everyday life. This includes the ubiquitous Teflon and Scotchguard products (otherwise known as PFOA -- Perfluorooctanoic Acid) .. given some of the evidence slowly accumulating regarding the dangers they present to human health and the environment. The notoriously conservative Environmental Protection Agency in the States reported on the dangers of low level exposure to PFOAs back in 2003, which would indicate that a very real and likely under-reported risk exists. Just try searching online for info on this, you mostly get 'articles' put forward by the companies themselves. The chemicals in these products have been linked to cancer, immune system disruption, and more recently to infertility in women.
It's a challenging feat to remove this chemical from one's everyday environment, because it really is everywhere. It is found in food packaging such as microwave popcorn bags, carpet cleaner, spray cleaner, nonstick cookware, products like Febreeze, and is sprayed on most new soft furniture.

Some of the solutions I have found:

I make my own spray cleaner (dead easy and can be scented with essential oil, much better than
'Tahitian Vanilla' or some such horror..)

I ditched the old non-stick pan for an All Clad pan that was a little pricey but is a dream to use. We use it at least twice a day. (Here's a NYTimes article about one cook's search for a non-Teflon pan..)

I have a dog, so I steam clean the carpet pretty often. I recently tried replacing the cleaning solution with vinegar, and it worked beautifully. I've heard adding a bit of borax helps as well.

I'm not sure about the current couch, because I got it off of craigslist, but if I must buy new I try to support Ikea, as they have a good track record when it comes to chemical regulation. They don't use super toxic glues in particle board, unlike most manufacturers. And they also eschew spray treatments for soft furniture.