Friday 23 May 2008

Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (and family)

This entry is going to be a bit more than a book review. Mainly because it's a topic which is so important to me that I can't help but sprinkling it with personalisms. First off, I'd like to dedicate this entry on my blog to my good friend Steve, and people like him who have known about the struggle to keep the "locavore" movement alive a lot longer than people like me. I've always felt that healthy eating was important, but lately, learning more about myself, and what makes me tick has made me even more focused on this important issue; so, I've been learning as much as I possibly could. Jodi (at work) told me about this Barbara Kingsolver event coming up and told me I should go to it because - in her book - she makes cheese. She really does make cheese in her book, but the book is about much more than just cheese. (Jodi knew that, just wanted to share a portion of it that she thought would be important to me - being a cheesemaker and all) Anyway, so, I was all - yeah maybe, ok. Then, one day a couple of weeks back, I was just chillin' like a villin' at my favorite book store - McNally Robinson (about to close locally, which makes me sad) There was this Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book sitting there, so I picked it up; and lo and behold - in the description - I learned that Barbara and her family were living my dream. Living off the land, self reliant, supporting local farmers. When I was a little girl, (in Calgary - no joke) we had a garden. This was the late '70's, early '80's you understand of course, so the seasons were reasonably - normalish, and we could probably grow more than you could now. We had lovely Zucchini, Peas, Raspberries, Carrots, Potatoes, Chives, Rhubarb, Strawberries, probably lots of other things too, but I can't remember them all now. I do remember however - eating peas and chives until I was sick and stinky. We loved that garden, and the fruits of our labors.

Dad, Deb, Rich and I with some of the fruits of our labors. Note that my head is down and I am seriously focused on eating peas.

Dad, Rich and I in the Raspberry patch - harvesting Raspberries.

Ah, those were the days. I often say that, but life was really much, much simpler in the '80's. What has happened to us? Why are we so driven to keep going and going, and our lives fly by. Months seem to go faster, and days seem to flee as soon as they arrive. There's a movement called "Slow Food International" started in 1986 - Italy that is trying to restore some of those simpler, slower, more appreciated practices that are involved in keeping the food we eat - healthy and flavorful. There is a direct correlation between freshness of food, and flavor. The fresher our food is - (straight from the ground, or free-range fed), the more flavor, the more nutrition we are going to get from it. That is the message of Barbara's book. That and much more actually. There are so many different aspects of this issue that it affects us nutritionally, socially, economically, politically - we literally ARE what we eat. I honestly (and am ashamed to say) have never thought of this until reading the book, but the truth is that we are contributing a massive amount of emissions to the atmosphere due to food transport. There's a portion of the book - written by her husband - Steven L. Hopp which can explain this issue better than I can...

"Americans put almost as much fossil fuel into our refrigerators as our cars. We're consuming about 400 gallons of oil a year per citizen - about 17 percent of our nations energy use - for agriculture, a close second to our vehicular use. Tractors, combines, harvesters, irrigation, sprayers, tillers, balers, and other equipment all use petroleum. Even bigger gas guzzlers on the farm are not the machines, but so-called inputs. Synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides use oil and natural gas as their starting materials, and in their manufacturing. More than a quarter of all farming energy goes into synthetic fertilizers. But getting the crop from seed to harvest takes only one-fifth of the total oil used for our food. The lion's share is consumed during the trip from the farm to your plate. Each food item in a typical US meal has traveled an average of 1500 miles. In addition to direct transport, other fuel-thirsty steps include processing (drying, milling, cutting, sorting, baking), packaging warehousing, and refrigeration. Energy calories consumed by production, packaging, and shipping far outweigh the energy calories we receive from the food. A quick way to improve food-related fuel economy would be to buy a quart of motor oil and drink it. More palatable options are available. If every US citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That's not gallons, but barrels. Small changes in buying habits can make big differences. Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast."

So there you have it - your solution to reducing your personal emissions may just start with becoming a locavore, and eating only foods grown locally and organically. As I said, I had never thought of that, but I'm so glad that I know it now. My friend Steve, also made another good point - all of that travel of the food, also contributes to the cost of it. As gas prices go up, so does the price of our food. We all know that the price of food is becoming astronomical. This is something we ought to think about.

As I grew older, my parents eventually gave up the vegetable gardening, opting for flowers, and making my patch of grass to mow larger. Alas, we all have had the wool pulled over our eyes - believing that it is easier, and less costly to eat processed food from the grocery store. That - I believe, was one of the many factors that contributed to my life-long battle with the bulge. No longer, I mean - yes, I will still fight - always, but I now know where the origin of the problem is, and exactly how to conquer it. When I was a teenager, I remember watching "Gone With The Wind" with Scarlett O'Hara - and her famous line "As God is my witness, I'll never go hungry again". One thing that stood out in that movie, and stuck with me I believe throughout my life is something that her father - Gerald O'Hara said to her. It was something to the effect of "Land - Katie Scarlett - land is the only thing in the world worth having, it's the only thing worth fighting for". I really think, something struck a chord with me when he said that, and somehow, that and other factors influenced me to want to grow green things, and off I went to college - Olds College to study Horticulture. I decided - this was the life for me - I would grow things, and live off the land, and I would make a difference in the world. Well, being 19 years old, and away for the first time ever, as well as many other dramatic things that seem to always happen to 19 year olds unfortunately put the Kibosh on my plans to become a great Organic producer. Though, the dream is still in the back of my head. I even remember making a business plan for my plans. This was forever ago, and plans that were written down have been lost; though it is still in the back of my mind, creeping up ever so much to the forefront. One day - I will get to live that dream - I will grow things, and eat them, I will be self reliant, I will raise my children to know where their food comes from, and what went into bringing that food to their table. My brother-in-law's Dad wrote him an email a couple of weeks back. (he lives in Victoria, and it was during our spring snowfall), he wrote to him... "I'm eating Lettuce and Radishes that I grew in my garden, what are you doing - shovelling snow? We all found it very amusing, but the truth is that his Dad lives in a nursing home, and he has a small patch of land there where he grows his garden, so I figure - if he can do it, then, none of us have an excuse. We can grow a garden anywhere, and frankly, should grow them everywhere. There's an excess of space wasting that goes on in our urban lives. I'm not a purist, and I'm not perfect, but my passion for these things has been renewed, and it has me thinking about what I can do to improve my life in the future. Thanks Barbara for helping me get that passion back. Oh, and as for the book - seriously - entertaining, witty, educational, fantastic. Barbara is an amazing writer, and her family are just as great. I loved hearing stories about Zucchini Larceny, and Turkey sex (which believe it or not - is entirely non-existent in our current food system). She makes everything so interesting. I'm looking forward to meeting her next Wednesday and getting her to sign my book. On a side note, yes, Barbara and her family are American, but what they have to say applies worldwide. They often refer to statistics within their own country, but the truth is, this is a problem in all of the countries of the world (including mine) Other books, and links to similar projects and ideas can be found here... (the Canadian version - yay!) (for my local friends)

Become a Locavore today!!!

Friday 16 May 2008

I Love My New Bike Seat!!!!!!

So, I bought a much more gelly seat for my bike at MEC on Tuesday. My behind is not a fan of the "comfortable" seat that the previous owners of my bike had on it. I bought the "Selle Royal Freeway Gel Saddle" and let me tell you, I highly recommend it for anyone who is going to be riding their bike for long distances. I barely feel any discomfort today after another 40 km ride (20 km each way), and I think the discomfort I do feel is leftover from Monday. So, there you have it - Selle Royal - Interpretation - "Majestic Saddle" (or it could be "Royal Saddle" though I think Majestic is more interesting) I think, realistically - I could build up to doing this 3 times a week. I don't think 5 days is a really good idea. I could develop MASSIVE thighs, and then where would I be? Worn out and manly - that's where. That would most definitely defeat the purpose of my biking adventure goals. Next week, I'll do it twice again (nice short 4-day week next week), and then the week after that, I'll do it Monday, Wednesday, and Friday - the off days from when I do Yoga. So, plan of action formed, and will be carried out. It's going to be a great summer, I can feel it. It was such a lovely day today, I got some sun on the way home. Hoping it doesn't turn into a burn. I'll need to remember to wear sunscreen in the future. I have tomorrow off, and I'm planning to use it wisely. I was hoping to do a bit of hiking (just in FCP - nothing big), but I also want to go to Community and get some groceries. I can do that - on my bike - with the ET-esque (thanks Steve) basket. Big enough for a small alien. I can take the train with my bike in the middle of the day. Oh my, the possibilities are endless now that I'm not tied down to a vehicle. Wait a minute, still have the vehicle. Living life as though I don't have one, but umm, still have it. I know I said I'm done plugging, but seriously - anyone want it? I'm open to reasonable offers. It's a great car, I just don't need it anymore. Righto, that's all I have for today. Posts will not be as frequent as they have been in the past because I've made some commitments that will prevent me from being online as much (I know - Becky - offline - shocking), but they will still come from time to time. (realistically probably at least once a week)

Tuesday 13 May 2008

My Behind Will Thank Me For Taking Transit Tomorrow...

Report on first day of biking commute... Well, it was pretty good really. I mean, I am obviously more out of shape than I thought. I'm not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination. I mean, I'm healthy, but alas, there is much needed in the training department. So, 20 km to work, took me about an hour and a half. I had to walk her up 2 hills, and across one huge slab of ice across the path. My chain fell off once, but snapped that puppy right back on there. It was really enjoyable over all, and it was nice to be among the morning outdoorsy folk - feeling like - one of them. That was really nice. Plus, it was nice to be among the little scurrying things. I almost gave this little chipmunk a heart attack as I came around the corner - poor thing. Yes, the ride to work was lovely. Though - I did complain about my behind hurting ALL DAY (among other things). This particular part made me dread the ride home, and the pain that would be inflicted by it. So, 4:00 came around, and I hopped on, wincingly, but I was on my way. The way home took me 2 hours instead of the nice hour and a half, and again, had to walk her up a couple of hills, (learned how to avoid the ice flow) But, I did survive, and for that, I am grateful. I realize that this is only due to the prayers I offered before the ride. So grateful. Tomorrow, my behind WILL thank me for taking transit.

Sunday 11 May 2008

Bought A Bike!!!

Yes, that's right. Haven't sold my car yet, but today - I bought a bike. I had to. It was a steal of a deal. The bike (plus basket, bell, tune-ups, etc) cost originally $630 - last year. It's only a year old, and I got it today for $400. It's pretty much what I've been looking for all along, and it will definitely get me to and from work with no problems. It's a Norco Citadel (made in Canada), and it was built for comfort during long bike trips. The people I bought it from believed the seat itself wasn't comfortable enough, so they put in a more comfortable seat - with gel padding - ooh. Just took it for another spin 'round the block, and umm, I guess no bike seats are that comfortable, but whatever. Anyway, I know I said I'd take it for a trial run on a Saturday some time to and from work, but I'm too excited, and can't wait to try it out, so Monday morning, I'm going to give myself a good 2 hours to get to work, and I'm going to see how long exactly it takes me to get downtown from here. 20 km there, 20 km back. So, there you go - I'm a bike commuter. This week, I REALLY MUST sell my car. Spread the word folks. Other good news is, I bought a really comfortable pair of work-type dress shoes for $5.00 clearance today. Mum turns 75 tomorrow on Mother's day, and weather is not too shabby overall this week-end. I have a feeling that the car will sell this week, but keep me in your prayers. I sure could use them.

Saturday 10 May 2008

Just a Regular Day, But With Transit...

City transit wasn't so bad. The trip TO work was fabulous. I read my book, and didn't look up the entire time, and was there in (well probably) less time than I would have had I drived. Trains are like that. The trip HOME was interesting. They seem to have taken out one of the platforms. (the one I need to get on to go home) so either platform on either side of where that one belongs is quite a trek. Meh, more exercise. So be it. The car is parked now. Permanently, until it sells. Tomorrow, I am going to see some bikes. Found this one on Wrote a message to the owner. Haven't heard back yet, hoping to before tomorrow, and that way, I can go see it. Just waiting for my best friend to arrive at the house with kids in tow so that we can have a visit. Haven't seen her since Christmas, so it will be nice. No news other than that, except that I'm waiting for all of the salt that I imbibed yesterday to get flushed out. I've been drinking an awful lot of water, it should be gone soon, shouldn't it? Tomorrow I'm probably going to go to Natalie's Charitable Singles Auction for Diabetes. Should be a good time.

*UPDATE* Going to see the bike tomorrow. Also, going to see this one. Wish me luck. It could be between these 2. I left email messages with both owners, and both of them called me back tonight. So exciting!!!

Friday 9 May 2008

Transit, Pickled Asparagus, and my Last Car Plug?

So a couple of days ago, I was running out of gas in my car, and decided to gas up. In faith that I will sell my car soon, I had a feeling that $10 would do for my car between now and the time I sell my car. Today, I have almost run out of gas again. So, in honor of the faith I have that I will sell my car soon, I have decided that starting tomorrow - I will take city transit to and from work. Yes, I know - this is very ambitious, but one has to start somewhere. As you know, the plan is... Sell the car, buy a bike, bike to work as much as I can. Take transit on super rainy days, and days I can't move. So, in order to set the plan in motion, I am taking matters into my own hands. This also means that I won't be using the Rockyview Hospital gym anymore because it was super convenient for me to just stop by there on my way home from work in the car. This is partially a good thing, because there will be no more creepy residents staring at me while I work out. Stupid residents sometimes think they are God's gift to women. Today, I started running again. I've done this a few times since I bought the new shoes, but now, it will be regular - regular as in, 5 times a week. Perhaps I will do it on my lunch breaks. Plenty of nice places to run around work. I bought a jar of Pickled Asparagus today as a treat. Yes, it is all gone now. It was gone in a matter of 15 minutes. I really do wonder if it is possible to marry a food item, because I love pickled asparagus soooooo much. But, I do know that later the salt content therein will certainly do a number on me, and I will dry up like a prune. Ah well - drinking plenty of water will remedy that.

Still looking for a bike, and still selling my car, let me know if you want a fantastic 2003 Honda Civic Sedan for $10,000 obo. Yes, that's right - only $10,000 obo and this lovely vehicle could be yours! Seriously, it has to go next week. I'm not going to renew my registration, so it really MUST GO. (Registration expires end of the month)

Tuesday 6 May 2008

To Sum Up My Week...

I have absolutely nothing to blog about this week it seems. I mean, I'm over my cold for the most part - that's news I guess. To say something positive for the cold, it did make me lose 4 pounds instead of 1.5 or 2. So, yay for getting sick. I'm reading this awesome book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about Barbara Kingsolver and her family - living my dream!!! Living off the land, completely self suficient except for what they get from their neighbours. I will, of course do a review of it after I am finished, but basically - it's pretty much the greatest thing ever! I am going to see Barbara Kingsolver in person with her family on May 28th at the Knox United Church on 4th St. I bought tickets, so that will be awesome to hear about it first hand. Hmm, what else, well, my brother turned 40 yesterday. It has reminded me of my own mortality. We all seem to be getting older. Darn. Still trying to sell my car, and find a used hybrid bike for $450ish. Please, someone - buy my car! This week please. I know, begging is not flattering, but I'm not proud, I'll beg if I have to. As for bikes, well, I'm debating between Specialized, and Gary Fisher. The Gary Fisher Utopia looks good. Maybe I can find last year's model somewhere. I did see one add for a Gary Fisher Hybrid on Kijiji, but someone already got it. I'm checking daily, don't worry, scanning the horizon and keeping my keen sense of smell on the hunt. Something's gotta come up. Well, later peeps. I'm off to the gym to catch some 90210! Heehee.

Saturday 3 May 2008

Don Cherry Is A Big Fat Liar!

I'm still sick. Dreadfully sick. I think it may be Avian. (ok, that's a little overdramatic), but I'll never believe another word from Don Cherry. That is all.