Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nettles to Earth Day

It's been a busy busy week!

Seven days ago, I started off up a murky old Malahat

to spend the day taking tickets at lovely Fairburn Farm,

home of Vancouver Island's famous herd of water buffalo,

where Mara Jernigan

and her team presided over a Stinging Nettle Festival.

Farmer John Ehrlich, of Alderlea Farm, talked about the biodynamic farming uses

while Katy Ehrlich talked about medicinal and nutritional aspects of stinging nettles.

Mara gave a demonstration on the making of nettle spanakopita.

Nettle tea was on offer

You could have nettle pesto (and extremely local buffalo mozzarella) on your pizza

or a flowery bowl of nettle soup

or a piece of nettle tart

and end, if you wished, on a piece of rhubarb tart.

Much of the rest of the week was taken up with food preparation and planning for a one-off catering event. On Thursday, Dayle and I celebrated Earth Day and the new municipal cosmetic pesticide ban by providing a pesticide-free lunch to 100 people at Saanich City Hall. We had musical accompaniment

and a good-ish crowd who milled and ate over the lunch hour, checking out the pesticide alternatives information and talking to stall-holders like Glendale Gardens. I was very happy to be able to give a resounding NO to the person who came by to ask if the food being served would be hamburgers?

With the help of Dayle's versatile farmer Jordan, we served cauliflower-lime soup with cumin,

Michell's farm hubbard squash soup with ginger and tamarind; accompanied by Wildfire croutons,

raw almond-carrot pâté wraps (wrapped in kale, collard or chard leaves)

and chocolate-beet cupcakes.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How it went in Parliament: C-311 & C-474 passed!

Well. The outcome of yesterday's votes on bill C-474: proposed Seeds Regulation Act and bill C-311: Climate Change Accountability Act were both excellent, from a citizen's point of view: for C-474 the vote passed 153 to 134, and C-311 passed 155-137.

Discussion and voting records for both are in the Hansard, which I encourage all interested souls to read: there is so much said and so little reported on matters which affect all of us.

For bill C-474, here's another place to look to see how your MP voted, so you can drop them a line of thanks or supply them with more improving reading, as the case may warrant. As you will note, a great many (but not all!!) of the Conservatives do not really seem to have a clear grasp of the ramifications of GMO products on international trade, and I hope you will all make sure you explain it to them, loudly. Because you can be very certain the biotech companies will be whispering in their other ear.

Passing this motion means the bill is going to committee for further study and amendments. The Standing Committee Members on Agriculture and Agri-Food will be deliberating the matter further. If your MP is on this committee and voted against the bill, they would benefit from an extra helping of information from you, as there will be strong lobbying coming from the opponents of this bill: they have a lot of money riding on it (we have only our health and future).

Likewise, your MP will benefit from knowing more about your opionions on the Climate Change Accountability Act, and what more you would like to see done in the way of a plan for Canada to meet its climate change obligations. C-311 sets and enforces national emission targets, but it leaves the preparation of plans to meet those targets to the Minister of the Environment. If Mr Harper's government does not hear from us, they can go on saying that they are acting in all our interests. Which just isn't so...

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Water water water

For those who haven't turned off the tap on bottled water, here's the always entertaining Annie Leonard to show us the craziness:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Letters to write before Wednesday

Hope all who wish and should and can have written to their MPs to invite their support for the vote on Bill C-474, the Seeds Regulation Act, coming up this Wednesday, April 14.

As you may know, there's another urgent bill on the Hill: this Wednesday will also see a vote on the Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-311).

This one is based on a report called The Case for Deep Reductions by the Pembina Institute, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which offers an overview of the case for reductions, analysis of objections, and a reminder that we already said we'd make cuts (anyone remember Kyoto?).

Let's please get together and remind Mr Harper and all the boys and girls who represent us in Parliament that it is we the people - and not the oil industry - who have the right to choose what our world's future should look like.

Climate change will indisputably mean a damaged food supply for all of us. As a nation we must embrace our share of the changes we need to make now to keep ourselves, our children and grandchildren fed. Frankly, we're not getting leadership on that from our elected representatives.

Do send the letters that have been prepared for you to support C-474 and C-311: you can edit them if you want; if you don't, it will only take you seconds to share your views with the people who can act on them.

And now a message from the David Suzuki Foundation:
Act NOW!

The final vote on the Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-311) happens Wednesday afternoon. A ‘yes’ vote means the bill passes in the House of Commons. Let the party leaders and environment ministers and critics know you want Canada to be a leader on solutions to global warming.

Bill C-311 would set science-based targets for reducing global warming pollution and start to establish Canada as a leader by accelerating renewable energy and mobilizing green transportation solutions.

The federal government has resisted passing the bill but it is a minority government. The opposition parties have voted for it every time. If they are again supportive, the bill will pass.

Just click here to send an e-mail message telling the Liberal and Conservative party leaders and environment minister/critic to do the right thing on Wednesday, April 14, and vote for C-311.

The time is short. Please send your message now.

The David Suzuki Foundation Team

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Voyage to Vancouver

A Vancouver weekend long in the planning looks like it's going to get a tiny bit longer, since my car gave up the ghost in the centre lane of a busy North Van street last night. I was on my way to a reunion with friends that we'd managed to coordinate between the five of us after seven months of emails, so turning back was not an option. My passengers, luckily, were possessed of cell phones, automotive repair connections and reliable husbands, so we managed to get my vehicle's corpse towed to a nearby garage, and secured a car and the promise of a lift home and carried on with our evening. Tomorrow will tell just when I'll be heading back to the Island.

However. Good things have happened. On Friday, having planned to meet up for a drink with Diane, whom I'd met at a wine-tasting at the last Salone del Gusto, and Joanne the local Slow Food convivium leader, we instead were offered a place at a well-set table, at a Slow Food potluck. Which then engendered a familiar bout of Slow Food potluck anxiety: how to compile a dish that included local-seasonal-Good-Clean-Fair when facing unexpected cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen? Thought of making bread (no local flour in the larder) or my Canadian-Food-Tradition-fallback: butter tarts (lacking my own home-dried raisins, local butter and Fairtrade sugar). I had, however, brought some of my raw flax crackers with me, and had a tin of Fanny Bay smoked oysters at the bottom of my bag (what self-respecting Islander leaves home without?) so made some smoked oyster pate, which we decorated with (edible) salmonberry blossoms, and it looked very handsome.

Also on offer were Diane's hand-picked, hand-shelled and hand-roasted and seasoned hazelnuts, still warm and scattered with herbs.

Our hostess presented us with this dazzling starter, of beets and goat cheese in a sea of pea shoots...

and Joanne brought a Red Fife wheatberry salad, with kale, mushrooms, beans and goat cheese;

there was a bountiful dish of balsamic-dressed roasted veg

and a Tourtière (Christmas in April, why not?) with lovely flaky pastry.

A visiting Viennese guest brought some authentic Sacher Torte to finish off.

So that was good. A cheery and convivial evening which for me was also a rare opportunity for a few hours of unbridled nostalgia as I swapped tales of London with our host, who it turned out, had lived on the same street as me in South Hampstead.

The next day - I'd forgotten my camera at the dinner! - I spent with Ana cruising the food trails on a gorgeous sunny Saturday. First stop was the Home Grow-In Grocer, which was celebrating its first birthday with a lawn full of pink flamingos and a larder full of BC products. Brian Harris was there, camera in hand on behalf of Farm Folk City Folk; we'd met last September at the Duncan edition of Feast of Fields which had been held at Providence Farm.

It was a bit early to think about sharing the market's enormous birthday cake, so we scooted off to the farmers market at the WISE Hall. It was a happy sight. Outside the hall, people were browsing the stalls - pastries, herbs, greens, nuts, dried fruits - or lolling on the grass with organic greens in buckwheat crepes, enjoying a bit of music and sunshine. Inside was a gentle hive of shoppers gradually stripping the place of garlic, hummus, salad greens, pesto, bread, cheese, home baking, chopping boards, teas and more. I was overjoyed to see Kootenay Alpine Cheese there, as I'd interviewed the owners for an article last year, and I carried off a nice piece of their Mountain Grana, to get to know them properly.

We were very near the original Bosa Foods store, so in we went to forage for olive oil, parmigiano-reggiano, pasta and the like, and out we laboured with massively heavy bags. After we'd toiled to the car with our burdens it was definitely time for a bite, so headed back across to the North Shore for lunch at the Ethical Kitchen. It was a delightful bright spot to pass an hour or so with a pasture-raised beef burger and a big glass of fermented hibiscus tea. But reunion dinner and fate were beckoning and it was nearly time for that unfortunate assignation with the car-devil, which is where I began, and where I will end for today.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Trauma Farm x2: Picking up the pieces

Blustery is one word for the weather on Good Friday, much of which I spent at Haliburton Farm. While we were inside potting a few tomatoes, there was a noise, and this turned out to be what it was: the newly built farm stand upending itself on the newly donated greenhouse, which we were to have finished assembling on Saturday.

Friday night's reader at Planet Earth Poetry was, therefore, most appropriate: Brian Brett read from his poetry and also from his latest memoir, Trauma Farm, about his 20+ years farming on Salt Spring Island.

Saturday arrived and it was time to survey the damage at Haliburton and marshal the many volunteers who answered the call for help. Ray's beautiful hoop house, recently filled with over 200 hanging baskets of strawberries, was, shall we say, hooped.

The row covers needed to be replaced.

The Terralicious hoop house was put back together.

And many hands helped to dismantle the farmstand, ready to start putting it back together at upcoming work parties.

The children were put to work panning for gold to fund further repairs.

We had lunch - crowded but convivial.

And after shovelling and wheeling a few hundred loads of wood chips, to keep the weeds down between the rows, we called it a day.


Friday, April 02, 2010

Bill C-474: proposed Seeds Regulation Act

And now, a message from CBAN, which is campaigning for Bill C-474 (Seeds Regulation Act), which aims to protects Canadian farmers who grow crops for our export (and organic) markets, by requiring Canada to perform proper analysis of potential harm before it allows any more GE crops into our fields.

This analysis is not being done at the moment: you may recall that flax contamination badly harmed our exports last year. The matter is urgent because Monsanto aims to introduce GE wheat and alfalfa into our markets, which would cause immeasurable and permanent damage to the purity of our wheat and alfalfa crops, and our ability to export to markets like Europe, which has banned GE products for human consumption. Italy, for example, relies upon Canadian wheat for its pasta industry.

You can listen to the First Reading debate on Deconstructing Dinner's March 25 episode.

Here's what CBAN has to say:

Action Alert. Please distribute widely.

Action Alert #3: Take New Action before April 14, 2010!

Support Bill C-474 – before April 14, 2010 - Support Canada’s Farmers! You can stop GE Alfalfa and GE Wheat!

Write an instant letter to Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Party leader from and ask him to make sure the Liberals pass the Bill on April 14.

You can also write to your own MP at

Bill C-474 was voted down but not out on April 1. The Liberals support the Bill in words - but will they support with enough votes on April 14?

Private Members Bill C-474 was debated on March 17, and April 1 with an oral vote. The recorded, official vote will happen on April 14.

Your concrete action could stop genetically engineered (GE) seeds from causing chaos in Canadian farming!

Bill C-474 would require that “an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted.” The Bill could stop GE alfalfa and GE wheat.

This Bill is critically important because, as we know from experience, the introduction of new genetically engineered (GE) crops can cause economic hardship to farmers. Farmers are at risk when GE crops are commercialized in Canada without also being approved in our major export markets.

Flax farmers in Canada are now paying a heavy price because of this exact problem. Late last year, Canadian flax exports were discovered contaminated with a GE flax that is not approved in Europe or in any of our other export markets (except the U.S.). Flax farmers actually foresaw that GE contamination or even the threat of contamination would close their export markets. That's why they took steps in 2001 to remove GE flax from the market. Despite this measure, flax farmers were not protected. The GE flax contamination closed our export markets in 2009. It has created market uncertainty and depressed prices. Farmers are also paying for testing and cleanup and may be required to abandon their own farm-saved flax seed and buy certified seed instead. These costs are an unnecessary and preventable burden.

We cannot allow GE seeds to harm our export markets. Please support Bill C-474 and protect Canada’s farmers.

Write an instant letter to Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Party leader before April 14

Bill C-474 was introduced by Alex Atamanenko, the NDP Agriculture Critic and MP for British Columbia Southern Interior.

For updates, more info and action options, see or contact Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network 613 241 2267 ext. 6

This action alert was issued by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)

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