Archive for the ‘green gardening’ Category

World Vegetarian Week October 1 – 7 2009

October 01 to October 07 is World Vegetarian Week.  Countless Organizations around the world are joining this movement to promote a healthier, and more humane and environmentally sustainable lifestyle.

You are also invited to get involved!

Why a Vegetarian Week?

With nearly daily reports of severe droughts, floods, storms and wildfires, and climate scientists predicting increasingly warm temperatures, it is urgent to shift the world from its present unsustainable path to avoid a huge catastrophe. Many reports have shown the significant contributions of animal-based diets to global warming, so it is essential to get the urgency of dietary shifts onto the world’s agenda.

Everyday is an excellent day to be a healthy and conscious vegetarian, but October 01 to 07 is a nice opportunity to double our efforts and campaign towards a better world:

  • October 01 is the World Vegetarian Day

  • October 04 is the World Animal Day

What you can do

As a non-profit organization:

  • Send a press release or articles to local media about this week;

  • Invite other organizations to get involved;

  • Invite health stores, supermarkets, restaurants and other businesses to promote the vegetarian week, e.g. by having discounts or offering some vegetarian items for free;

  • Organize cooking demonstrations, talks, conferences, workshops or other events;

  • Create leaflets and posters and distribute them to stores, restaurants and other locations where many people go;

  • Create e Cards or postcards that people can send to friends;

  • Send a newsletter about the week to all your members;

  • Start a letter writing campaign;

  • Organize a Love Earth Gathering on October 3rd or 4th.

As a company:

  • Offer some vegetarian gifts to your employees or customers (a book, CD, DVD, etc.);

  • Promote a workshop, talk, cooking demonstration or other activity;

  • Organize a vegetarian lunch or dinner for all your employees.

As an individual:

  • Send letters to newspapers or magazines, sharing your experience;

  • Participate in leaflet distributing events;

  • Invite friends or family to a vegetarian dinner;

  • Join your local vegetarian organization;

  • Ask for vegetarian meals and talk about the vegetarian week at your local restaurants;

  • Speak to local clergy, educators, media and other people, stressing the multiple benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle.

Where to start

  • Forward this message, translating into other languages if necessary;

  • Visit www.vegetarianweek.org, see what others are doing and what materials you can use;

  • Decide what you can do, as an individual, organisation or company;

  • Inform us about your plans by sending an email to info@vegetarianweek.org, which we will then publish in www.vegetarianweek.org and through the EVANA news system at www.evana.org;

  • Refresh and update your knowledge of vegetarian-related issues, so that you can be as effective a spokesperson as possible.

Source: Vegetarian week website

Local fruit in abundance!

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This years unusually warm summer has left us with tans  and a bumper crop of yellow plums!  We have a neighbour on one side of the house with half a dozen fruit trees, and many branches are on our side so we have been gifted with many, many plums!

The trick has been to try and get them daily so not to attract too many wasps!

I have already made plum jam with a batch of red plums from the front garden, so now we move on to plum sauce!

08-16-09-plums-002I was looking at some history of plums and read that plums are the second most cultivated fruit in the world, second only to apples. Chinese are said to believe plums symbolized good fortune.  It has meant good fortune for us so far as well. I will post my recipe once I have canned all these sweet plums this week!

We’re jamming

Not the Bob Marley kind, the fruit kind!

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Last week in the blazing sun I decided to harvest our plum tree.

Well it was not my decision exactly. The plums were dropping off the tree at a rate so fast the skunks, squirrels and rats couldn’t keep up!

We gathered about six pounds for our first batch.

Once I had them in the house I needed a recipe. I looked online and was able to find many different ones, some calling for pectin or equal parts sugar to plums. There are various ideas on how to seal the jars once sterilised and how exactly to sterilise the jars in the first place. Luckily I do have some experience in the jamming and canning department as my family made jams and canned tomatoes when I was young. That kind of experience, namely a cold room full of strawberry jam, will have a lasting impression on a kid.

I first decided that I would not add pectin, a gelling agent commonly used in the canning process. Many recipes online said that plums have an enormous amount of pectin naturally and as long as you add some unripe fruit you should have no problem with the jam setting.

I also decided to use the local honey I bought in June from a family near me.

I already had the jars, snap lids, metal canning pot and a strong desire for jam, so I was set!

I washed the fruit, but did not pit it, next time I will, or at least blanch the fruit and pit it first as it is a huge job to remove the pits once the fruit is cooked.

I boiled the fruit in enough water to cover it, on a high temperature.

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Once the fruit was soft I drained and pitted it and returned it to the heat. I  added honey, about one cup to the three cups of fruit pulp. I boiled the mixture again for a while. Many sites recommend using a candy thermometer to check the temperature, but I just went on instinct. The jam thickened.

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While I cooked the jam I  washed the jars  in hot soapy water and boiled them in hot water.  I then put them in the oven on a low temperature to dry for about a half hour. I also boiled the lids and rings to seal the jars.

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I used the standard plate test to check if the jam was set. This simply means you need to put a few plates in the freezer, and once you are ready to test the jam, put a little on a cold plate and return it to the freezer for a few minutes. When you take the jam out run your finger over the jam or slightly push the jam, if it wrinkles it is set, if not, cook a little longer.

07-30-09-plum-jam-003The final step was to pour the jam into the jars,leaving a few fingers width of space on top and  being careful not to touch the inside of the jars with anything as not to contaminate it.  Then add the lids, rings and tighten the jars and put them into the canner and boil for ten minutes.

The end result was two jars of sweet and beautiful plum jam! There is something extra delicious about home made jam on toast, in cookies, or on pancakes.

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a little bit of summer in a jar?

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Now what to do with the rest of them?

Summer Fruits

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We are blessed here on the west coast with an abundance of local fruit. This summer in our rooftop garden we have had huge success with tomatoes, peas, beans, carrots, lettuce, and radishes. Our cucumber plants are looking good, as well as the peppers and corn!

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We are extremely lucky to also have fruit trees on  our front lawn.

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Today I gathered a few pounds of red plums and will be preserving them in the next few days. I am going to use the local honey I got last month from another home learning family, so this batch will be 100% local and  organic!

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Don’t you just love summer!

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Something is a BUZZ in Vancouver

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This spring, when I volunteered at the new Vancouver Convention Centre, I was thrilled to learn about just how “green” it is.

While the building itself is impressive, the view from the centre is worth the trip to see it alone. The real beauty in it is the six acre rooftop garden and Apiary (Bee Yard). The garden boasts some 400 000 native plants and grasses, and houses hives for 60 000 bees!

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The green roof can be seen here by anyone flying over the city.  This is quite a green sight!

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Some local hotels have also begun to keep bees in their rooftop gardens. The Fairmont Hotel, known as Hotel Vancouver, has added bees to their rooftop garden, and honey to their menu.  It’s fresh, local, sustainable and most of all, delicious!

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Bee Condo

Vancouver has taken the initiative to bring over 50 new Bee Condos to parks. They are manned by volunteers.  Bees face a number of threats, and none are greater than the toxic pesticides used on crops and ornamental flowers in the city.

A traditional food in all sense of the word, honey has been used to heal, as a beauty aid, stomach remedy, allergen cure,  and hundreds of other ways.

However you look at it, the benefits of adding these animals to our urban oasis are sure to be felt and tasted for years to come!

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Eco Garden Art

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Now that the season of gardening is in full swing, many of us are spending long days and evenings in our backyard green oasis.  Many gardens have art, fountains and bird feeders, what if the art you choose to ad to your garden  could make it even greener?  Have you heard of Water Works Garden Sculpture ?

While volunteering at Epic this May, I  discovered these wonderful pieces of art made of recycled materials such as musical instruments , copper, silver, brass and glass collectibles.  Made  in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada!

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The artists name is Douglas Walker. While browsing his site and looking at many of these amazing one of a kind pieces I also checked out his blog , where I saw some more photo’s of his shop and work.

With a few weddings and many warm nights ahead I think that I may consider one of these for gifts this summer.

These pieces are truly Eco art, beautiful, functional and like nothing you have seen before! Be sure to check out his upcoming festival dates to check some out in person, you will not be disappointed!

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Growing Green

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Our rooftop garden is growing well!

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It is amazing just how much you can grow in a small space! We have had very warm weather for the past few weeks and our garden has been loving it!

There is something satisfying  about eating food you have grown yourself.

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I am looking forward to eating some of these peas, and the tomatoes we planted too!

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Our garden has lots of these little guys as well. I guess they are helping to keep the aphids away!

Spring time blessings!

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Buying Green?

I know the market today has thousands of items on the shelf that claim to be environmentally responsible. Words like “organic” , “fair trade”, ” natural”, “sustainable”and “good for the earth” even “good ecology” and you know that it also means good profit margin.  It is true that most organic or fairly traded products cost significantly more then the conventional alternatives, are organic products superior?

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Yes organic food is grown without pesticides, with the environment in mind. Typically an organic yield will be smaller then a conventional one, it is more labour intensive to farm and harvest, and therefore more expensive at the grocery store.

Fair traded products are just that, traded or bought in an environment that pays a decent wage to the producers, coffee and chocolate are two products that have flourished under the name of  “Fair Trade” but what is the hidden environmental cost of these and many organic products.

They may well be “certified organic” but if a product travelled from Chile in February, how “environmental” or “sustainable” is it?

What is the answer? To buy local, in season, at farmers markets.  What about that 100 mile diet, to live on things that are grown within 100 miles of where you live.  What if there is very little grown in that radius? What if where you live has a very short growing season? What about during the winter? In generations past people, (women traditionally) would can and pickle, preserve and store food for the winter. This is not a lost art, but a lot more work and planning is required! We have gotten into the habit of just running over to the local grocery chain and picking up what ever your hearts desire, almost any time of year. Convenient yes, is this progress though? Is this sustainable or good for the planet?

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I live in a big city, weekly heavy trucks barrel down the alley toward the Safeway loading docks. Bringing the cache of treasures for you and me. Pineapple in January, okay, strawberries in February, no problem, fresh produce year round is what sophisticated consumers demand and that is what Safeway, and everyone else who is in the grocery business supply.

The fact that the ground is frozen and buried under four feet of snow does not faze us as we dive into the delicious “fresh fruit” grown thousands of miles away,  sometimes travelling further then most of the people who will eventually consume it, ever have.

Is the answer to only consume local food, well maybe if the choice is between local and organic that has trekked hundreds of miles, then is the conventional choice is better for the environment?  Should we not buy the raspberries or mangoes in the depths of winter? That choice is of course up to you. If consumers demand it, then it will supplied. If people decided to really make sustainable choices they need to look at all the factors, conventional or organic? local or from another continent?

It’s up to me and it’s up to you.

We have worms!

On our balcony we have a worm composter. When we first got it we added 300 red wigglers. We have been feeding these little worms for almost a year. I have left them alone for a few months. I  heard that the worms will eat less in the winter as they go dormant for the cold season.

Well, this winter has been quite snowy and colder then usual, but at last it seems like we are seeing signs of spring!

We saw the first flowers of the season just yesterday! springfeb08-004

I think these are called snow drops, a sure sign that spring is around the corner.

With the sights and smells of spring in the air my attention turned to the worms, and upon checking them this afternoon we were happy to find they are alive and multiplying!feb-6-09-008

We also did a little maintenance and removed more than one litre of

“compost tea”

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This is amazing fertilizer that the worms leave behind along with the rich soil in the container.

We use a turkey baster and remove the liquid from the tray under the composter.

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The worms look happy in their little home.  We are happy to reduce our garbage, help the planet, and enjoy some nature right on our balcony!

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delicate little plant in need of freedom. Einstein quote at DailyLearners.com