Local Food


Summer was Grand.

I am so grateful that we were able to stay on the island, and loved every minute of it. It was short and hot rather than long and mild like many of the summers we get here on the West Coast, and September spent most of its days raining and blowing gales. We took our tent down just in time, the day after a huge wind ripped the tarp from its grommets and left our little summer house open to the wet sky.

So much happened this summer, let me sum it up with some pictures, found here! Needless to say, we are excited about returning to our wild island next spring!

We are now in full on Fall and enjoying the harvest!

Vitamin C.

Rosehip Harvester.

Hawthorn Berry Harvest. I have a new tea in my repertoire…hawthorn berry. Picked today from the field’s edge, I can taste the summer condensed into a mug of fall’s infusion. An amazing heart tonic too!

Hawthorn Berry Harvest.

Peppers at the Market.

Pumpkin at the Market.

Sweet Hugs and Carrot Harvest.

Kale Harvest. (Heather made amazing kale chips!)

Mushrooms! We didn’t harvest these ones, but chantrelles have been abundant on our menu!

Big Mushrooms!

Apple Harvest!

We are currently staying with my mom on Salt Spring Island and David has been working long hours on finishing up the Airstream for our journey South for the winter. We had hopped to be on the road by now, but as is always the case with construction projects, it is taking a lot longer than we predicted! What with all of the curves in that thing (nothing is at right angles) and David’s learning curve (this is his first solo construction project) I think it is coming along beautifully! I have been sewing pillows and curtains whenever I get the chance. I’ll try and post pictures soon!

I must admit that I am fully enjoying the extra time with family as we’ve been floating between Lasqueti, Victoria, and Salt Spring recently. Our chosen “homeless” state has really opened up lots of opportunities to bond with loved ones. You never quite “get” someone in the same way that you do when you share a roof with them! It has, honestly, taken a bit of adjustment. We are so used to knowing people at a distance, and there are very few people who know just how it is that we brush our teeth, what we look like first thing in the morning, the grand scope of all of our moods and colors through out the day, our tiny precious eccentricities,  our preferences about cleanliness, all those little private things that make up daily life as a human. It is a wonderful thing to live with people, something that brings us closer to our hearts and deepens our practice of love.

I’m off to enjoy a mug of hawthorn berry/rosehip tea with my Love David!

Blessings, Katrina.

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I have so much to learn about food systems it makes me dizzy!

After slogging through the nightmare of industrialized agriculture and factory farming, I have reached the light in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Chapter 10, “Grass, 13 Different Ways of Looking at Pasture” has left me feeling so excited and inspired by the possibilities of a “closed-loop” farming practice that I probably shouldn’t write about it right now for fear of being too gushy and coming across as a high-pitched enthusiastic woman who doesn’t really know much about what she is trying to talk about.

Which I am.

But I just had to write a little bit.

I wrote in my last post about the high price of local food and wanted to add this to the discussion.

In the pages of my book, Michael Pollan has just courageously taken part in a chicken slaughter at Joel Salatin’s Polyface farm in Virginia, and is driving South with Joel to meet one of the folks responsible for some of the distribution of said chickens in their path from farm to plate. This following of the path, of food from farm to plate, is Pollan’s MO for the book, and I am seeing more and more clearly that the shorter that path is, the better the outcome for all involved (accept of course the business men at the top of the corporate ladder.) On the drive, Pollan and Salatin get into talking about “the growing local-food movement, the challenges it faces, and the whole sticky issue of price.”

I’ll let Pollan, who is not a gushy, high-pitched woman who doesn’t know what she is talking about, take over:

I asked Joel how he answers the charge that because food like his is more expensive it is inherently elitist.

“I don’t accept the premise. First off, those weren’t any elitists you met on the farm this morning (members of the local community who had come to pick up their freshly plucked chickens.) We sell to all kinds of people. Second, whenever I hear people say clean food is expensive, I tell them it’s actually the cheapest food you can buy. That always gets their attention. Then I explain that with our food all of the costs are figured into the price. Society is not bearing the cost of water pollution, of antibiotic resistance, of food-borne illnesses, of crop subsidies, of subsidized oil and water – off all the hidden costs to the environment and the taxpayer that make cheap food seem cheap. No thinking person will tell you they don’t care about all that. I tell them the choice is simple: You can buy honestly priced food or you can buy irresponsibly priced food.”

It’s true that cheap industrial food is heavily subsidized in many ways such that its price in the supermarket does not reflect its real cost. But until the rules that govern our food system change, organic or sustainable food is going to cost more at the register, more than some people can afford. Yet for the great majority of us the story is not quite so simple. As a society we Americans spend only a fraction of our disposable income feeding ourselves – about a tenth, down from a fifth in the 1950s. Americans today spend less on food, as a percentage of disposable income, that any other industrialized nation, and probably less than any people in the history of the world. This suggests that there are many of us who could afford to spend more on food if we chose to. After all, it isn’t only the elite who in recent years have found an extra fifty or one hundred dollars each month to spend on cell phones (now owned by more than half the U.S. population, children included) or television, which close to 90 percent of all U.S. households now pay for. Another formerly free good that more than half of us happily pay for today is water. So is the unwillingness to pay more for food really a matter of affordability of priority?

As things stand, artisanal producers like Joel compete not on price but quality, which, oddly enough, is still a somewhat novel idea when it comes to food.

“When someone drives up to the farm in a BMW and asks me why our eggs cost more,…well, first I try not to get mad. Frankly, any city person who doesn’t think I deserve a white-collar salary as a farmer doesn’t deserve my special food. Let them eat E.coli. But I don’t say that. Instead, I take him outside and point at his car. ‘Sir, you clearly understand quality and are willing to pay for it. Well, food is no different: You get what you pay for.’

Gushy woman taking back over now: I’m glad Michael of Foxglove farm didn’t tell David and I to go eat E.coli that day at the market when we brought up the topic of pricey local food.

I can often fall into believing the argument of “well, not everyone can afford this so it can’t be a solution.” This is so clearly not true for a number of reasons! I forget that I could easily be someone who could not afford good quality food if I had different priorities.

I know very intimately that my family’s choice to buy good quality food means that I don’t have a new pair of shoes every other week. We don’t own a house, a T.V., a cell phone, a new car, or have the latest style of jeans.

Yes, we do spend about one half of our disposable income on food, much more than the current average of one tenth, but this is a choice I am happy to make. The benefits are immeasurable, and you know something is worth the dollar when you can’t measure the good that comes from it. And while I do like nice clothes, how I dress my body from the inside is more important to me than what I put on the outside of it.

I am feeling very humble when I say this, and so I hope it does not come across as self-righteous, but I can afford to buy good quality food because I choose to. I am very grateful to have the ability to make this choice.

I can afford to buy good quality food because I believe it is more important to feed my daughter well than to dress her well. I can afford to buy good quality food because I believe in farmers who are nurturing the fertility of the land instead of depleting it. I can afford to buy good quality food because I want to remain healthy and to be able to enjoy my good quality food when I am at the end of my life!!

Good quality food is worth it to me. So, lets get out there and buy some honestly priced food! (I much prefer the view of honestly priced over highly priced!)

BTW, if you haven’t yet read Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, it comes highly recommend by this book-worm.

Onwards with the learning!

Yours in amazing health, Katrina.

The Saturday Market is back! After a winter without it, we are very happy to see it back.

Oh what a joy to have such abundance of fresh, local produce again!

We had a brief conversation with Michael of Foxglove Farm about the economics of local food, squeezed into a moment between people waiting to buy his vibrant fresh produce.

We live on an island with some of the most expensive real-estate in the world, and so we also end up paying a premium for our local food. David and I have discussed this to no end, and mulled over the dilemma of local organic greens that can cost up to a whopping $16.00 per pound compared to organic greens shipped from California that can cost as little as $4.00 per pound. How can it be, we wonder, that a pound of greens grown 1590 km away (or 988 miles), a distance that includes crossing a body of water on a car-ferry, and pre-packaged in a plastic clam-shell be so much cheaper than the pound of greens grown right here on the island and served up in a pile that I have to bag myself?!

Sadly, when you look at dollars per calorie on this island, it makes no sense to buy local. (Not yet, anyhow!)

$16 for the 100 calories that are found in a pound of leafy greens is not a viable answer to the question “how do we wean ourselves off of the oil teat?” Almost no one can afford to pay $16 for 100 calories, even if it is incredible, nutrient-dense greens!

Granted, there are other locally produced foods that provide a better calorie per dollar reality, such as our local cheese factory where you can get close to 1,056 calories for $16.00.

Even better are our local organic eggs, $4-7 per dozen, at 960 calories per dozen.

Still, there is no way that most people can eat locally on this island with the system as it is right now. And that system is even more complex and layered than I ever could have imagined!

Michael brought up things that both David and I were already aware of, the main thing being the fact that there are more people living in the state of California than in the entire country of Canada, which means much less labor for hire at a much higher price. The land is more expensive, the equipment is more expensive (by 200% in some cases), the market for purchase is not as big, and so our local greens are 4 times as pricey.

And, I’m sure, far more than 4 times as nutrient dense. It still leaves most local food a boutique item not accessible to or even desirable to most inhabitants of our fair isle.

Micheal’s greens, by the way, are not $16 per pound, they are $10. We happily bought $10 worth of delicious spring greens and $10 worth of tender asparagus from him, and came home to further mull over a beautiful salad.

So far, all of our mulling has brought more questions than answers. And why is it that when you know more about something, you feel like you know less well what to do about it? Just a few short years ago I thought that if only most people would switch to eating mostly raw, organic food, most or all of the world’s problems could be solved. I want to cringe at the naivety of this now, but oh what a glorious feeling it was, to think that there was an answer to it all!

There never will be just one answer. Smart Cars, Vegan, recycled paper napkins, Raw, veggie oil cars, eco-wheat, corn based styrofoam, none of these things is going to “save the planet.”   There will be millions of answers (the ones that truly make a difference have nothing to do with the economy or consumer goods) and all I have to do is find the ones that work for me and those close to me, while also making sure that the choices I make best support the ability of others, the globe over, to make good choices for themselves.

My friend Courtney said it well:

We can truly opt out of the continuously morphing “what is right/healthy living” wars by daring to know ourselves so intimately that all of our choices are simply an opportunity to explore ourselves and life more deeply. Then we can more enjoyably share our experiences, because we’re liberated of the belief that all others should have the same experience.

It is indeed liberating, and I hope you know that I will love you no matter what you may have in your larder.

xo.

Ohhh Sweet Honey! (honey at Cafe Bliss)

Something that my intuition and my body has always told me is now being confirmed by some of the very people who worked so hard to bring agave to the mainstream: agave is the worst “bandito” of all sweeteners!

I bought one bottle of agave about 4 years ago after seeing pictures on David Wolfe’s site of a beautiful young woman pouring it down her throat, straight out of the bottle! I thought, wow, a sweetener that is so good for you that you can drink it like water!?

I tried it, I didn’t like it at all. It tasted like corn syrup to me, and made me feel awful. So I went back to what I have always used and loved, honey. Over the years since then, I have had many opportunities to enjoy raw treats made with agave. While I do enjoy them in my mouth, everything after that point is a mess. Or should I say, I am a mess! Katrina + agave = basket-case. I feel edgy, anxious, hungry, grumpy, and all those unpleasant things that go along with blood sugar imbalance. So I do my best to avoid the stuff.

If you are still using agave in your household, please read the following articles and then go and pour it down the drain!

The Agave Blues by David Wolfe

This “Tequila” Sweetener is Far Worse than High Fructose Corn Syrup by Dr. Mercola

Agave Nectar, the High Fructose Health Food Fraud on Natural News

So, that brings me back to honey! I felt inspired to write a little ode to honey….. Honey is magical. Bees are magical. Flowers are magical. Eating honey makes me feel magical.

In Organic Farming and Beekeeping, it becomes a partnership between bee and honey farmer. The symbiosis is beautiful, and as a honey eater I feel tapped into a beautiful, life affirming circle. And, honey is LOCAL! We get our honey from Babe’s Honey Farm, and it is beautiful, and it gives me a pleasant, gentle buzz.

And did you know that bees will produce up to 3 times the amount that they need to survive? In ethical beekeeping practices, both the bees and the honey eaters benefit.

I love visiting honey farms and listening to the hum of the bees. See if you can find a honey farm near you and start to visit whenever you need a little sweetness.

Honey is expensive (at least compared to conventional sugar) but in my mind this is a good thing. It just means we use less of it and are more careful of our consumption. When it comes to sweetener, a little mindfulness is a very good idea! It also means we are paying the honey farmer a living wage rather than paying pennies for sugar grown by people living in abject poverty in countries miles and miles away.

Of course there are other alternatives to sweeten you treats, and honey may not be the one for you. If you are working with blood-sugar issues such as diabetes or candida, you will want to be even more aware of your sweetener choices. The above articles do a good job at listing out other sweeties to choose from.

In closing, if you needed another reason to start buying organic, this might be it. Saving the Honey Bee Through Organic Farming.

I’d love to hear your experiences with agave, and what your household’s sweetener of choice is!

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

Easter Sunday: local daffodils, Green Smoothie (local apple, local blueberries, local kale, non-local oranges, non-local parsley), exotic oranges, local water, and good, very local company. Locally made out of imported ingredients chocolate bunny.

The Rainosheks Go Local: Step One

Goodbye Bananas.

We have now been a banana-free home for over a week! Bananas felt like an obvious first non-local food to go from our diet for both ethical and dietary reasons. If you are unfamiliar with the sad results of banana plantations, take a Google around. And the dietary part, well, I can say my blood sugar has felt a lot more stable since the counter has been emptied of imported yellow.

When I first contemplated living with out bananas it made me feel worried, and I wanted to go and eat a banana!

We were eating a LOT of bananas, and I mean a lot! (Well, not Doug Graham a lot, but trying to be aware of local food a lot) I would feel anxious if there were only four bananas left, and by the time we were down to only two, it was time to go shopping! I couldn’t imagine living without their sweet creaminess, their subtle hit of dopamine.

But I’ve really been trying to step into my pioneer woman shoes here, moving towards the soil around me as a place to sustain me and my family. I have to admit that bananas should be more like a once a year treat for a Canadian household, not a multiple times a day addiction. Remember that first Christmas orange that Laura Ingalls Wilder had? Her wonder and delight at such an exotic food stays with me years after reading her account of that orange, brought by rail to a frontier town. It is with a similar reverence and awe that I want to start treating the delectable treats from far south, rather than taking them for granted.

“What would your food be if the trucks stopped tomorrow” seems to be one of the most important questions we can be asking ourselves right now. Well, I know for sure mine wouldn’t be bananas.

I also now realize that bananas (grown on distant soil by often exploited people far far away, shipped with oil across many miles and borders, grown using industrialized agriculture methods even when organic, causing illness, infertility, and even death to plantation workers when they are not organic, and don’t the people who live where bananas grow need that land?) are far karmically worse than beef (grown on my island, by a neighboring farmer, shipped with oil less than 100 miles, from pasture feed cows who lived a happy, peaceful life, raised sustainably on land that benefits from the mineral rich, natural manure.) More to come on my thoughts about bananas and beef soon…..

For now though, I can say I feel much better without the bananas and their sugar and oily trail, because even organic, free trade bananas arrive on a trail of oil. And those oranges on our table, that chocolate bunny, well, it was Easter Sunday, and we are moving into this one step by step. Step one: stop buying bananas. Step two: …get emotionally prepared to eat less oranges…. (tee hee)

NOTE: We just got home from grocery shopping. It is absolutely baffling how little you can add to your local cart from a mainstream grocery store. We were able to get some greens (that cost a small fortune), some potatoes, and some apples. The rest of our cart, well, not so local.

David and I were remembering how much the grocery store shrank when we were eating all raw foods. All of the isles were out, the meat, dairy, bakery, deli, all out, leaving the produce section to provide the bulk of our calories along with a few nuts and seeds from the bulk bins.

Well, stocking the raw food kitchen from a grocery store was a piece of cake compared to stocking the local kitchen. There is almost nothing in the grocery store that comes from home! The grocery store didn’t just shrink, it almost became obsolete! We are realizing that the grocery store is not going to be the place where we will get most of our food if we are serious about this…I think step two should actually be finding a farm and start a garden!

Thanks for reading!

Love and local wishes, Katrina