Living Lightly


Journal Excerpt. June 20, 2010. Sunday

Writing from my new home, a 12” x 7” nylon dome with huge windows to the outdoors where the fresh, wild breeze liberates the soul and cleanses the mind! Oh I am so happy to be on the adventure! We’re currently set up in between a highway and the sea, on a small patch of grass shaded by towering pines and sprinkled with white daisies. While we had hoped to be set up on the land by sunset, the wind had other ideas. It is blowing too hard to attempt the crossing from Vancouver Island over to Lasqueti in our 14 foot skiff, and so here we are, hanging out, waiting for the wind to die down.  Sophia is sleeping next to me as I write after a very busy day of travel.

Camped out, waiting for the wind to quiet down….

After bidding adeau to Salt Spring, we spent a whirlwind few days in Victoria, gathering the things needed for living in a tent and visiting with friends and family.

And finally, after what feels like weeks, if not months, of preparation we are on our way to the summer island! So much packing, scratching our heads at how it is that we still have so much stuff after working so hard at giving so much of it away, distilling more and more, packing, until we finally have a tight little package of things we absolutely need for the summer.  I feel somewhat like a pioneer with her oxen cart laden with only essentials, setting out to live on raw land. Somewhat, the sentiment may be there, but I really am nothing like my pioneer ancestors in terms of circumstance.

Still, it is fun to pretend. This is what our modern day oxen cart looked like:

While my great-grandfather rode through mile after mile of wilderness to homestead on the Peace River, I drove through miles of big box stores, offering stuff in abundance such as no other generation has ever known.  While the land I am going to go and live on has none of the comforts offered by living in a house plugged into the grid, comforts my great-grandfather would not have been able to even dream of, I can still escape and reach hot showers and electric lights within hours.

It is an interesting and constant commitment, to live with less in a part of the world so craftily designed to persuade you to always live with more. It is a commitment that I find immensely rewarding.

Amen to simplicity and the freedom to adventure!

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That doesn’t look like a very local breakfast for you Canadians!

Going Local: Step Two;

Be realistic.

My mom asked me the other morning via Skype “So how is your local eating project going?”

“Well,” I replied “I started my day with strawberries from California, and pineapple from Hawaii.”

When Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, authors of the 100 Mile Diet, decided that early spring day to “eat local” for a year, they dove head first into a diet of potatoes, potatoes, and potatoes. At least until the gardens started to bloom and burst with succulence.

Summer. Now that sounds like a good time to go local! But for now, can I really live without cucumber? So far the foods that we have sourced locally are potatoes, kale, leeks, apples, frozen blueberries, goats cheese, sporadic salad greens, singing nettles, and eggs. That just doesn’t do it for us right now. It could if it had to, but it is hard to buckle into your local seat when the grocery stores are overflowing with imported treats like juicy celery, and don’t even get me started on the chocolate.

This morning I had green juice made with cucumbers from Mexico, celery, lettuce, parsley and bok choy from California, kale from Saltspring Island, and pineapple from Hawaii. It was GOOD! So good that I am not ready to give it up.

So, following are some loose guidelines for this family’s perhaps glacially slow (well, at least compared to Alisa and J.B.) move towards local.

#1. Continue with Banana-Free. Perhaps a token move, but an important one.

#2. When there is a local option, choose local. Often we see local kale or potatoes sitting next to kale and potatoes brought in from California. This step is easy once you remember to read the labels.

#3. Create more local options for ourselves by expanding our awareness of local farm stands, farm gates, and making friends with more farmers. This is something we already do in the summer, but surely someone has parsley growing in their garden right now that we could be eating instead of those California imports!?

#4. Learn more about wild food harvesting. Right now our repertoire isn’t too shabby and includes nettles, miner’s lettuce, salal berries, black berries, salmon berries, thimble berries, dandelion greens, sorrel, licorice root, and pine needles. Still, there are many more things to learn about, including the magical world of medicinal mushrooms, and I feel that these foods are some of the most important and vital for a local diet.

Thought Experiment: Most of these wild foods, while potent in nutrient-density and medicinal properties, do not carry very many calories, and so we have been considering : how would it feel to learn how to hunt, to fish, to collect oysters, muscles, and clams if we had to in order to survive? Interesting things to consider, and while you won’t find me donning a bow and arrow anytime soon, I do think it might be an important skill to have. (Truth be told, I do know how to fish and collect and prepare shellfish. Hunting though….can I stick to more traditional roles of Woman and tend to the hearth fire instead?)

#5. Work consistently yet flowing-ly towards a farm of our own. This has been a dream of both David and I for as long as we can remember: to work the land and live The Good Life like our self chosen Soul~Grandparents, Helen and Scott Nearing.

So for now I am sticking with my not so local green juice, with a strong intention to one day soon be writing about this juice instead:

Katrina Dreams in Local Color Juice:

Cucumber, celery, parsley, kale, apple, and blackberries, all picked fresh and warm from the sun, straight from the garden a few steps from my back door!

Sweet dreams sweet hearts! xo

Greetings from a wet, rainy, and winter-y west-coast island where post-Christmas finds us cozy, happy, well-fed, well-loved, and peaceful.

Our first Christmas as a little family was wonderful. I think one of the things I enjoyed the most was the chance to re-examine my thoughts on the traditions of Christmas, and asking myself “how do I want my family to practice this holiday?” In particular for this blog post, do I want my family to engage in Christmas as consumers, or as creators of meaning and beautiful memories? (The spirituality of Christmas is a whole different topic, and one that I won’t get into in the post!)

This year, our days were light on the gifts, but rich in time with family, good food, walks through the trees, and laughter.

We pulled a Christmas time favorite off the shelves after I experienced some last minute guilt and panic on December 24th about not having done any Christmas shopping! Bill McKibben’s Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas is much loved by my family, and allowed me to fully reconnect with what is most important after I got swept away by a moment of Christmas flap.

In addition to an invitation to re-think your Christmas traditions, Hundred Dollar Holiday contains a succinct history of how it is that we came to celebrate Christmas the way we do (with a fat man in red coming down the chimney, the feasting, the tree, the gifts, etc.) The history of Christmas may surprise you, and if you already feel that it is over-commercialized, your feelings will be validated when you learn that Christmas was in part “the thin edge of the wedge by which many Americans became enmeshed in the more self-indulgent aspects of consumer spending…a crucial means of legitimizing the penetration of consumerist behavior into American society.”

What we really want and need in Christmas is quite simple:

Peace, stillness, and quiet. Time with LOVED ones. An invitation to be outdoors. Community. Relationship with the Divine. Non-consumer activities with children (and adults). An outlet for human creativity in LOVE!!

If this sounds about right to you, do check out this little gem of a book, you’ll love it!

We DID get Sophia a few things to explore and play with (after all that talk about non-consumerism I know, but I feel that money spent in thoughtful places is still very important.) There is a wonderful selection of wooden, cotton, or wool, non-toxic, environmentally friendly toys being made these days, and so far our favorites in wood are PLAN TOYS and UKOONTO. Sophia has several, beautifully colored toys from Plan, and a set of wooden blocks from Ukoonto, made right here in Canada from all natural, re-claimed maple wood. So far, David and I have been building with the blocks, and Sophia knocks them down and practices her fine motor skills with picking up the differently shaped pieces and putting them in her mouth.

These toys make me very happy because EVERY thing that she gets into her hands, goes into her mouth, and I prefer that she not be sucking on plastic or anything with lead paint. We are doing our best to keep plastic out of her mouth, and I am surprised at how much attention it requires! You don’t realize how much plastic is in your life until you start to notice every time it is about to enter your baby’s mouth! While we are doing pretty well at no plastic, I am also maintaining a mostly “not too uptight” attitude, and so if somehow a plastic measuring spoon ends up in her hands once in a while from a loving relative, let it be.

Some more great resources for safe toys for your precious ones:

Planet Happy Toys. A gathering of some of the highest quality natural toys.

Baby Naturopathics. In Canada!

Rolling Grove Organics. More than just toys. In Canada too!

We have several wonderfully eco-conscious children’s stores near by, so I have not personally used any of the above services for anything but research. Let me know if you and your baby have any other favorite natural toys!

Other special gifts included a gorgeous treasure of a book written and compiled by my mom for Sophia called “Before You Were Born,” and boxes of raw chocolate truffles from Heather. Hand made is the best! To see more first Christmas photos, go HERE.

As I write, we are drawing to the close of 2009. It has been a quiet evening for me. David is away in California at an event, and Sophia, myself, my mom, and my Oma celebrated the end of 2009 with four generations of women. Delight was on all of our faces as we loved and appreciated the generations before and after us! Needless to say, I was the only one left awake at midnight!

I hope that you and yours have had a blessed and magical season as well, and all my best wishes and stardust for a continuation of joy, growth, bliss, and peace for the New Year!

Thanks for reading,

xoxoxoxoxox

Katrina