slow foods mama, signing off

I remember in what seems a lifetime ago, a beloved yoga instructor teaching the lesson that before we can ever get to a heartfelt, genuine “YES” in our life, we must first learn to say “NO” with the conviction and strength of a young child. Only once we truly embrace the power of No will we find our way to Yes.

I am a long way from Yes, so it’s time to practice No.

Unfortunately, I am struggling to find the joy in this jerry-rigged, hand-made life of late. The glimpses of awe-inspiring beauty and joy are currently overwhelmed by frustration, a mother’s guilt and too much busyness.

I have a dozen posts sitting in my drafts but they all amount to not much more than grumblings of cautionary tales . . . I want to write about the truth of the beautiful, terrible struggle these early years of our dream have been, but I don’t have the heart or the strength or the time to both live them AND write about them.

I know the things I have grappled with this past year and a half will be of great use to many of you who are planning to follow the same journey and I desperately want to share them, but I simply can’t right now. There are too many tasks, too many little lives depending on me and so it’s time to say goodbye for now.

It’s time to retreat to the real world, work through the farm’s challenges with fleshy people, hold hands, nurture the community we are gratefully building here. Eventually there will be less re-inventing the wheel and I will have enough time between these early days and the present for reflection and gratitude. For now I am up to my elbows in it and I need to just BE in it. I will regret it if I don’t.

So here I go. So long. Farewell.

Good growing, Stacey

pardon my absence . . .

I’ve been a little busy!

evie-mama-large

I swear, who’s ever idea it was to have a baby at harvest time on the farm . . . my word what a busy time!

It’s been six weeks since we welcomed our new daughter and we’re quickly finding the groove of our new normal with two munchkins to look after. She’s fitting right in.

Now the harvest is done, the pantry is stocked with jewels of jarred summer, the freezer full to brimming with home-grown birds. We have had such an exciting first year on the farm; we’ve had some amazing successes and some spectacular failures that I can’t wait to share with you. Today is stormy and bucketing down rain; time to tuck in with a quilt and the babies and try to get caught up on my writing!

on liberty : food and freedom

On May 25, 2013, as we marched through the streets of Vancouver protesting Monsanto, we chanted:

“Our food, OUR choice”.

Seems simple, right? We should have the freedom to choose what we put in our bodies. And yet . . .

In Canada and the USA, we do not have the right to know what is in our food. That, apparently, would be too much trouble for the marketers. They might not make as much money. They might actually have to ensure that their products are safe.

Should food be a human right?

You wouldn’t know it from the current state of affairs, but food and health are protected under national and international human rights conventions.

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides us with the right to freedom of conscience and the right to life, liberty and security. Article 25 (1) of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides everyone with “the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food ” [. . .] (emphasis mine)

Before I became a full-time mum and farmer, I worked in a government human rights agency. All sorts of wild and wonderful things are covered and defended by government under the umbrella of “human rights”. Some are incredibly important and worth fighting for, some well,  not so much. I saw everything imaginable in my career there, and some things you most certainly couldn’t imagine.

Looking back, it bothers me to know that I was required to administer complaints that were frankly completely flippant, self-absorbed and absolute wastes of tax-payers dollars, while something as important as the right to food has been deemed not worthy of the same protection.

Freedom of conscience, freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom from discrimination – what do these mean if you’re hungry?

Our current fetish with political correctness merely distracts us from a real and devastating attack on our most basic rights and freedoms.

The fact of the matter is we do not have a democracy; we have had a corporate coupe d’etat.

It has been this way for some time. When a corporation’s right to poison us and profit from it, and do it with the full protection of the law, comes before the people’s right to safe, clean food . . . well then. Our governments don’t work for us anymore. They work for the lobbyists, the corporations, the marketing boards, the elite and the powerful.

They do all these evils under the guise that A rising tide lifts all boats.

Look around you. We aren’t rising. We’re drowning.

In North America, not only do we NOT have the right to a clean, safe food supply, we don’t even have the right to know that our food isn’t safe. We don’t have the right to choose because we are actively denied the information required to do so.

Corporations control the seed industry to such and extent that one of our Canadian seed companies has been blocked from shipping seeds to the USA. His beautiful, organic, heirloom (actually EDIBLE) soybeans were confiscated by customs, claiming that his seeds threatened the US soybean crop.

Over 90% of that crop is GMO, owned by Monsanto. This is the same crop that makes it nearly impossible for farmers to grow soy organically with traditional seeds, because of contamination from GMO fields and fear that Monsanto will then sue the owners of the contaminated fields for patent infringement.

Read that again.

Now think about what that means, what that says about the state of our food system, the state of our freedom, and the role government is playing in it’s complete and utter erosion.

For a culture that holds the Free Market System as the new religion, the Laws of Supply and Demand beyond reproach and above all else – that seems odd, doesn’t it? There is demand, and there is supply. And yet, the very same corporations who cry bloody murder when they are asked to be held accountable to anything but the almighty Free Market, aren’t so keen for those very same principles to be applied against them, no matter how small the scale.

These companies and the government change the rules of the game whenever they see fit, to suit their own greed and power-lust, not the common good.

Our culture provides us with an illusion of freedom and choice; we can vote for our favourite Idol, express our most mundane thoughts to the world a million times a day via social media . . . but this is nothing more than a palaver, a stand in, a replica of real freedom. It is hollow and meaningless, a mere distraction.

If we cannot even choose what to feed our children, what to put in our own bodies, how can we claim to be free?

homemade mayo : purging the pantry of GMOs

homemade mayonnaise

Not the most glamourous picture, I admit. But it was my first batch, and I was proud.

I can’t believe I’ve never made mayo before.

Eggs from the garden, organic olive and canola oil, organic mustard, lemon juice and some sea salt. Nothing freaky-deaky. Barely more than two seconds in a mason jar with the immersion blender and La-DEE-Da. Mayo. Magic.

No matter that Hellman’s says they’re on a campaign for “Real Food”, I’m not buying it. Canola and soy are two common oils used by Hellman’s, and they’re also the two most common GMO crops out there. It’s not organic and it doesn’t bear a “GMO Free” label, so it’s time to go Hellman’s. Buh-bye.

Homemade mayo may seem a bit over the top to some, but to me, it’s one small and steady step towards food-freedom. A palaver? Maybe. Maybe the seeds of revolution spread between slices of bread. You choose.

Homemade Mayo Recipe

  • 1 egg yolk – fresh, pastured, organic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup organic olive oil
  • 1/2 cup organic canola oil
  • sea salt to taste
  1. Pour everything into a mason jar.
  2. Let it settle briefly.
  3. Put your immersion blender in the bottom of the jar and whir.
  4. As you see the mayo start to form, slowly move the blender up and down. It will be super thick and should take not much more than 30 seconds.

Yield : Just over one cup. Keep refrigerated. It will keep for about a week.

Feel free to use different oils. I personally like the rich flavour of olive oil but you might not. You can also use vinegar instead of lemon juice. Have fun, experiment. Add pureed chipotle peppers, garlic, herbs, whatever floats your boat.

a minor case of kombucha addiction

homemade kombucha

So it’s official. I have a kombucha addiction. Actually, not just me. My whole family!

Kombucha is a raw fermented tea full of probiotics. Just like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sour dough, sauerkraut and other fermented foods, kombucha is a living food that can help us replenish and maintain a healthy gut microflora.

Most of the food we eat in our modern diet is dead as a doornail, fitting our obsession with hygiene and hyper-vigilance when it comes to pasteurization. Although pasteurization has made a lot of our food safer to eat, it has also made it a heck of a lot less nutritious. Turns out being overly anal about having a sanitized environment can actually have the reverse effect we’re looking for. Our guts are paying for it and we’re seeing more allergies and other auto-immune diseases that might not be there if we recognized the importance of bacteria in our overall health and wellbeing.

Michael Pollan’s lastest book, Cooked, has a great section on fermentation and gets into some pretty amazing details regarding the latest research on the role of bacteria and fermented foods in the human body.

To me, the whole hygiene-hypothisis makes sense, but then even if it didn’t – I live on a farm with lots of poop, organic soil, animals and all that. I couldn’t keep my 2 year old “sanitized” if my life depended on it.

So anyway, I’d read about kombucha and have started seeing it more and more in the health food store, but frankly I figured anything that’s supposedly that good for you couldn’t possibly taste nice. I mean, seriously.

We went to Salt Spring Island recently, and lo and behold there was a gal selling homemade kombucha at the farmer’s market. She was giving out free samples. We tried it and . . . everyone loved it! It was tart and fizzy and completely refreshing. We bought a bottle to enjoy right there and then and I also got a mother (SCOBY : Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) off her so I could try to make some at home.

I admit, I was a bit freaked out to make it. The SCOBY was creepy looking, ok, not creepy – downright gross. Slimy and just – yuck. But I checked out The Kombucha Mama’s site, steeled my resolve, and jumped in.

It was easy! It takes next to no time to actually put it together; most of the time involved is just allowing it to loll about on your counter and being patient!

Kombucha Tea Recipe

Yield : One Gallon

You will need:

  • a one gallon container, preferably glass, do not use metal
  • a piece of cotton big enough to cover the opening of your container (I use a cotton tea towel. Don’t use cheesecloth; the fruit flies will get in.)
  • an elastic band or long length of string to secure your cloth tightly over the mouth of your container
  • a wooden spoon / ladle
  • a measuring cup
  • a funnel
  • bottles or mason jars – I like using my hubby’s grolsh beer bottles with the reusable flip-top cap

Ingredients for primary ferment

  • 4 to 6 teabags : Use black, green, white or oolong. Do not use decaf or herbal tea. (I use two black tea, two green)
  • a SCOBY + one cup of unflavoured finished kombucha (you can get these from a friend or order them online)
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup sugar, preferably raw and organic. Honey is not recommended because of it’s antimicrobial properties.
  1. Brew your tea with the 4 cups boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in your sugar until it dissolves.
  3. Fill up container until it is 3/4 of the way full with cold, un-chlorinated water.
  4. When the brewed tea is cool, add your SCOBY and cup of finished kombucha.
  5. Cover the mouth of the container tightly with your cloth, and put it your brew someplace out of direct sunlight, but with good air circulation.
  6. Wait 5 to 7 days. At this time, slip a straw under your SCOBY and taste your brew. Too sweet? Let it go a little longer. Too tart? Next time shorten your fermentation time. It has been hot here lately, and I’m finding 5 to 7 days is plenty for a nice tart brew. It’s totally normal tho to take between 7 and 14 days.

Note: The tea should taste light, tart and have a vague apple-cider vinegar air to it. The SCOBY should not have any black spots, mold or smell “off”. If you’re not sure what it should look like, I strongly recommend visiting www.kombuchakamp.com. The Kombucha Mama is the online authority on all things kombucha and has some helpful photos of what a SCOBY should and shouldn’t look like. If in doubt THROW IT OUT.

Secondary Ferment

This for me is the fun part.

Once your kombucha is brewed, you can decant it into containers and flavour it if you like. This will make it fizzy and flavourful, and you can also use this as an opportunity to add therapeutic foods like ginger for example.

Now The Kombucha Mama suggests starting with as little as 1/4 teaspoon of flavouring per 16 oz bottle of brew. Personally, I’m finding that I prefer way more than that. I’ve been experimenting with fruit so far, and in one grolsh beer bottle find that 6 to 8 raspberries gives me a sweet / tart, vibrant pink kombucha that I can’t get enough of.

Method:

  1. With clean hands, remove your SCOBY from your main vessel and set it aside in a clean container with 1 cup of reserved tea.
  2. Line up your clean bottles and pop in whatever flavouring you like. (See ideas below.)
  3. Decant tea into bottles and seal.
  4. Leave on your counter for 24-48 hours, “burping” each day to make sure they don’t explode. (This hasn’t happened to me – yet – but I have had some VERY fizzy bottles.)
  5. Once your brew is to your desired level of fizziness, pop it in the fridge to slow down the fermentation.
  6. That’s it! Enjoy over ice, with juice, booze, whatever!

Kombucha Flavouring ideas

Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, strawberry / ginger, pureed mango, ginger, herbal tea, mint, lavender, sour cherries . . .

That’s what we’ve tried so far – what are your favourite flavours?

Some Common-Sense:

Kombucha is a raw, living food. I’m 6 months pregnant and am drinking it and feed it to my family, including my 2 year old son, but you should consult a health professional if you have any concerns or questions before consuming raw foods. I am not a doctor and don’t make any health claims regarding the health benefits of kombucha.

There is very little research out there to support the health claims made by proponents of kombucha, but there’s also very little money to be made by drug companies from foods that improve our health and well-being, so take from that what you will. It is believed that kombucha has been around for approximately 2000 years.

All I can tell you is both my hubby and I have both noticed markedly improved digestion almost immediately upon introducing kombucha to our diet. And it tastes nice!

after the march against monsanto: responsible activism

Well, the march came and went. We got some news coverage. Some. We also got some people talking. Success? . . .  A start.

The incredible traffic my posts on Monsanto received afterwards, and the searches that people are using to find me give me hope that people are starting to ask the right questions – mainly -

Who the heck are these guys and why didn’t I know about them before??

Unfortunately social media has been our main method of communicating about the issues surrounding Monsanto, and this is proving to be a double-edged sword.

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