Friday, November 28, 2008

Farmland fun

Thursday's excitement was participation in the Focus on Farmlands conference, where about 180 interested parties, younger and older, got together to talk about farming, food, agricultural land trusts and ownership and where to go from here. Presented by the tireless souls of LifeCycles, including Linda Geggie,

it was a stimulating day of discussion with participants from many different areas: lots of farmers, a good selection of elected officials at several levels of government, and some fringe-dwellers like myself, there to find out more and connect with the like-minded. The topics ranged from farmland trusts, community farms and other models of land access, to farm status and assessment, to political strategies, to urban and traditional methods of growing food. There was too much for any one soul to take in, so LifeCycles plans to post information from the sessions as soon as they can get it onto their website. Video footage from sessions and interviews is being posted on

We began with some prayer and drumming from Scott Sam, of the Tsartlip Nation

and then had a briefing from agrologist, farmer and BC Agriculture Council member Niels Holbek who had many interesting statistics to share, including some on farmland loss from the American Farmland Trust and the Farmland Preservation Research Project at the University of Guelph; and a local stat that came up several times through the day: 3% of the province's land has both 80% of the population and 80% of the province's gross farm receipts; not a good formula, observed someone, should there be a food security crisis, and the reason why there is so much competition for the same land for farming and housing.

We then broke into workshop sessions. I went to the one called The "Regional Food Basket" - Looking Beyond Farmlands, where we heard from two members of the Tsawout Nation, JB Williams and Earl Claxton Jr, who are working to restore first nation ties to traditional food sources and culture; observing that their populations had been devastated by the introduction of some foods and the loss of others. Lee Fuge of Food Roots talked about pocket markets and the distributors' warehouse space they share with Share Organics and LifeCycles - but she then had to dash back to the kitchen to make sure our lunch wouldn't be delayed. Melanie Sommerville of LifeCycles threw a few more numbers into the statistics pool: about 80% of Canadians now live in urban centres; 84.5% do so in BC, with just over 50% of the province's population in the Victoria and Vancouver regions combined. There is a lot of interest in growing food nowadays - local seed selling has tripled this year - and there are many great examples of local urban agriculture projects - the Fruit Tree program, the Sharing Back Yards program, HomeGrown Gardens, Growing Schools and Spring Ridge Commons. Deb Heighway talked about SPIN farming in Victoria, and recommended the online resources which helped her join the 2000 others worldwide who are farming in other people's under-used back yards.

In the afternoon I attended the From Ideas to Action: Farmers and Eaters Taking Action on Farmland Issues workshop led by David Mincey,

whose Camille's restaurant has long been known for its use of local products.

He was joined by fellow restauranteur and Island Chefs Cooperative member Ken Hueston, whose Smoken Bones Cookshack sounds worth a visit. He talked a bit about 'food trending' - which is a bit of a vicious cycle, where flavour-of-the-month foods get over-promoted at the expense of variety and honest experimentation by restaurants. A veteran protester (he's only recently been allowed back into Safeway where 10 years ago he kicked over a display of Mexican corn when there was a local farm visible out the window) he made another good point to do with consumer demand: if we simply go on accepting only 5% local produce in our supermarkets, there's no motivation on the part of supermarket buyers to change their sourcing. Next to him was David Chambers from Madrona Farm,

who spoke persuasively and from personal experience on the idea of channelling what farmland we have left through The Land Conservancy, so that it's preserved for agricultural land in perpetuity, and not loosed to the whims of marketplace when farmers retire. His family farm is in the process of being bought by TLC who - if the needed funds are raised by July 2010 - can assure its future better than the Agricultural Land Reserve, which has proven itself unequal to the forces brought to bear by speculators and developers, and which protects relatively little of the most fertile land in the province, down here in the southern third where all the people want to live. In fact, as Niels Holbeck had told us at the start of the day, 90% of the land included now in the ALR is in the north of the province, and 70% of the lands excluded from the ALR are in the south.

Elmarie Roberts gave a primer on what community support for agricultural land can do, from her experience at Haliburton Farm, which is one chunk of land rescued from subdivision and property development by the local council, and protected by its nonprofit status. She's one of six farmers who'll be bringing in the veggies for thirty lucky supporters of their Community Supported Agriculture program. She said that in its purest form, a CSA helps to fund the farm's operation by small scale investment by members of its community, and its members also work the land alongside the farmers. Here, though, it's a pick-up scheme that provides a selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables to members, with volunteer work parties picking up the slack in weeding and field work. To her right is Lana Popham,

whose family runs the Barking Dog organic vineyard (and makes a rather special local gin!) and who is running for a seat in the next provincial election. David Cubberley

is already there (and put his money where his mouth was by laying down a significant donation to the Madrona Farm purchase fund). He talked about a few of the ALR properties that were topical at present: Panama Flats and Beckwith Farm, both owned by developers claiming to want to grow organic blueberries - I guess they've really turned a page in their career books - and he ran us through the political history of Haliburton's acquisition; it had been owned by the water board who had been sorely tempted by developers who were only stopped by a group of active and well organised community members.

Corky Evans
gave the closing address.

He's retiring after 25 years in politics, including stints as provincial Agriculture minister and most recently Agriculture critic, and he wanted to share some insights into motivating politicians. He urged people to start showing up at council meetings, to organise into large enough audiences that politicians would have to come and answer to us: "We don't listen to small groups of people who don't all live in the same constituency."

Food, he said, has never appeared on the agenda of any party meeting, any poll, any election in this province; there are no farmers elected to the legislature: and that is why there is no food policy in this province. Someone has to educate the politicians, he said, and a crisis point such as the one we're in is the best time we'll ever have to keep them focused on food as an issue; without focus, no action.

Words dear to my heart: "The drug of our time that dissipates focus is television. If you want to keep focused through the next election, don't watch television, don't get distracted by what the television stations tell you are the issues."

He pointed out that BC pays less to support its farmers than Newfoundland; that it would cost $143 million to bring the province to an average rating, compared to other provinces; which amount is .4 of 1% of the annual budget, or $1 million less than tax breaks currently awarded by the government. He wasn't talking subsidies, which he feels promote bad farmers and bad food, but there are all kinds of ways to support farming other than subsidies.

He said if we were looking for something to ask for in the next election, how about voting for the party that votes to end exclusions (from the ALR): but only if that party also supports farmers: "You can't protect the land and abandon the people."

And of course we ended with food: provided all day by the resourceful crew from Food Roots, including apples

from the Fruit Tree Project. I had to skip out smartly so missed the wine and cheese which featured beverages from local brewers and vintners and Natural Pastures cheeses.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quiche 'n fruit 'n meat

My favourite food at my favourite vegetarian eating place in London is quiche, so I attempted a version of one from their cookbook, using some of Farmer Dan's purple cauliflower. Looks like food for the colour blind, doesn't it? (It looked - and tasted - just fine after I finished filling it)

Followed by the apricot and almond cake from Nigel Slater's book Appetite...

Had a great visit on Wednesday to Fruit Trees and More, having a tour of the demonstration orchard with Bob Duncan. He has been growing oranges, lemons, limes, olives, figs, pomegranates, persimmons, medlars,


and lots of other things. His orange trees are in an unheated greenhouse, but everything else is outside. The lemons and a few other things are growing against a south-facing wall with a short glass roof to protect them from rain, and strings of old fashioned Christmas lights rigged to a thermostat set to kick in if the weather goes much below freezing.

He's testing the avocado tree to see if he can get fruit from it as he doesn't want to sell anything until he's proven to himself it will produce.

Afterwards it was lunch at The Roost, where we had some sweet potato/yam soup which tasted of honey, and vegetable wraps, with more sweet potato/yam inside.

Then I wandered into town to see the Village Butcher. When I looked in the phone book I counted a total of 6 independent butchers listed for Victoria and area, which says a lot about how dependent we are on supermarkets for our meat. No wonder we are out of touch with the source of our meat and the cuts that might exist beyond what supermarkets sell to us. The Village Butcher knows the source of all the meat on sale and specialises in free-range and naturally raised products. They sell a selection of frozen game and will do specialty cuts on request. And they make their own sausages (including Merguez, which excited me).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The future of fish

Seafood is as confusing a topic as any these days. Trying to get to the bottom of what is and isn't a good choice of seafood is baffling and contradictory. Here's an attractive guide for Europeans from The Guardian; and here's some information from the Suzuki Foundation, complete with informative videos and links to sustainable seafood lists, adapted to different geographies.

But is it as simple as eating only this or that fish, when they do not exist in isolation? Humans are persistent in choosing to believe they can pick and choose from nature with no effect on its complex interrelationships. There is a whole aquatic food chain involved, and deeply affected by our choices; eating our way through multiple links in it is bound to cause unknown effects on all the ocean's stocks.

Today I listened to a report on NPR about a study of acidity in the coastal waters just south of Victoria. It seems CO2 emissions are being absorbed at such a rate by our oceans that they are turning acidic much faster than supposed, bad news for acid-sensitive marine life like mussels, while ideal for acid-friendly life forms like algae; and down the line will corrode the shells and kill off other vulnerable shellfish including coral and plankton, way down at the bottom of the food chain - and what more important place is there? (Lots more on this in a 2006 report called Impacts of ocean acidification on coral reefs and other marine calcifiers)

Meanwhile, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has published a new and interesting page of information for people wishing to peddle so-called "novel fish and fish products" in this country. Novelty is not so cosy a word as it used to be; nowadays this is food-regulation-speak for genetically modified and otherwise oddly manipulated food items. (A list of the "novel food decisions" going back to 1994 makes for uneasy reading.)

This led me down some time consuming side-tracks... I find myself wondering if the appearance of this information sheet might herald some potential movement on Canada's part in allowing genetically engineered fish to be farmed here, just as the FDA has offered up some procedures for companies wanting to market genetically modified animal products in the US; and what happens next door usually spills across our border without a fight or much delay at all.

The 2008 March Status Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development hints that this might be coming, even as it states that this country has no intention of developing a policy on transgenic aquatic organisms because it feels that the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (with its Animate products of biotechnology section, and the Domestic Substances List (DSL)) covers the matter nicely thank you. Lots of reading there for interested parties.

And the complexity of all of that regulatory verbage explains why most of us haven't a clue what genetically modified foodstuffs are and aren't being fed to us; unfortunately for us, the politicians are as confused as the rest of us. And this CBC story from 2002 is as mercilessly true today as it was when it was broadcast. Beans and rice for supper, I think...

Anyway. Nancy Willard has written a great tribute to seafood in A Wreath to the Fish.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Where has the week gone

Started off the week with a rather dispiriting set of facts from speakers at BCSEA's monthly meeting, where the subject was peak oil. The first speaker was Ron Smyth (provincial government's Chief Science Officer, Offshore Oil and Gas Branch and member of ASPO-USA) who ticked through the list of oil-producing countries, showing graphs that tracked the declining production of oil world-wide, and enumerated the percentage of GDP that oil represents for those countries, leaving us to imagine for ourselves the repercussions to national fiscal policies of the increasing loss of significant revenue over the next few years.

The impact, he predicted, would come in the next 5-10 years. It seems likely that instead of pouring money and research into developing sustainable energy sources, today's short-sighted humans will keep looking for oil and turn back to carbon-unfriendly coal for the near term.

OPEC was at the heart of his presentation (with reference to Twilight in the Desert); he explained that these countries are madly developing infrastructure to secure their non-oil-rich futures: which - aluminum smelters, copper refineries and the like - require a lot of oil to build and run, and so will divert a lot of what would otherwise have been oil exports into increasing internal use. Leaving the non-OPEC world suddenly and dramatically short of oil. Again. With huge question marks dangling about self-sufficiency and living standards world-wide, given the seeming general lack of preparedness in this oil-happy era.

Consoled myself with some dim sum on Thursday, which I hadn't eaten for quite a while. I was, in my tedious way, struck again by the perils of restaurant menus to the pure of palate. Where had these shrimp, this pork, that rice come from? Unlikely, at those prices, to have been organic or sustainably raised. Free associating now into visual feasts, note to self: must watch Eat Drink Man Woman again one of these days.

Thursday night I managed to get to the art gallery to catch the Rice is Life show, which closes today, and a talk by the curator, Paula Swart (Curator of Asian Studies at the Vancouver Museum) who showed some slides of pieces in the exhibit and photos of her travels around rice-producing nations, and recommended the book Seductions of Rice for the beauty of its photos and the range of its information and recipes. She talked about some of the religious and cultural aspects of rice: Inari shrines in Japan, Dewi Sri in Bali, Mae Phosop in Thailand. As always where food is concerned, ancient methods - sustainable and back-breaking human labour - are eclipsed by the production possibilities of mechanisation and chemical and biotech research. California's rice growers sow their seed by plane, which is faster but costs more - unless you have a plane and an endless supply of oil, I guess. If all you have is hungry people and lots of land, traditional methods work too. And as always you get what you pay for: cheap rice carries that inevitable deferred price tag of chemical contamination of the product, the soil and the water supply; poorly-paid labour; and declining nutritional value.

Friday was Fred Stenson's

reading in Sidney; his co-star was not Rachel Wyatt as originally billed, but Jo-Ann Dionne who read from Little Emperors, her memoir about teaching English in China. Fred was reading from his latest, The Great Karoo, about Canadian soldiers in the Boer War.

And last night I had friends to dinner, for which I made a welcome journey out the Saanich Peninsula visiting my favourite farm shops -- and saw this handsome display at Farmer Dan's:

and served a seasonal and mostly local meal, finishing with this dessert which I'd been wanting to try for some time: pumpkin kheer, for which I used a combination of butternut and sweet mama squashes, seasoned with cardamom and topped with toasted cashews.

It was good; basically a cold, sweet soup to finish on, surprisingly filling.

Here's a photo of an afternoon view across the parking lot of my favourite Victoria store: Capital Iron, long may it continue.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Local bites

There's a new bakery/pizzeria in my neighbourhood, which pleases me greatly as this part of Victoria has been a bit of a quality food desert. B-red Organic Bakery Patisserie & Pizzeria is a tiny place on a busy road, with two slightly dangerous parking spots (you must back out into aforementioned busy road when you leave) and a tiny counter for watching the world go by. Making efficient use of space and time, they bake by day (open for sales 10-3) and pizza by night (5-11 most nights, till 1am Fri & Sat), taking their weekends on Mondays and Tuesdays. Here's a view of their whole wheat sourdough, called Miche, which was extremely good, with lots of flavour and crunch:

Lots going on right now. I must hurry if I want to catch the Rice is Life show at the art gallery.

GG nominee (announcement tomorrow) and excellent literary chap Fred Stenson is reading in Sidney on November 21st at the Red Brick Cafe, together with local treasure Rachel Wyatt, beloved of many alumni of the Banff Writing Studio.

Next Thursday November 27th there's a one-day conference in Sidney that aims "to put the farm back in farmland". The Farmland Conference: Our Foodlands, Our Future runs from 9.00 am till 6.30 pm and features plenary speakers farmer/agrologist Niels Holbek and MLA and agriculture critic Corky Evans.

Saturday 29th I'm tempted by the CRD Parks Magnificent Mushrooms outing. Or I could stay home and study all the ones that are growing in my lawn..?

Weirdness on the water: surprised to see this sight on Sunday morning. A passing dog-walker told me it was only foam from the reversing falls under Tillicum Bridge, but I've never seen this on the Gorge in the six years I've been looking at it. Something funny going on...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Slow Food on film

The Vancouver Island Slow Food Film Fest was small but tasty. Last night's premiere was packed out, with excellent nosh

and such a keen audience of eaters that the Oyster Man

was able to go home oysterless. The screening of Island on the Edge went well and the panel discussion afterwards was lively and showed the keen awareness of the audience about local food issues. As a finale, we got to meet the chef, Michael Minshull, who took a bow with the film's director Nick Versteeg, writer Don Genova and associate producer Jason Found.

Today's lineup included Hijacked Future, which covered the issues around seed production and featured a great many Canadian farmers and researchers who spoke well and compellingly about the issues. There was a panel discussion afterwards, hosted by Don Genova, and featuring Sinclair Philip and the film's producer/director David Springbett.

Gardens of Destiny, featured seed saver, forager and campaigner Dan Jason,

whose Salt Spring Seed Company has been doing a roaring trade in recent years, and who also heads the Seed and Plant Sanctuary for Canada, a network of Canadian gardeners devoted to nurturing plant diversity. The viewing ended with a bitter twist as Jason revealed, after the screening, that he had recently been given the boot from the showcase garden featured in the film by his landlords, and was currently considering his options.

The final feature, The World According to Monsanto, had some technical glitches - scratches on the dvd perhaps, or a tired dvd player (or, as one wag suggested, a Monsanto-engineered dvd player?!) - which cut things a little short. The film can be purchased fairly widely, or for the cheap and patient, it's available for free viewing on Youtube (in 10 parts), or in 4 parts on LiveVideo.

We saw some previews as well. Here's Eric Schlosser speaking to CBC, as part of a promo interview about the new documentary Food, Inc.

And Deborah Koons Garcia, director of The Future of Food, spilling the beans about her new film whose subject is, well, dirt:

Here's a cheerful one for a film - not quite finished yet, I understand (though you can help to make it happen: see their website for more info) - about young farmers, called Greenhorns:

And I end this entry with the useful and appetising suggestion with which Nick Versteeg closed our meeting: invite some people to dinner, serve them some good, local food, and talk about it!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Museums and municipal elections

Last week I attended the opening ceremonies of the First Nations Collection at the Cowichan Valley Museum in Duncan, which includes paintings, carvings, masks and artifacts from local artists. The ceremonies consisted mainly of some drumming with dancing by local boys

and a couple of mercifully short speeches by the museum curator and the First Nations cultural coordinator, after which the overcrowded room emptied into the rest of the museum - not a huge place - to enjoy a little buffet which featured smoked salmon candy and smoked salmon & cream cheese wraps with capers and dill, and lots of sweets.

It's local election time here, so I went to an all-candidates meeting last night, curious to hear the talk and see the one candidate (for mayor) who thought food was worth mentioning. His platform is built on the ideas of self-sufficiency and local autonomy that heated up a room in the downtown library last summer, at a town hall meeting on food security. Aside from Harald Wolf's comments, there was no discussion of food, and no questions from the floor or the organisers. The closest they came was to talk about the berming of Panama Flats (sounds like a Woody Guthrie song title?) which all candidates who answered the question agreed was suspect activity, said they doubted the agricultural purpose of the berm, expressed concern about environmental consequences of messing with the drainage of these fields, and affirmed they planned to fight to keep the land in the much-abused Agricultural Land Reserve. In terms of what could be inferred about the 13 candidates from their appearance, one point I noticed was that only two candidates (Wolf and Brownoff) brought their own water in re-usable water bottles; 12 of the 13 had bottled water sitting in front of them - it appears only Wolf had had declined it.

Most of the talk was about better public transport, more affordable housing and methods of coping with climate change (answers to the latter were all, except Wolf, pretty much limited to better public transport!). Not a whisper about cultural issues...

One thing I enjoyed about the meeting was the timekeeping. Organisers used a yellow/red card system: a yellow card was a warning the time was nearly up; a red card meant stop talking and sit down. How I wish this had been in use in some of the poetry readings I've been to in my day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Film, food and fuel prices

This weekend there's a Slow Food mini-film fest in Victoria, taking place at the Hotel Grand Pacific. For a trifling $25 you can attend the premiere night on Friday, to watch locally-made documentary Island on the Edge and enjoy a splendid reception featuring local treats including but not limited to: Sea Cider, freshly shucked Cortes Island oysters from the Oyster Man, and duck confit made from Cowichan Bay Farm duck legs.

Anyone wanting to stay on top of food issues in Canada can subscribe to mailings from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, or just check the Food Recalls & Allergy Alerts page for the latest. There's been another BSE case, Canada's 13th, whose investigation makes interesting reading.

I spent some time catching up on the Food Programme's recent reports, which included a thoughtful piece on organics in Britain. There's been a decline in organic producers there, it seems, because the logistics of producing organic meat and dairy products involve a great deal of imported grain - which became quite a problem with the recent fuel price spike and the world-wide shortage of wheat. In addition, the higher price tag on food in general, but particularly organics - due to fuel and grain prices as well as the overall higher price of producing organic foods -have led to something called the "Lidl Effect" (named after a discount supermarket chain) where consumers are turning away from organics in favour of price-centred shopping. In the program, it's argued that true organics (which fall within the upcoming EU legislation governing the area) require that producers use a virtuous circle production method, where each farm is more or less self-sufficient, producing its own grain to feed its livestock. They question the inclusion of large, industrial-scale organic producers who are watering down the guiding principles of organic food production.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Poetry and a pox on technology

Last weekend I participated in one of the many launches planned for Rocksalt, a new anthology of BC poets. The event I went to was in Nanaimo at the new public library which is large and beautiful but didn't have quite enough seats for all the people who crammed in the foyer to see the 17 poets reading. The 108 poets featured in the anthology include, sadly for me, a Rhona (yay!), a Rhoda and a Rhonda. I think the sheer number or poets reflects the retirement and pre-retirement patterns for poets in Canada...

Harold Rhenisch, one of the editors,

Mona Fertig, the other editor and publisher

Nanaimo poet Tim Landon,

Joe Rosenblatt,

and my publisher, Ron Smith:

Meanwhile, working through my list of things to do, I had sent a post-six month query to a Canadian literary magazine I'd sent poems to back in the spring. Because the journal publishes an email address, I thought for purposes of a follow-up I'd email rather than send a letter, but my message bounced in seconds. I was feeling persistent, and rather fed up with technology that works against communication rather than for it, so I printed off the email and the bounce message and stuck it into an envelope with a suggestion the magazine check with its IT department, as things had reached a sorry state when a legitimate enquiry was being dumped as spam. Here's the reply I got from someone (not an IT guy) at the magazine:
We haven't received any other complaints about blocked emails (and we receive hundreds of emails a week). I suggest that the problem is on your end. You should run a full system scan on your computer. We have a Spam filter on our computer, but it does not block Spam, it only identifies it as such and lets it through. In other words, your email is being identified as malicious, not simply as Spam.
I guess unhelpfulness is not the exclusive domain of profit-oriented company employees. How could you know for sure you "haven't received any other complaints about blocked emails" when those complaints can't actually get through?

For that matter, how many of us even have the energy and persistence to lodge complaints about all the things that don't work right in this indifferent and alienating world? It's tiring! Even here in supposedly customer-friendly Canada it's taken me all week - 3 failed phone calls and 4 email messages - to get my phone bill sent to me.

But out of control spam blocking has been on my mind a lot lately. It happened that in my attempts to arrange a poetry reading with another Canadian college this summer, my messages were sent to the Spam folders of two different organisers. When I hear about these things, I always suggest to the recipients that they contact their IT department, but I don't know if they do. I think I might have to go back to using paper and stamps.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wet welcome

After a single day back in London it was finally time to return to Canada last week. We went out to find a nice last supper for me, but our timing had us hitting the street at just a few minutes after a freak black-out darkened the doorways of most of the restaurants we would have tried. So we ended up at GBK, where I found myself suddenly unwilling to try the beef burgers, after having tracked down the manager and asked him what he knew about the life and death of the cattle used in them, and he said he knew nothing, but could say with certainty they were not organic, not grass fed, and the chickens were neither free range nor organic. I looked around at the crowded restaurant and was saddened to think that nobody there had thought to ask, let alone think about the quality of the meat they were eating. I ordered an organic lamb burger and hoped it had had a good life as promised on the menu, which named the producer.

I was less impressed by this sign which I thought was a good example of what not to do for customer appreciation. But then again, the place was crowded and nobody really cared. I guess they were there for their industrial meat products and that was that.

Afterwards, we shared some of the bonet I'd brought back from Turin. Which was delicious.

Heathrow Terminal 5 was an experience. I was happy to find Carluccio's there, which meant travellers could grab some quality grub before taking to the air...

but they were outside security, so I wondered who exactly would be buying all that lovely wine, vinegar, olive oil, condiments. I wish they had managed to get a spot the other side of the magic wall. How much better a shopping opportunity than the same old duty free players.

I ordered the vegetarian option on my British Airways flight, and was glad I'd done so - I got what I suppose was feta and spinach tortellini. It is beyond me why airlines still offer the 'beef or chicken' routine. One thing I'd liked about the late lamented Zoom was their innovation of offering 'chicken or vegetarian' on my last flight. Surely even in the name of thrift it would be a brighter idea for airlines to incorporate veggie options into the mainstream? I was less impressed with the vegetarian sandwiches that came - though they were still better than the alternative - because of the awful bread, which came with its full complement of noxious ingredients, emulsifiers E472e, E471, vegetable fat, flour treatment agent and so on.

Vancouver was wet and getting itself ready for Halloween. In fact the ferry I took on Halloween was full of people heading for parties. Or else they just wanted to dress for the crossing.

Before leaving though we had a tasty lunch at La Reglade in West Vancouver. The parmesan sable tart was lovely

and the soup kept us chipping away forever. I wish they could have kept the cheese in the bowl though.

We passed on dessert, though it was very pretty.

Back in Victoria, it was a red sky at morning, and has rained ever since. Not the warmest homecoming, since the furnace had packed in, which I discovered on Saturday together with the fact that all my firewood had apparently gone up in smoke during my absence. Thanks to a couple of space heaters, some firewood donated by my kind neighbours and a whole lot of woolly jumpers, I'm managing to bide my time till it can be repaired. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe Monday. Just glad it hasn't gone below freezing since I've been back.