Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Food Shortages

As many doom and gloomers are arguing about the scarcity of food worldwide, we in the developed nations continue to over-consume both our planets resources and it's food supplies. We're feeling our pennies pinched by ever increasing prices at the grocery store for staples such as bread, flour, rice and we watch as the price of meat goes up accordingly (since the price of grains to raise animals goes up too).

But I want you to think about your total income for last year. Not what you reported on your taxes...what actually came into your house as income. Now figure out how much you spend on groceries in a year including snacks and eating out. Is it 10% of you income? 20%? 50%? On average in the developed nations it's under 15% and yet the country complaining the loudest in the US which spends a paltry 7% on food. I think this number is probably higher because of the food stamps program but I don't know how they came up with the results in the info I'll post in a moment. I do know that in our family it's about 25% on average but that will change as the kids grow up and leave home and as our income increases. Other large families are in the same boat as us, and we're not worse off simply because of good shopping habits and growing some of our own food. Once the farm is up and running again our food bills will be much less. Hooray!

Here's the information I'm referring to. It shows selected countries income to food dollars.

I know that cost of food isn't the whole story. These numbers don't take into account that maybe people in developed countries are spending 40% of their income on shelter as opposed to other countries where it's lower. What it DOES show though is the inequality of calories consumed. I'm guessing that the higher the number of calories, the higher the consumption of fat and sugar in junk foods. I wonder if we'll ever be able to strike a balance? Well...my diet continues. All I can do is my part.

I do believe that food shortages are something to prepare for. So today I'm planning my seed shopping for next years garden. I usually have a storage of seeds from one year to the next but since moving we're starting over again with many things. Seeds included. It's time to add them back into my food storage plans. I'll let you know what we're growing next year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Polar Bear Swim in Nova Scotia

We've decided to start a new refreshing tradition in our family... the Faires Frigid Dip Polar Bear Swim on New Years Day. Sound like fun? It's gonna take me a month to get psyched up about it as the air and water temps will both be below freezing but I think it'll be a bracing way to start the New Year. There are some dips already organized in the area and we'll probably join one of those as a family or maybe just head down to the local beach. For those of you who don't know, a polar bear swim is traditionally held on New Years Day and people go swimming in the ocean or lakes (you break the ice off first) but since it's freezing up here in Canada it's usually more of a quick in and out thing than an actual swim. And only for the crazy or hardiest of souls. We're Canadian...we know about hypothermia :)

Here's a funny video for all you Canadians who know who Rick Mercer is :



The average water temperature in summer is 8-12c and in winter below 4c in the Bay of Fundy. For Last Years Dip the water temperature in the Bay of Fundy was recorded as -3c (26f), cold enough to form sea ice. Brrr! Suddenly Parksville with it's year round 12c (54f) is looking nicer!

The kids are all up now (it's Wednesday morning at 7 am) and so far the idea of the polar bear swim is having mixed reviews. Chris is just leaving to get his bus and the girls are packing a lunch. There's the most beautiful sunrise this morning and the sky is pink and blue. I envy Steve getting to see the sunrise every morning and that's one thing about teaching early morning Seminary that I miss. Also speaking to our son John and our friend Vicki yesterday has made me a little homesick because we miss them and their families, yes, even you Garry! Happy 60th!! It's very weird for Steve who has never lived away from the kids much before. Sure they've moved to Montana and back or Vancouver but this is the first time he's moved away from the West Coast and it's a long drive for us to get back there. We could maybe do it in a 4 day drive if we barely stopped to sleep and went directly there with no detours, if we drive through the US it's the same mileage but gas would be cheaper and the roads are faster so we could shave off a day or we could fly which is much faster, but that's expensive. Actually, I guess it's cheaper than gas for the van if it's only one person going. Our van would likely cost about $1000 each way whereas a flight even with taxes is that much for both ways. If I ever get enough money together I'd like to send Steve back for a visit, maybe Westjet will have a really good sale sometime. Well enough melancholy, I've got to get the last 3 kids off to the bus so I've got to go. Have a great day!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Warm and Cloudy today.

It got over 15 degrees today and it's currently partly cloudy and windy. So as you can imagine the snow is melting and the roads are dry. The snow on the roofs of the houses is pretty well all gone and it's hard to imagine that just a few short days ago we had 17 inches of heavy wet snow come down in 24 hours (more like 8 hours really). We haven't had the fire on again since yesterday morning when we burned 3 logs, so our firewood supply is looking pretty good if this keeps up and it's supposed to for a day or two more. It just helps buy us some more log drying time. The log pile in the trailer and on the driveway were covered with tarps but still got a little wet so we have to get it loaded inside now, and this wind is a good way of getting it dry.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas recipes

FOr those of you not familiar with the BBC tv show Victorian Farm (and others they made) I thought I'd post a link for you. Here are some ideas of how the Victorians would have made gifts, decorated a tree and celebrated. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00p71fz

Compared to their ancestors, the Victorians really went all out with Christmas. But nothing at all like the commercialization of today. There were no Walmart's open 24 hours a day, and frankly children expected less. Ah how nice it would be to go back to that time when friendship and love for fellow men trumped all the gift buying we see today.

But we don't live then, we live now. SO instead of wishing for something that can never be, we just try to instill in our children the importance of remembering the REAL reason for Christmas and we do things with them to have family time and make memories rather than just buy expensive gifts that are quickly forgotten.

But good food has always been, and remains an integral part of our celebrations. From Auntie Tessa's Fruitcake to the fizzy drinks, sharing food and visiting is central to our enjoyment and happiness at the Christmas Season.

Later I'm going to post some of our favourite recipes, but now I'm off to church. TTYL

Saturday, November 26, 2011

And The Winners Are:

We decided to give a book to each person who left a comment, since only 3 people did. I have Helga, Vicki, and Nick on the list. If there is anyone else, just let me know. SO Congrats to you 3, you'll each be receiving a book in the mail just in time to read it and re-gift it for Christmas.

And thanks for your support you guys, I really appreciate it.

Elizabeth

Free Book / Restaurant review Kellocks in Berwick

Today is the last chance to leave a comment and be entered to win a free copy of "The Long Bridge" by Nancy Kopoulos. So leave a comment now!

It's 7am, Saturday morning. Steve's quietly breathing away, asleep, and wrapped up like a burrito in the blankets.



We went out last night to Kellocks at 160 Commercial St in Berwick for dinner. Knowing that he might be late and that the restauants around here are busy early, we had reservations for 7:30 and just made it in time but by then it was fairly quiet. We had Steak and thai curry with bruschetta to start. So here's the review. Pretty good food for the valley, the service was very good, and it's a pub also so if you want a drink you can get one. The curry Steve ordered was medium/mild and he ordered a medium so it's apparently not overwhelmingly hot. The chicken in it was in large chunks, boneless and well cooked. The noodles were plentiful and a bit doughy but all in all it was a nice meal. I had the steak cooked medium rare. It could have used some trimming but otherwise was properly cooked and seasoned. It also came with mashed potatoes that were bland and gluey and roasted veggies that were very nice, carrots, parsnip strips and baby tomatoes all pan roasted and seasoned. The bruschetta was a nice diversion, slices of french bread toasted with garlic butter and the bruschetta was finely chopped onions, tomatoes etc and with feta cheese mixed in. Mild on the cilantro and garlic, we ate the entire plate and found it quite agreeable. Will we go there again? Yes, when it's 2 can dine for $30 or maybe for the prime rib buffet on a Wednesday. It's nice for a special occasion but more expensive than other local restaurants. One thing, the kitchen was pretty fast and that was nice. We were in and out in under 90 minutes even after a long chat. The menu isn't overly large and offers something for everyone. It's right on the main street in Berwick, has it's own parking lot, and we would recommend it. All together with drinks, food, taxes and tip we paid $65 which is WAY more than we'd usually pay however since it's our Anniversary and we're not giving gifts, this seemed like a nice way to celebrate and it's cheap compared to big cities. The breakfast and lunch menus are very reasonably priced! They are open for breakfast & lunch and have an upstairs private dining room that can seat up to 18. One thing, try and be seated away from the bathroom, maybe in the main pub or near the side door, because the bathroom opens right out onto the side dining area, you can see the toilet from a couple of the seats, YUM!

After this nice dinner together we drove back to Greenwood Zellers for midnight madness and madness it was. I've never seen the store so full of people and there was stuff piled everywhere. We got some shopping done for Christmas, just a little, and got the girls snowpants too. Meghan insisted on pink and as it turns out the pair I got her are a bit big. I've still got to get Kate to try hers, hopefully we have better luck. The boys insist they won't need snow pants so I got them new pj's instead. Here comes Kate....and YES they fit! Woo Hoo! Hopefully those pants will fit her for a while yet. She sounds funny swishing as she walks around the house in snow pants.

Well, time to get going. We have Kung Fu this morning then there are lots of things around the house I'd like to get done including fixing the snowblower and clearing more of the snow off the driveway so we can find the wood pile. Hope you're all having a good day.

Update: Kung Fu was really fun. The kids went and got a nice workout, Chris stayed home (after having a really bad start to his morning) for some personal time, and Steve and I discovered that nobody had shoveled any of the walks at the chapel so we did it along with Sherry who helped out too. The snow blower was Steve's job and I did the scraping of the sidewalks to remove any more slush and chunks. It was a nice day for working outside, sunny and 10 celcius (50 f) so we enjoyed it. Here'a a picture of a snow blower for those around the world who may never have seen one. The snow enters the front, gets chewed up by the rotating blades the sent up the shoot and out the top. Pretty nice compared to using a shovel.

Elizabeth

Friday, November 25, 2011

Top 3 In The News this week Environmental Change, Community for Farmers and Optimism

I said I'd post some interesting things I read in the news this week. So here are my top 3. The first one I think is really relevant to all farmers. Stephen and I genuinely like working together and don't suffer the extent of isolation that many other farmers do simply because we have a larger family and we are actively involved in our Church community. That feeling of belonging and friendship really helps us to combat the sense of being outside looking in that many of us kooky and weird farmers have. We're growing animals on organic pastures and growing our crops in different ways than our neighbours. To some of our neighbours they can't decide who we are. For example, we sound like hippies but we don't smoke pot and we're neat and clean shaven, we attend church but we're LDS and not Anglican or Baptist, we are farmers but also run a small business and work in town, we really don't fit in anywhere. We're just us, the Faires Family, and there's really not much to gossip about as we lead fairly simple lives devoid of intrigue. This is probably why we have such a mix of friends. Both old and young, intelligent, funny, easy-going, you name it. Preppers, intellectuals, welders, DJ's, military officers, janitors, I think it doesn't matter what your outside is like, it's your heart. So will you be my friend?
http://www.grist.org/food/2011-11-23-farmers-need-community?mid=539

This second one could have been a real downer to watch. It's about how the weather has affected farmers, particularly in England. More rain in the Spring, not enough in the Summer, too warm in the Autumn but rather than dwelling in his problems with filling his water storage for irrigating his crops, he sees it as a challenge and is optimistic. What a good way to live your life.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15869905

And finally, the Earth Summit happened 20 years ago. And out of it came the real beginnings of public awareness and change towards the environment. Some good and some bad. This article points out 20 ways the world has changed over the past 20 years. The pictures show how things were then and now. Use the arrow keys below the China Pearl River Delta to see more photos and slide the margin in the centre of the picture back and forth to compare the differences.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/11/02/pol-environment-earth-summit-changes.html

Christmas Traditions Old and New

We were able to get out and about a bit last night for the important things...magnifying glasses and dog food :) The roads are a bit wet and slushy but otherwise fine and we didn't see any accidents. Oh, and I paid a deposit and my tires should be into Canadian tire by December 5th. Hooray! No more worrying about my husband driving on bald tires for 3 hours each day. Now I can worry about paying for the tires. Ah well, it's always something. One good thing is that Zellers has 40-50% off their kids outerwear tonight so the girls can get snow pants. Yay!

So Christmas is coming. The kids have 3 more weeks of school and then they're off for their holidays. And it's the 25th of November today, so I have 30 days to get all my stuff finished, baked, sewn, mailed etc. AAArrrggghhh! Thank goodness we only have to buy for the kids and grandkids this year!

One thing we've noticed about Nova Scotia is that these people take their holidays very seriously! They go all out decorating for Halloween and they LOVE Christmas. They decorate early, play music earlier than other places, and really enjoy a month and a half of Christmas. I'm not sure why, but I kind of like it. So no more waiting until the 15th or 20th of December to put up the tree, we're looking at next weekend. The plan is still a live tree (smaller) with edible ornaments so we don't have to move a fake tree or any breakable ornaments. We will have to buy lights though but that's half the fun, turning on the lights in the evening. Oh one tip, when using chocolate ornaments...keep the lights tucked inside the branches away from the ornaments to prevent melting.

In our family we have made and adapted our traditions to blend in both mine and my husbands. Living here in Nova Scotia now I have no doubt that we'll pick up a new local tradition or two as well. So here's what we do...

We make cookies for friends and deliver them Christmas Eve day or before. Sometimes we drive around and look at lights in the evening while dropping off cookies.
We get together and eat appetizers/finger foods and play games on Christmas Eve. Normally this would be with our family but this year we're going to friends I think. Once home we allow the kids to open one gift, usually new Christmas pyjamas and we read the story of the Nativity in Luke in the Bible before sending everyone off to bed.

When I was a kid we left out a pillow case for Father Christmas, now my children leave out a stocking for Santa. But the rules are still the same...you can open and eat anything in your stocking (the edible stuff of course) but you can't bug mum and dad until 7am. (I remember one year being greeted by a particularly grumpy mother as we rustled and ripped open our presents, it turns out it was 12:30 am and they had just gone to sleep). Then we eat a quick breakfast. One of the children is designated the Elf and wears a special hat with ears. They give out the presents slowly and everyone makes a big mess :) with the wrapping paper.

We eat turkey stuffed with a bread dressing and pork sausage meat and if our son John is over then we have ham too. We love brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, yams, carrots, and gallons of gravy made from scratch. Mmmm..I'm making myself hungry! We usually eat early afternoon and then sit around and visit while digesting. Supper is cold turkey, bread, crackers and various pickles followed by more treats. We drink raspberry gingerale, apple juice mixed with gingerale or sparkling apple juice, not alcohol. We usually need boxing day just to recover and relax, not too much shopping if any. Oh, and we like to sing carols. This year Christmas is on a Sunday so of course we'll be heading to church in the morning for an hour or so as well, which is after all the whole reason for the season.

So that's what we do. Gifts, food and good company. And though we are far away from our family this year, we still have our little group here to love and enjoy our families traditions with.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

CONTEST - FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY


Can you believe it? It seems like we were just celebrating 10,000 page views and now we're almost at 20,000. That's tiny for a blog but still pretty cool to us. Especially since our life is boring at the moment. So we are giving away a copy of Nancy Kopoulos's book "The Long Bridge" to a randomly selected person who makes a comment in the next 48 hours. Starting now and ending Saturday at 2pm. Just make a comment, tell us what we can do to improve, give us some feedback or just say hello and introduce yourself. I'll enter every name into a draw to be held on Saturday afternoon and announce the winner then. If you leave a comment and it's marked as Anonymous then please let me know your first name and I'll post the winner on this page on Saturday.

I wrote a book review about this novel last week if you want to read it. And if you don't win but would still like to have a copy of this charming look at Valley life in the 1930's just let me know and we'll get one into the mail for you. (There are 1800 copies in my house still)

Major Snowfall

Well it turns out the weather man was right for once...sort of. The Heavy Snowfall Warning said that the Annapolis Valley would get up to 30 cm of snow compared to 10-15 cm everywhere else. Well we did get more snow than anywhere else it's true. In fact we have officially 44 cm or 17 inches and because of the wind some has blown and drifted. In my driveway and the road in front of our house the snow is up over my knee caps. Boy am I glad I bought winter boots yesterday!

Steve and I were out this morning using the snow blower to clear the driveway. It took 20 minutes just too get it from the shed to the driveway. Then the fun began. The snow is wet and heavy, not a light 17 inches, so the blower doesn't really like it very much. It was heavy going. Steve got our driveway down to about 4 inches of snow and headed over to our neighbour's house to do hers but the blower died after 5 minutes. The engine was running but there was no power to the wheels. It turns out that 2 bolts that maintain the drive chain in the correct place had sheared off at some point due to metal fatigue so no we'll have to go get new ones. But Steve can fix it so that's good. The boys are out right now shoveling and the girls have come inside to warm up because they've spent the morning building huge snowmen and sledding down the neighbour's hill. Pea soup with ha and fresh baked white and multi-grain bread with butter. Yum!

Oh No! Here comes the snow plow...DON'T DO IT!!! Too late, he just plowed in the neighbours driveway again. Time to grab the shovels and dig her out once more. It's days like these I'm glad to have teenage sons.

The boys are back now from digging her out. They wouldn't take any money so she came over with a ham bone and some cookies. I'm baking her bread right now too, it's a very neighbourly day today. I thought I just heard a truck spinning it's wheels and was planning to go help push but when I looked out the window it's a tractor plowing the sidewalks. The snow is so heavy and deep though that he has to back up and get a run at it. He can push about 10 feet before his giant wheels spin and he has to back up and take another run at it. Very interesting. But hey, it barely stopped snowing and already the roads are becoming passable. Which is good because Steve has to get to work tomorrow. The thermometer is showing 4 degrees so everything is starting to melt and making avalanches of all the snow off roofs and vehicles. The trees are fine because most of them are leafless now thanks to the recent wind. So all in all it wasn't too bad of a snowstorm and we never had to worry about losing power. We are toasty warm and have the windows open a bit because it's almost too warm in here with the fire going and the oven going too. And the bread is delicious. So we all have full and warm bellies.

We'll give it a while and then see if the roads are good enough to drive. We need dog food, bolts for the snowblower and some veggies. Nothing major. We have to also order tires. I got hold of Canadian Tire and they haven't even ordered the tires we need yet and said we need to come into the store. So it looks like it will still be another week yet. But at least we know they're on their way.

Anyways, I hope you're all having a good day today wherever you are. I'll post some interesting articles in a couple of hours after I take the bread out of the pans and get some chores done around the house.

Elizabeth

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Snow Day!!

We're under a snowfall warning and the whole valley is going to get over a foot of snow apparently. So Steve is staying home today and we can go pay bills, open a bank account and other great stuff we don't ever get to do. It's starting to snow quite a bit so we should get going.



Hi again. Well, actually we did manage to get both out and back again on our bald tyres thanks to the fact the the only hill is right at the end of our driveway and with a run at it, Steve got the van into the driveway again. There is currently 14 inches of snow in most places with some drifts upto 3 feet. But it's not cold, just below freezing. This is the first major snowfall of the year and so I imagine there will be a big line-up for snow tyres now. I'm still waiting for Canadian Tire to get mine in that I ordered 2 weeks ago. I did manage to get some boots though which will be nice seeing as how I spent today walking around in my sandals.

The kids are thrilled of course because there was no school today and probably won't be any tomorrow either so they have nothing to do but play and toboggan... it's such a hard life! lol

It's been quiet today, people seem to be hunkered down enjoying their warm houses. The mall was quiet and so were the roads. We did get to finally open a bank account which was nice. Right now the sky is orangey from the reflected street lights and the snow is muffling all the sounds of people and cars. It' makes me want to turn on the Christmas lights and get some hot apple cider brewing while I sing "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas". I've got my nativity sets up already but we're going to get a fresh Christmas tree this year so we'll hold off on that for a few weeks yet I think. It depends on how much the kids nag me. Since we didn't bring any ornaments we're opting for edible decorations again. They're yummy and you don't have to pack them.

If you want to see the traffic cameras for Nova Scotia look here. One thing though, most of the intersections are not lit so at night they're useless.

Hope you are all snug and warm. I've got some interesting things to post tomorrow but for right now I'm going to hang out with my honey and watch a movie on Netflix.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's Illegal to eat what you grow

Thank goodness, that's not actually true. Or is it? What if you hired a chef, had friends over for dinner and then a health inspector showed up, told you that your food wasn't fit to serve and called the police on you? This was food from your own farm/garden and these are your private guests? Sound far fetched? Well, it recently happened to an organic CSA farm in Nevada, USA (Land of the Free?) and it's not the first time I've heard of similar things happening.

Here's the story. in print, written as a letter from the farmer to her guests.

And here's the youtube video that was taken by some guests.



I'm all about following the rule of law and being accountable to public health regulations, but this is a situation that should never have happened.

Just because you grow your own organic food doesn't automatically make it unsafe to eat. Yikes! If this is how growers are treated it's no wonder so many self-sufficient people are doing it on the quiet. Less government interference and no seizure of equipment or fines for growing food. It's happening everywhere. This CSA, Compassion Farm in Lantzville, and many many others being bullied into quitting by local governments and regulations that support the factory farming model where only one giant supplier provides a product. Isn't that a monopoly? To beat the little guys out of business? It's not competition when the playing field isn't fair to all involved. People like to have alternatives such as great customer service, good warranties, organic and fair trade options, that's why little independent businesses can stay in business compared to the WalMarts of the world. But it's becoming harder and harder for farmers to make a decent living. Sigh. Just one more reason why being self-reliant is important I guess.

First Hard Frost

We woke up this morning to a silvery frost over everything. Actually, it didn't come as a surprise because it was -4c when we went to bed and the big pile of firewood in our driveway was starting to sparkle. It's -7c now. The whole rest of the country seems to be under a deep freeze with Alberta recording temps in the low -30's Brrr! That's cold for November. Just because they're used to it (we lived there for years) doesn't mean they have to like it. That's cold! Even Vancouver Island where it rarely snows has a nice white blanket. So all things considered we're doing good. It's been 15 degrees a couple of days over the weekend and sunny, but we know that winter is inevitable. So Steve winterized the motorhome last night, draining the water systems and putting RV anti-freeze in the plumbing and regular anti-freeze in the engine. It should be ready to move to Sackville this week, just waiting on a moving permit.

We've been very busy finishing stocking up with firewood. A massive pile of cut and split logs is on the driveway (about 2 cords) with the exception of the oak we cut, we need a log splitter for those massive rounds. Once it's all cut we're loading it into the garage and into the basement to help get it nice and dry. It's really important that the moisture has somewhere to go and we have 2 extractor fans in the basement, one right by the woodpile. The basement currently contains almost a cord of very very dry wood and another half cord that's drying. So we should be good now for the winter with a total of about 6 cords of hardwood. All in all with scrounging, cutting ourselves, donations and $350 cash paid out, we've got our winter supply. And with any luck there will be some left over to go towards next year. We couldn't have done it without our friends too, you guys are terrific!

It's 64 degrees in the house right now, or 17 celcius, so I lit a fire to take off the chill. We're still getting acclimatized to the damp cold here and so keeping the hose a bit warmer than we usually would. Outside it's sunny and there's a nice wintery blue sky. It's -7c (19f) so the kids dressed up warmly when they headed out for the bus today. The low pressure system we've been watching over the last few days has moved up the Atlantic seaboard and is now lying to the southwest of Nova Scotia so we have a snowfall warning that we could get upto a foot (30cm) of snow tonight. As soon as I see the clouds coming I'm pulling that trailer of wood inside! Hopefully I can get the other pile moved or tarped as well. It's no fun to have to try and dry wet wood before you can stack it. And if it gets snowed on and then melts it's going to wet the outside of every log. Not a disaster on seasoned wood, but it's less efficient to burn. What we want are logs with check marks (small cracks) on the ends indicating that it's dry.

Tonight I'm teaching a class at church for the women about emerency preparedness. We're going to discuss a 72 hour kit, fuel storage, water storage and we're having a basic first aid class too. As important as it is to learn these things...I'm just glad for a chance to hang out and get to know them better. Guess that means I should take some snacks too...maybe cookies and hot apple cider? I'll think about it.

So what's in your 72 hour kit? Can you carry it in a backpack or is it in totes? Ours is partly in the motorhome and we're working on backpacks for everyone too. We have a lot of camping gear and use it fairly regularly during the warmer weather, but now that we live where it gets colder int he winter I think we should reassess the thermal ratings of our sleeping bags. Another thing to add to the 'to do' list. Also have to stock up on fuel again too for our camping stove. It's never ending isn't it?

Well I've got to go print up supply lists and other emergency info stuff for tonight. Hope you're all keeping warm. And a big cold hug to those readers who live where it's warm!

Elizabeth

Friday, November 18, 2011

Snow! Well, sort of.

There was a light rain when I went to bed and upon waking this morning there's a very light skiff of crystaly (yes I know that's not a word) snow. Most of it's gone already as it's above freezing but the kids were excited to throw snowballs at each other though it didn't really work out. We checked the weather and see it's actually colder everywhere else in Canada than here. The prairies are downright nasty with blowing snow and freezing cold temps. Even Victoria BC. This cold snap is due to be gone tomorrow again but it is a sign of things to come so don't worry, all our friends on Vancouver Island can still laugh at us when we have snow and you have daffodils. We won't mind. It's a lovely blue skied day today and so I'm not complaining. Currently our thermometer at home is reading 2 degrees outside and 16-17 inside depending on the room. The kids rooms are filled with sunlight and so they'll warm up quickly. I also lit a small fire again to take the chill off the house. Just 3 pieces of wood should do it I'd think. I just want it a degree or two warmer so that I'm more comfy when sitting at my desk typing away. It's the sitting still that makes me feel chilly. Now I know why older people have lap quilts and fuzzy slippers.

I'm working on a post for the budget challenged in regards to cheap meals. Hopefully have that on here later today. But for now I've got to run. Have a fantastic day. Elizabeth

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pedal Power



What if this was how you did laundry?

Pedal power is not a new idea, in fact I remember this being big in Europe in the 70's and early 80's but it never really took off due to the expense and human effort involved. But did you know that right now, NGO's the world over are producing these power transforming bikes into useful tools for remote and impoverished people to serve a variety of uses? It's true. These people have even set up their own generating systems where people pedal for hours to charge a battery bank used collectively. How is that possible you ask? Well simply put, they draw very little power. Less demand requires less production. Anyone who lives with a solar system or in fact any system with limited storage (even a well) knows to pay attention to their consumption. Electrical appliances that generate heat are used judiciously or not at all, light bulbs are as efficient as possible, some people use 12v DC in place of AC like in a motor home or boat. There are lots of different ways of making a system that works for you.

The following article is great and I LOVE Low-tech! But I'm warning you...it's very long. If you make it all the way through, read the comments for more info. Follow the link and happy reading. If I post the article in it's entirety then it'll take up a tremendous amount of space so the link is my recommendation.

So what do you think? Could you pedal for an hour to watch your favourite show or to wash clothes? Is this the fitness method of the future?

Why African Babies Don't Cry - Grandmotherly Wisdom

This is a re-print of a very good and thought provoking article written by Dr. Claire Niala. Please be advised that there are several photos of nursing babies for those of you who find such things to be unpleasant. This is a lovely article about the wisdom of our grandmothers and how listening to your body and baby really are the best ways to have a happy and healthy family life. I know some of you will disagree, that's ok, but I think there's much wisdom to be learned from those who do NOT write parenting books but who instinctively love their children. There you have it...my Doula rant for the month :)

Why African Babies Don't Cry

By J. Claire K. Niala
Posted with permission
Read more from Niala at In Culture Parent


I was born and grew up in Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire. From the age of fifteen I lived in the UK. However, I always knew that I wanted to raise my children (whenever I had them) at home in Kenya. And yes, I assumed I was going to have them. I am a modern African woman, with two university degrees, and a fourth generation working woman – but when it comes to children, I am typically African. The assumption remains that you are not complete without them; children are a blessing which would be crazy to avoid. Actually the question does not even arise.

I started my pregnancy in the UK. The urge to deliver at home was so strong that I sold my practice, setup a new business and moved house and country within five months of finding out I was pregnant. I did what most expectant mothers in the UK do – I read voraciously: Our Babies, Ourselves, Unconditional Parenting, anything by Sears – the list goes on. (My grandmother later commented that babies don’t read books and really all I needed to do was “read” my baby). Everything I read said that African babies cried less than European babies. I was intrigued as to why.

photo by Andy Graham

When I went home, I observed. I looked out for mothers and babies and they were everywhere, though very young African ones, under six weeks, were mainly at home. The first thing I noticed is that despite their ubiquitousness, it is actually quite difficult to actually “see” a Kenyan baby. They are usually incredibly well wrapped up before being carried or strapped onto their mother (sometimes father). Even older babies strapped onto a back are further protected from the elements by a large blanket. You would be lucky to catch sight of a limb, never mind an eye or nose. The wrapping is a womb-like replication. The babies are literally cocooned from the stresses of the outside world into which they are entering.

My second observation was a cultural one. In the UK, it was understood that babies cry. In Kenya, it was quite the opposite. The understanding is that babies don’t cry. If they do – something is horribly wrong and something must be done to rectify it immediately. My English sister-in-law summarized it well. “People here,” she said, “really don’t like babies crying, do they?”

It all made much more sense when I finally delivered and my grandmother came from the village to visit. As it happened, my baby did cry a fair amount. Exasperated and tired, I forgot everything I had ever read and sometimes joined in the crying too. Yet for my grandmother it was simple, “Nyonyo (breastfeed her)!” It was her answer to every single peep.

photo by H. Anenden

There were times when it was a wet nappy, or that I had put her down, or that she needed burping, but mainly she just wanted to be at the breast – it didn’t really matter whether she was feeding or just having a comfort moment. I was already wearing her most of the time and co-sleeping with her, so this was a natural extension to what we were doing.

I suddenly learned the not-so-difficult secret of the joyful silence of African babies. It was a simple needs-met symbiosis that required a total suspension of ideas of what should be happening and an embracing of what was actually going on in that moment. The bottom line was that my baby fed a lot – far more than I had ever read about and at least five times as much as some of the stricter feeding schedules I had seen.

At about four months, when a lot of urban mothers start to introduce solids as previous guidelines had recommended, my daughter returned to newborn-style hourly breastfeeding, which was a total shock. Over the past four months, the time between feeds had slowly started to increase. I had even started to treat the odd patient without my breasts leaking or my daughter’s nanny interrupting the session to let me know my daughter needed a feed.

Most of the mothers in my mother and baby group had duly started to introduce baby rice (to stretch the feeds) and all the professionals involved in our children’s lives – pediatricians, even doulas, said that this was ok. Mothers needed rest too, we had done amazingly to get to four months exclusively breastfeeding, and they assured us our babies would be fine. Something didn’t ring true for me and even when I tried, half-heartedly, to mix some pawpaw (the traditional weaning food in Kenya) with expressed milk and offer it to my daughter, she was having none of it.

So I called my grandmother. She laughed and asked if I had been reading books again. She carefully explained how breastfeeding was anything but linear. “She’ll tell you when she’s ready for food – and her body will too.”

“What will I do until then?” I was eager to know.

“You do what you did before, regular nyonyo.” So my life slowed down to what felt like a standstill again. While many of my contemporaries marveled at how their children were sleeping longer now that they had introduced baby rice and were even venturing to other foods, I was waking hourly or every two hours with my daughter and telling patients that the return to work wasn’t panning out quite as I had planned.

I soon found that quite unwittingly, I was turning into an informal support service for other urban mothers. My phone number was doing the rounds and many times while I was feeding my baby I would hear myself uttering the words, “Yes, just keep feeding him/ her. Yes, even if you have just fed them. Yes, you might not even manage to get out of your pajamas today. Yes, you still need to eat and drink like a horse. No, now might not be the time to consider going back to work if you can afford not to.” And finally, I assured mothers, “It will get easier.” I had to just trust this last one as it hadn’t gotten easier for me, yet.

A week or so before my daughter turned five months, we traveled to the UK for a wedding and for her to meet family and friends. Because I had very few other demands, I easily kept up her feeding schedule. Despite the disconcerted looks of many strangers as I fed my daughter in many varied public places (most designated breastfeeding rooms were in restrooms which I just could not bring myself to use), we carried on.

At the wedding, the people whose table we sat at noted, “She is such an easy baby – though she does feed a lot.” I kept my silence. Another lady commented, “Though I did read somewhere that African babies don’t cry much.” I could not help but laugh.

My Grandmother’s gentle wisdom:

1. Offer the breast every single moment that your baby is upset – even if you have just fed her.

2. Co-sleep. Many times you can feed your baby before they are fully awake, which will allow them to go back to sleep easier and get you more rest.

3. Always take a flask of warm water to bed with you at night to keep you hydrated and the milk flowing.

4. Make feeding your priority (especially during growth spurts) and get everyone else around you to do as much as they can for you. There is very little that cannot wait.

Read your baby, not the books. Breastfeeding is not linear – it goes up and down and also in circles. You are the expert on your baby’s needs.


Dr. J. Claire K. Niala is a mother, writer and osteopath who enjoys exploring the differences that thankfully still exist between various cultures around the world. She was born in Kenya and grew up in Kenya, Cote d'Ivoire and the UK. She has worked and lived on three continents and has visited at least one new country every year since she was 12 years old. Her favorite travel companions are her mother and daughter whose stories and interest in others bring her to engage with the world in ways she would have never imagined. Read more from Niala at In Culture Parent.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Perfect Christmas Gift

If you find it hard to get the perfect gift for your family or friends then take a few minutes to read below. I promise, Santa won't be mad. In fact, I know he'll thank you for getting back into the true spirit of Christmas instead of impersonal gifts bought for cheap from WalMart and other big box stores. Skip the mass produced stuff and make something yourself. A scarf, some slippers (like us) or a plate of cookies. Go to a local craft fair and see what's handmade. And cut down your list to those people who really matter. Avoid the stress and actually enjoy this Christmas with those you love. Because after all....that's what Christmas is about, the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and Love.

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Christmas 2011 -- Birth of a New Tradition

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Canadians with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods -- merchandise that has been produced at the expense of Canadian labor. This year will be different. This year Canadians will give the gift of genuine concern for other Canadians. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by Canadian hands. Yes there is!
It's time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?
Everyone -- yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local Canadian hair salon or barber?
Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.
Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, Canadian owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.
Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Loonies on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.
There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants -- all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn't about big National chains -- this is about supporting your home town Canadians with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.
How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the Canadian working guy?
Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.
My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.
OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.
Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre.
Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.
Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of lights, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.
You see, Christmas is no longer about draining Canadian pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging Canadian small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Canadians, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine. THIS is the new Canadian Christmas tradition.
Forward this to everyone on your mailing list -- post it to discussion groups -- throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in your city -- send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations, and TV news departments. This is a revolution of caring about each other, and isn't that what Christmas is about?
Click Me!

Laundry Mountain Ahoy! How your dryer works.

Yes, my laundry pile (mountain) is begging for some attention. And it's made worse by one small simple thing...cat pee. Oh yes, this is not a good start to my day. When asking the kids (my first mistake) to bring up the baskets of clean laundry they confessed that while rooting through looking for clean socks they had inadvertently spilled clean laundry all over the floor. So I told them to pile it back into the basket and bring it upstairs (my second mistake) so we could sort it and put it away. Now this amounted to 3 full baskets of laundry. Upon arrival upstairs the aforementioned laundry sat unattended for another day because we had guests for dinner and you know how it goes...why do today what you can put off till tomorrow (my third mistake). Unbeknown to me, the cat litter box had not been scooped that day and in protest one of our aged kitties peed on a shirt that was on the floor. This shirt then was mixed with all the other laundry imparting it's lovely odour to all the clean laundry. Sigh. So now I have to thoroughly wash ALL the laundry again plus do the stuff from this week. It's my own fault I know. So that's what I'm doing right now...laundry. It's gross, but necessary. Thank goodness for bleach and Amaze (it's an odour and stain remover, fab for diapers).

Hang on...I have to switch a load of towels into the dryer (which I just broke th handle on). I'm very grateful my handy husband can fix all the things I break :)

Ok. There's a load in the dryer and another load onto wash. The dryer lint screen is clean (that's actually very important you know) and now I can relax for a few minutes.

So how often do you clean out the lint screen? Be honest. I know there's somebody out there thinking...there isn't one in my machine...but just because you don't know it, doesn't mean it's not there. Some are inside the door, some are on top. It's important to clean the screen with every load or two. Steve says every load and I say that some loads make almost no lint and since it's hard to peel off such a little bit that I wait until after the second load. Our kids however wait until there are layers of lint so that you can tell how many load they've done. But why is it important you ask? Well, one word....FIRE! Have you ever used lint as a fire starter? Lovely stuff! A massive build-up of lint can cause your machine to run very hot and *poof* there's your fire. It won't burn long or too hot but a fire inside a machine is never a good thing. It burns off wires, melts plastic components and stinks. Sure, there's a thermostat and thermal coupling that will turn off the heating element if it gets too hot but if you've already got a fire then it won't matter. Lint fires also tend to smolder and fill your house with smoke.

But don't panic. Dryer fires are rare. I've only heard of 3 or 4 in the last few years. The number one reason you should clean out your lint is this...MONEY! Your dryer relies on not just heat but a flow of air that removes the moisture from the clothes and then blows outside. Restrict the air flow and clothes take longer to dry which uses more power which costs you money. For the best airflow you should have a clean lint filter and your duct should be clean too with a working cap at the outside end allowing air to go through. A certain amount of lint builds up over time in a dryer hose so here are some tips. Make sure that the hose is properly clamped to the dryer outlet and that the hose isn't pinched. Make the run to the outside as short and straight as possible, avoiding sharp corners in the hose. Rigid pipe works better is you can use it but any clean hose that's the correct diameter (usually 4 inches) will work. Have your hose cleaned at the same time you have your air vents in your home cleaned. If your dryer seems to be taking longer and longer to dry clothes and yet it still seems hot, go outside and see where the dryer vent is. Make sure that the little flaps are working if you have them or if not, check that the air can exit freely and that there aren't plants in the way or rodents nesting in there. You should check your hose for leaks and kinks at least once a year, it's not a bad idea to pull out both your machines and give them a good clean. I always find a bunch of socks that have worked their way behind the machines and the floor is grungy so I clean that too. If you're worried that your machine might have too much lint, call an appliance technician to check it out. Or send me a message. It's not hard to remove the back panel and give everything a quick vacuum just to be on the safe side, and a small amount of lint is normal.

I hope I haven't scared anyone.

Washing machines are easier for the homeowner to maintain. Watch for water leaks and change your hoses every 5 years. That's pretty much it. If you have an older model with a screen filter you need to clean that, but most new machines are self-cleaning. Front loaders should be stored with the door ajar to allow it to dry inside and prevent smells or you can use that cleaning product called Affresh once a month. I usually just use a little bleach on a quick cycle but I'm cheap. And besides, I sold my washer before we moved so now I have a toploader again. I really like the front loaders though. Cheaper on soap, good cleaning, less water, and blankets fit without getting wrapped around the agitator. They are great for anyone who is water conscious such as people with a low flow well. For best results with all washing machines, use the correct amount of soap, pre-treat stains, and wash a full load for best efficiency. For really dried on marks let the machine run for 2 minutes, then shut it off and let it sit for an hour. Start the machine again and run as normal. Some things like dirt and grease need a little extra time to soak out.

Well I'm off to do more laundry. It's a gorgeous day so I might hang some blankets outside to dry. Hope your weather is as fine as ours.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Solar or Wind Power?

Both wind and solar have their advantages and downfalls, wouldn't you say? For sustainability purposes you really need a combination of active and passive solar (charging batteries and heating a solarium for examples), water and/or wind. Wind power doesn't just turn electricity generating turbines though. Think back to the 'good old days' and those farms of the American or Australian men and women of the 1920's. The 2 most prominent features were likely to have been grain silos and a windmill that pumped water from deep underground using a simple up/down piston action.

These windmills were vital to maintaining a water supply and were completely mechanical so farmers could easily repair them and change the gear oil when needed. That's important to a farmer because they don't always live near towns and cities so being able to repair your own machinery promptly is vital. One of the reasons windmills also pump water into storage tanks is so that should something happen or if the wind isn't blowing much for a few days, there's still a supply of water to be had. Don't forget that it wasn't just water for the family, but for livestock and irrigation too, all coming from the same well and the same storage tank. In dry places like Australia water is even more important. In some places water is stored during the rainy season for the dry season so as to not deplete already strained wells. Water really is the life blood of any farm.

Today windmills come in all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes with a variety of intended uses. But they can be so complex that repairs are beyond the average person. The one pictured here is covered in photovoltaic cells and produces electricity in 2 ways. However water wheels and windmills are quite basic in their operations and it wouldn't be hard to find someone to repair them if needed. The concept of using the turning action and gearing to power grind stones, saw blades, pumps and hammers is not new, they've been used for hundreds of years and have stood the test of time. A community was considered settled and well on it's way to success as soon as it had a grist mill in the 1800's. Why? Because all the farmers came to have grains ground and the mill became the centre of commerce. When you eat bread everyday there's simply no way you want to spend hours grinding the flour yourself, you wouldn't have had time what with raising children, cooking, laundry, cleaning, tending to the livestock, milking etc. Life was busy. You had to save time where you could. Boy, we're so lucky to have things like washing machines and supermarkets and hot running water on demand! I still think back to our 4 months living in the motorhome and the lovely outdoor showers in the wind...it does make me appreciate my modern conveniences for sure! Especially my non-folding bed and hot running water in a bathroom that's neither outdoors nor 2x3 feet.

Have you ever thought about getting a windmill or looked at the price of windmill kits, the ones that you buy and assemble yourself at home? They've come down in price but are still pretty expensive. Same with solar cells. You need to be really committed or be building it into your new home from the start to reap the benefits in the short term. And you need to live in an area that has fairly windy conditions for a good portion of the year. Southern Alberta is consistently windy, the trees grow at an angle caused by the prevailing wind, and that's why there are so many wind farms in the area. But for home use we are looking at water turbine generation (more water flow in winter when more power is needed), wind power for a water pump with a simple storage tank that can gravity feed the house, and a combination of passive solar and solar cells. We'll likely connect to the grid anyways but these other methods would give us enough power for most of our needs and in an emergency would still give us running water and some heat for our home. It's the combination of things working together that we like instead of being entirely dependent on one source. There are plenty of people around here who have electric heat with no back-up, and that just doesn't seem wise to me. At least if the power goes out and we don't have the fan for the furnace, there's a certain amount of convection and radiation that happens. It's always good to plan ahead for these things rather than being caught out at the last minute.

If you want to know more about how a windmill works for pumping water just read this article. The cute little animation really shows in basic terms how a pumping windmill works. It totally makes me want to go build one now, lol. I wonder what Steve would think. Actually my mentioning that I was interested in generating my own hydro-electric power was one of the first things he liked about me, so he'd probably let me do it. The wish list for our new home is getting bigger and bigger, with things like windmills and passive solar hot water systems. Once reality kicks in and we have a concrete budget and plan then the fun begins! It's going to be a lot of hard work building our own place, but satisfying too.

Hope you all have a good day. My kids have a half day at school and will be home at noon, and I have some people to go visit this morning so I really should scoot. This afternoon I hope to get more slippers cut out and some sewing done. We have enough pairs already cut to be getting on with. And it will be nice to see things actually appearing in the 'completed' box rather than piling higher and higher in the waiting box. It takes only about an hour for the girls to do the cutting but rather longer to sew. We've to to get cracking though because we've got to get things ready to mail. Well, time to go! TTYL

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Canadian $100 Bills are out Today

Canada's finally getting on the band wagon and switching to Polymer bills in an effort to combat counterfeiting which is believed to be around 470 bills out of every million. Like many other government documents over recent years (such as Alberta Birth Certificates) these bills feature clear panels and many other security features in an effort to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. More info is here. The new bills, due into circulation today, will look and feel quite different but they're going to be around for a long time so we'd better get used to them. I haven't seen one yet, most of us won't for a little while as they'll take some time to filter down through the system, but by the time the $50 bill is out in March I'm sure we'll all be familiar.



Now if only I could get my hands on some...

Back to the Land'ers - Russian Style

It all started when Steve (my husband) came across an article on the Ria Novosti website. Yes, we read Russian news, I told you our taste was eclectic :)

It's an article about eco-villages where people try and life in harmony with nature. Here's the link and I'll see if I can post it too but check out the link because it includes video. Ok, it's posted at the bottom of this page.

This particular village is different from some. They are vegetarian, there is a buy in amount for a piece of land that other communities do not have and they do not use local natural resources. which seems very odd to me. Why buy in wood when you live beside a forest. I thought it was like a modern hippie commune. And after watching the videos I am thinking that it's a good basic idea that's been taken too far by this group in several ways, but that's just my opinion. Upon doing more research I found that there are literally dozens of communities based on all different sorts of living requirements and ecological philosophies and all over the world though there are certainly a lot in Russia. There really is something for practically everyone. But not me. I live in Canada and am too conservative to find something suited to my lifestyle and degree of independence. (I don't like being told what to do) But does that mean there aren't people in the West practicing this sort of lifestyle extreme? You only have to check out YouTube to find ideas for sustainable living. Here is one young guy in England http://youtu.be/zgSH6He9v4g and one floating home off the coast of Tofino, BC.



And here's another village in Russia.


It's important for our family to think about exactly what we want from our farmstead here in Nova Scotia. We plan on being here forever and that means making good choices now so that it saves us grief in the future. We don't know how the local community is going to grow up around us so having enough land to provide a buffer is one important aspect of our planning. We're not trying to avoid our neighbours, in fact we think that community relations are vital to our success because the community is where our customers live, but we do want to avoid things like complaints about the smell from muck spreading and animals. I remember in BC we got complaints once that our sheep were too noisy...all that grazing in a summer field...noisy stuff lol. But as more and more people find themselves living beside farms there's bound to be the odd conflict that has to be resolved. People move to the country with no real idea of what life is like out here. It doesn't smell 'country fresh' like that air freshener of yours, I can promise you that! And yes, sometimes you'll be stuck behind a tractor driving on the road or behind a flock of sheep being moved from one pasture to the next, that's the price you pay for having healthy local produce right on your doorstep.

So are we going to start hippie commune? NO Are we going to move to a radical eco-village and become vegetarian subsistence farmers? NO. Will we start our own village? No, but it might be nice to choose a couple of our neighbours. Are we going to do something unexpected? Quite likely, we'll keep you posted. But give us a while yet, we need to get the finances in order first and I have no intention of building in the winter thank you very much!

One of the things we are doing to get ready is connecting with local farmers. We've found a breeder of the goats we want and a supplier of milk. Now we have to figure out the rest of the livestock and somewhere to put them. One thing at a time. That;s why Winter was invented you know...so we farmers could plan for next year and fix our fences.

We're getting more firewood this week and also staking out the garden area and maybe getting it tilled if the ground isn't too wet. It'll depend on the weather. Then I'll know the dimensions and I can figure out what we need for seeds. The new catalogues usually come out in December and I want some specific things so I'll be ordering early.

I just remembered that there is a great story/video about Dick Proenneke's year in the wilderness. Very peaceful, and amazing how good he is with his tools, making handles and swinging that axe with precision. That's the sign of a true craftsman, he cares for his tools and can use them with ease and skill. His is a unique perspective from a man not afraid to work. Loved this the first time I saw it with my Dad I think, years ago, and still like it.


By Yelena Kosova

Europeans were the first to start fleeing the city in the mid-1990s to establish eco-communities in the woods and fields. In Russia, the first eco-communities appeared eight to ten years ago. In this special environmental report from the Kaluga Region, Yelena Kosova seeks to find out why successful people are leaving cities to develop uncultivated land and grow their own vegetables, bake their own bread, and even make their own soap.

A cottager differs radically from a resident of an eco-community. The latter has an ideology, not just a cottage on six hundred square meters in a village. Eco-community residents create a family estate in nature for their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Whether their descendants will continue living there will depend on whether they want to use solar panels for electricity, drink herbal tea instead of coffee, and eat steamed turnips instead of steak.

The first eco-communities appeared in Russia about ten years ago, but little is known about them.

Eco-community near Milyonki village

Milyonki village is located in the Kaluga Region, 220 km from Moscow.

In 2006, the administration of the Dzerzhinsky District offered 150 hectares of agricultural land to establish an eco-community. The land, which has not been cultivated for a long time, borders on a forest, which means that the families living on it almost live in the woods.

Each family owns 1.5-2 hectares of land. The land is owned communally, which means that no one has the right to sell it. Land can only be passed down to descendants.

Newcomers pay a fee of nearly 200,000 rubles. It was 40,000 rubles just five years ago. Still, this isn’t much given how much land they are given to cultivate. Moreover, the people who decided to move here are actually quite successful.

The average age of the residents of the eco-community is 30-35. All of them are families. Some are businessmen who used to have security guard. There are designers, doctors, and teachers. They lived in Kaluga, Moscow, and Yekaterinburg. There’s even a family from Greece.

Some lease their city apartments. Others sell herbs, mushrooms, berries gathered in the community. And some residents work as carpenters in the community.

Upon arriving here, urban residents learn to dig wells, build houses, and even bake bread.

Unanimous consent

Anyone can apply to live in the community, but if even one resident votes against you at the general council, you will have to look for another place for yourself and your family. There are rules that everyone must follow. There is no drinking, smoking, or cursing.

“We do not block off our land with fences, only with hedges, trees or shrubs. We do not slaughter animals either for food or sale. We all are vegetarians,” says eco-community resident Maria Dyachenko.

To wash dishes, it is recommended to use mustard, ashes, and cold process soap made by residents themselves.

All chemicals, even those used to grow crops, are prohibited in the community.

Though the earth is not ploughed, vegetables are eaten year round

An entertainment organizer demonstrates a Viking game and birch masks

The residents treat the earth with care. They do not plough it. Dung from the neighboring villages is used as fertilizer.

Thinly cut strips of white mushrooms are dried and eaten throughout the winter as chips. There are always nuts on the table. Residents have to buy them outside of the community for now, but a lot of Swiss pines have been planted, which means that in several years they will have their own nuts.

Cucumbers and tomatoes are salted in tubs, apples are soaked. Pumpkins are especially important here. Porridge is made in them. It is used for cream soup. Boiled pumpkin is eaten with honey.

There are currently 50 families in the eco-community. Only families who have already built houses or stood the test of winter in the country will remain in the community throughout the winter.

Newcomers usually arrive in early summer. At first, they live in tents. Forest trees are not even used for firewood, so when they do build a home, they have to purchase wood outside the community. Some residents build earthen homes. One family even lives in a yurt. The family of set designers from Moscow, Alexei and Yekaterina Sholosh, will spend their first winter there. They are now trying to insulate their yurta warmer using hay sacks. Everyone works – father, mother, and children.

Alexei has a small forge. Local boys spend nearly all their time there. Alexei teaches them how to smith. He volunteers as the local entertainment organizer. Among his many activities is an ancient Viking game.

“People are to blame for all their diseases. It has nothing to do with germs.”

Former doctor builds environmentally friendly yurt

There are teachers and doctors in the community. Pavel and Natalya Cherepanov used to be doctors in a first aid center before they came to live there. Now they are responsible for first aid in the community.

The Cherepanovs came two years ago from the Urals. Now the head of the family is building a wooden house modeled on a yurta.

“We came here for the sake of our children mostly,” Pavel says. “What did they breathe in the city? Exhaust from cars and plants? My wife and I were constantly afraid for our son and daughter. There is so much crime in the city. And so many dangerous temptations. Teenagers drink, smoke, and take drugs. And here all families like ours. There is nothing to fear.”

Living in the woods is certainly safer than in the city. Here, for example, cursing is not even allowed, let alone smoking from a young age or drinking beer. A healthy lifestyle is the focus in the community.

“My wife and I believe that people are to blame for all their diseases. It has nothing to do with germs. People should eat healthy food, breathe fresh air, condition themselves to the cold, and get away from the noisy city life. Here the rhythm of life is absolutely different,” Pavel Cherepanov says.

People who live in the city may find this environmentally friendly lifestyle extreme, but the people who live here disagree. They say city life is much more stressful, suitable for trained soldiers only. Children especially should not be exposed to this kind of stress.

Cartoons like Shrek are not welcome

In the community, fathers are typically present at the delivery of their babies. But each family makes its own choice. Women may also deliver in hospitals, or in the community under the supervision of a doctor.

Children feel free in the community. There is forest everywhere, and children feel safe in it. However, adults limit their food choices until they grow up. Eco-community residents eat healthy food without preservatives, artificial colors, thickeners, and other additives.

The common belief in the community is when children grow up, they may eat anything they want, but before that, parents can ensure that their children only use natural products.

Children in the community are all friends. Together they watch Soviet and Russian cartoons. As for children’s films, they generally like Russian ones but also know very well the Harry Potter saga.

Cartoons like Shrek are not welcome in the community along with commercials for sanitary pads and beer. Nevertheless half of the families have a computer.

Children are mostly homeschooled here. They are taught by their parents. Many adults living here have more than one degree. Once a month, parents take their children to school in the neighboring Luzhnoye village, where they can get credit. This is in keeping with education laws.

“When our children grow up, they will make their own choice as to whether to continue their education or not. Live here, or forever leave for the city. No one can restrict their choice of where to live,” Maria Dyachenko says.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lots going on

Sorry for not posting my usual Sunday message. We've had a very busy and full day and now that I have time to post I'm suffering from a headache so I'm going to bed early. I've got more slippers cut out and the girls and I are sewing tomorrow after school. They're coming up with lots of other ideas too so it's going to be fun making all the gifts this Christmas. We have lots to do because the mailing deadline for Christmas is in about 3 weeks. It's going to be close.

Best wishes to you all from Greenwood, NS where it is now dark, 10pm and 9 degrees C. So quite warm. It's going to be warm all week until the weekend when we return to more seasonal temperatures.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Long Bridge


Have you ever wondered what life might have been like in the Annapolis Valley in the 1930's. Well you can get a glimpse of every day life in Nancy Kopulos's book titled 'The Long Bridge'.

Set in the late 1920's and 1930's, this novel follows Katie Anderson as she experiences life as an adult with a father she barely knows. She experiences cold, terror, love and a feeling of community and forgiveness. Descriptions of the Valley, history, culture and daily life abound in this lovely tale.

The Long Bridge was written primarily to preserve some of the heritage of Annapolis County and the author uses her own experiences to create a realistic view of life in the Valley she loves so much.

Available from us here at Eastbound Publishing by calling 1 (866)667-9662 or by leaving a comment anywhere on the blog. The price is $22.50 and more details are available on our site at http://www.eastboundpublishing.com/ Shipping is available world wide.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Is Santa Real?



It's 6 weeks until Christmas and we have a serious question you can help us with.

We have 4 children at home right now with the youngest being in grade 3 and 8 years old. She knows the "secret" about Father Christmas/Santa. Infact she's known for a while and managed to not tell her older sister (which is amazing if you know Meghan the blabber mouth). So my question for you is this... should we just tell Kate that Santa isn't real or let her go one more year? She still believes but is getting teased a bit at school by her grade 5 peers. These are kids who wear make-up, have boyfriends and are pretty worldly (which is sad but that's another post). Thank goodness for kids like Anna who are still sweet and innocent! Do we want Kate to fit in better or do we just wait and see what happens? I think it's good for kids to have a sense of fantasy and belief in Santa, it's part of the magic of childhood that too often fades these days. Kids are cynical before they're even teenagers. No wonder they have so many grown-up problems like pregnancy, depression and anger. But how do we balance it out and prevent her being teased more than she already is?

So I want to know what you think....should we tell her or not?

It will have to be us because she simply doesn't believe her peers when they say he's fake.


For anyone wondering about our weather, it was a bit windy and wet but nothing serious and it's warm! 15 degrees for the low last night and 18 today. We haven't had the heat on for 3 days now. I think it's time to sweep out the firebox while it's not full of hidden coals.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I'm trying to give up Pepsi

I'd give up Cola but I'm No Quitter! So instead I'm trying to cut down. I made the move from always diet coke or pepsi to regular and it's shockingly sweet. But it's helped me get down again from litres per day (maybe 2) to on average maybe 2 litres per week. Some days I have a lot and other days I have none. If I'm on the go and need a mental pick me up I'll have some or if I'm getting a migraine and not near my meds. But I'm really trying to cut down for both health reasons and because it gives me heartburn at about 10pm, right when I'm trying to wind down and get some sleep. So far so good. I'm not intending to give it up completely but to imbibe in moderation. I'm not substituting another soda for cola because it's not the caffeine I'm avoiding, it's all pop. All of them have sugar and other ingredients like phosphoric acid that aren't good for you. Since I'd rather drink fruit juice anyways it's not a major stretch except juice costs more and doesn't go very well with a big mac and fries :)


Here's a shocking (by today's standards) print ad for Coca Cola. So much for truth in advertising. I wonder what our dentist friend would have to say about this.

So much sugar has got to be terrible for a child's first teeth. And I've seen kids with terrible teeth just from taking a bottle with milk to bed! I can't imagine what cola would do.

I vividly remember the first time our son Chris ate sugar. It was ice cream, and my mum gave it to him. He was 7 months old and I was horrified. That was the end, I thought, of my sugar free baby. Which may seem odd to those of you who know me wel as I love sweet things. But the kids had limited sugar when they were little. Chris and Jordan first discovered that people ate sugar on cornflakes then they were at a sleepover when they were 6 and 8 years old. Now they are teenagers and for a large part they plan their own snacks but still eat whatever I'm making for dinner unless it's liver like the other night in which case Jordan opted for beans on toast. For the record, the rest of us thought it was very good served with beef gravy and lots of fluffy mashed potatoes. Mmmm.


Most of us know that a can of 355ml contains 10 tsp. of sugar, right? Only a serving of cola is not normally 355ml. It's normally double that or more.

The recommended daily intake of sugar is 10 tsp. for an average person so one can of pop is it. No pudding or cake, no sweet sauces, no fruit. And that hardly leads to a healthy diet does it? That's why people drink diet pop, so they can have dessert! But it's also loaded with chemicals and artificial sweeteners, none of which are foods found in nature.


But pop has been around for a long time right? And now that there's no cocaine in cola it's not so bad for you right? WRONG!! You don't need the cocaine to get a high, that's what the sugar is for. Check out the infographic below and see the short term affects from only one can of coke. I'll print some text below for yo to follow along too.


  • In The First 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. (100% of your recommended daily intake.) You don’t immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor allowing you to keep it down.
  • 20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds to this by turning any sugar it can get its hands on into fat. (There’s plenty of that at this particular moment)
  • 40 minutes: Caffeine absorption is complete. Your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, as a response your livers dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain are now blocked preventing drowsiness.
  • 45 minutes: Your body ups your dopamine production stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.
  • >60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine, providing a further boost in metabolism. This is compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners also increasing the urinary excretion of calcium.
  • >60 Minutes: The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (It makes you have to pee.) It is now assured that you’ll evacuate the bonded calcium, magnesium and zinc that was headed to your bones as well as sodium, electrolyte and water.
  • >60 minutes: As the rave inside of you dies down you’ll start to have a sugar crash. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. You’ve also now, literally, pissed away all the water that was in the Coke. But not before infusing it with valuable nutrients your body could have used for things like even having the ability to hydrate your system or build strong bones and teeth.

So that's why I'm cutting down on the soda. Plain and simple. I don't want the caffeine withdrawl headache for 10 days so I'm cutting back slowly and that's how people wean themselves off tea and coffee too. I thought you might find it interesting if you've been thinking about eliminating pop yourself. I know that a lot of you don't drink soda, this is for those of us that do. It's just one of the ongoing things I'm trying to do to be more healthy. And self sufficient people can't manufacture coke...ginger ale and root beer yes, but not cola.

And for the record...Pepsi is better than Coke!

Remembrance Day is Tomorrow


It's a beautiful clear and sunny day today. The air is still and crisp with the scents of leaves and damp earth. But my thoughts are drifting to tomorrow when the rain will be beating down in torrents all day and we are remembering those who lived in trenches in all weather and just tried to survive. Tomorrow countries the world over will recognize Remembrance Day

We commemorate Remembrance Day to remember both those killed in World Wars 1 and 2 and in the line of duty since then. So it's not just an 'old man's' holiday as some younger people think...it's as relevant to us today because soldiers are still giving their lives in defense of freedom from tyranny both for us in the west and those in the east who cannot fight for themselves. The politicians can go ahead and make a mess of everything but the basics are this...these young men and women believe that it's their duty to stand up for those who can't defend themselves and that includes you and I. We can sleep soundly because of their efforts. Our children and grandchildren can go to school safely and can play outside because we live in a free and safe country. We are SO BLESSED! And we take it for granted.

We commemorate it on November 11th because the Armistice was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and brought peace to Europe in 1918. It is recognized in many countries in the world in addition to the US having Memorial Day in May.

Our family often attends the local service and/or watches the national service on tv from Ottawa. This year our children are memorizing the poem "In Flanders Fields" by a Canadian Doctor serving in WWI in 1915. The picture above is the memorial in his home town.

Every time I see fields of poppies I think about this poem and I'm grateful for living in a free land, for the opportunities my children will have because of people who have died in the past and those who have served and still serve in military and peace keeping organizations throughout the world. We don't forget. We teach our children about what happened. We tell stories from our family history and stories about our friends who lived in Europe after WWII and all they suffered. We keep the stories alive so that hopefully one day they will tell their children. If we can keep the horror of war alive then maybe they will not be doomed to repeat it.

To those of you who have served and those now serving ... from one little family in Nova Scotia, Canada, Thank You.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

BP Oil Spill, one year later.

Kate is loving her babysitting course. Of course, given her handicap it's more of a rite of passage than an expectation to actually babysit alone, but I think that the skills will be a boost for her confidence and she'll be personally better prepared with things like some basic first aid skills. She can help me babysit too which I know she'd love. And you never know...shes already surpassed all expectations so why not expect more from her? I don't want to limit her chances at success.

On a bad note though, she didn't call but I know she forgot her lunch and snacks because I just found them under the front hall table. Maybe she had enough money left on her cafeteria card.


I was doing some checking around today about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It's been over a year since that gusher was capped and clean up efforts got under way full steam. We don't hear anything about it in the news anymore, at least I haven't heard or seen anything. So I decided to go look and see what came up. Basically I found that there are some long term affects including huge die offs of mangroves, shellfish including oysters and the fact that oil is still in the water in larger than naturally occurring quantities on the sea floor. All of these in their turn affect other things too. Without the mangrove swamps to protect the coastline, soil erosion occurs, animals, fish and birds lose their habitat, the coast is subject to damage from wind and wave action. In their turn these all affect other things things too. We often just see things in terms of how they affect humans so let me tell you a human story of some fishermen along the gulf coast states. There are people who are still struggling to make ends meet since the collapse of the fishing industry. Fish populations are expected to recover for the most part within 10-15 years if there's a ban or partial ban on fishing for the next while to give the remaining stocks time to mature and breed. But in the meantime how are fisherman supposed to feed their families, maintain their craft and pay their bills? Do we just expect them to wait around or will they leave the sea out of necessity and we'll end up losing a valuable skill and knowledge base? It's the unknown long-term consequences that worry me more than the immediate environmental ones. Those are the ones everyone sees and takes care of. But what about fisherman with claims against BP who've still not been paid? And how do you make a claim for unknown future lost earnings?

Most of the smaller claims seem to have been paid out though I can't confirm exact numbers with BP due to their citing Privacy rules, and I respect that. But it looks like approx 90% of all approved claims have received at least interim payments and better than half of the claims have been paid in full. But there's still 10% who've received nothing yet and most of the claims that are not settled are big...half a million dollars or more each.

Some people are saying that the inflated claims of businesses are holding up the system, and that may be the case occasionally. But the BP guys have to approve an awful lot of paperwork before dishing out any money and it's not a job I'd want, trying to find the honest guys out of a bunch of crooks just looking to make a quick buck.

That being said, it's a long process. Other communities are still fighting and recovering from their own spills. This isn't the first big one, that was the Torrey Canyon which dumped a half million barrels of oil off the southern coast of England and affected the coastlines of England, France and Spain in 1967. The Exxon Valdez spill is famous, perhaps because it affected the pristine wilderness of Alaska but it's dwarfed by so many others. The IXTOC 1 well in the Gulf Of Mexico spilled 140 million gallons. In 1969 off the coast of California 4 million TONS of oil were reported released into the water. On the same scale as this, during the Persian Gulf War in 1991 the Iraqi army sank several supertankers deliberately into the Gulf and also dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil off the Kuwait docks directly into the water. It devastated the eco-system and as it was done deliberately I think it's the most heinous of all spills. It didn't occur through negligence or accident, it was done intentionally and for malicious reasons.

There are of course other spills and losses of life but it is possible to recover. Check out this report from the BBC in Galicia, SpainSo life goes on and now we wait to see how nature recovers from this latest blow. But one thing is for certain, she'll recover in her own good way and time, regardless of us humans. It might not be the same as before, but she'll do the best she can in the circumstances. And we're lucky to have a planet like this in the first place, we should appreciate her more. Earth hour isn't until the end of March, but maybe we can all turn off a light or two, pay better attention to our water use and recycling, and do a little extra in honour of the planet that sustains our very lives.


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