Monday, December 22, 2008

CBC Radio - Dispatches Vignettes on Local Food Sovereignity Yemen, Uganda, India, Zanzibar, Italy

Great radio show tonight on Dispatches (CBC), featuring vignettes about local food movements, food security and food sovereignity around the globe. Includes a segment on the fight to save seeds by small farmers in India, a country whose government is considering implementing a law that would not allow farmers to save their own seeds and instead force them to purchase from large corporations such as Monsanto and Cargill. Vandana Shiva is especially eloquent (as always) in her words, as she passionately speaks about using the "two planks" that Ghandi left them - self-organizing and non-violent resistance to unjust laws. She speaks of her work at the Navdanya Centre ( in India, which is a research centre for technology, science and ecology and has a mission to "protect nature and people's rights to knowledge, biodiversity, water and food". The urban agriculture movement in sub-Saharan Africa is also incredibly inspiring. It is estimated there are more than 800,000 million urban farmers globally! More and more people are turning to urban agriculture as food is scarce or food prices are on the rise in cities. Urban agriculture becomes both a way to feed themselves and their families, as well as earn income from selling at local markets.

To hear complete podcast go to: (search Dec 22/28)

CBC Radio - Dispatches

December 22/28, 2008

The trouble with qat: Yemen's favorite afternoon narcotic is costing the country its water supply as Yemenis literally chew their way into drought.

Why roadside gardens may be sub-Saharan Africa's first line of defense against food shortages.

In India, angry farmers prepare to defy a government proposal to throw away their seeds.

The women of the surf in Zanzibar, where a bold attempt to build an economy out of seaweed is starting to wilt.

And the cesarinas strike back: a home-cooking movement tries to right the culinary wrongs masquerading as Italian cuisine.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Final Shiitake Mushroom Harvest

We had forgotten about our mushroom logs and thought they were done fruiting for the season. Looked at them in passing the other day, and couldn't believe our eyes - the size of those mushrooms was incredible! Never seen shiitakes so huge. They photos don't do them justice - that's a Tablespoon and the largest kitchen knife we have. This one mushroom could have fed a family for a week (but we indulged and finished them in two delectable meals). Well, we did a little more reading about the logs and realized that the mushroom harvest is actually best done in the fall, so we'd been harvesting too early all along. Just imagine the quantity of mushrooms we could have had if we had waited. They were so delicate in texture, so delicious just falling off the fork after they had been marinated with a little tamari and garlic, and then lightly fried in olive oil. Oohh, can't wait to see the next years harvest (we'll wait for fall next time!).

Documenting Strawbale Addition - 10 Earthen Floor and Drywall

Last week Monday we had a BIG working day, as the entire earthen floor was completed in one go. We had a few friends who have experience with earthen floors here to help and we couldn't have done it without them! (if any of you are who were here are reading this, then a HUGE thank you for that day!)

One person was running the mixer and wheeling in the heavy loads of clay (4 parts concrete sand: 1 part clay to create a 1/2 inch base layer), then others troweling it on the floor, and then leveling and smoothing, packing it firm, and finally applying a clay-slip top coat (1 part clay slip: 2 parts very fine 50 mesh sand from pottery supply shop). It was a long working day but the end result completely satisfying. We didn't have champagne but did celebrate with locally made wine, as this really was a major accomplishment! The only issue now, 1.5 weeks later, is that with the cold weather this floor is taking quite a bit longer to dry. The final step is to apply a sodium-silicate sealer which protects and hardens the floor, but we will likely need to wait a few more days before we can do so.

Drywall in the vestibule, bathroom and new laundry has been put up. Taping and mudding to happen later this week, and then painting with natural paints. We bought the paint yesterday - and when you buy paint for any project it always signifies the end being in sight. I've bought enough paint to also redo the kitchen and new dining area, ambitious but I'm so excited about this non-toxic paint and the rooms do need new life. Due to slightly warmer weather outside we've also been finishing the final outdoor aspects of this project - roof vent pipe for composting toilet, heating ducts, yard clean-up, winterizing the new doors with weather stripping and so on. We still have someone coming to hook up the radiant floor heating pipes, and another person to install flashing on the roof edge to prevent water leakage - both key pre-winter jobs that should happen sooner than later. There are just so many details!

Winter chicken update

Can hardly believe it's December already! But we received my mom's annual "Nickolaus Tag"* package in the mail today (* a traditional German/Dutch celebration held on Dec 6th where children leave their shoe infront of their bedroom door the night before, and appropriately receive either treats or coal/sticks - depending on how good they have been that year - from Nickolaus who comes in the night).

We also have a sturdy layer of snow on the ground with more falling as I write, so it looks like winter is definitely here to stay. We've put the heat lamp back on in the chicken coop, and this keeps the temperature hovering at around zero to - 5 in there. We've read that chickens can tolerate upto -10C, but after that they are not happy and their wattles or combs can freeze. They are also laying significantly less now that the days are shorter and colder, and eat substantially more grain as they can't forage in the garden anymore. We've put straw in their yard which they can scratch at, new bran in their nest boxes and coop (which they like to nibble), and also frozen kale and broccoli plants pulled up from left-overs in the garden. We just don't seem to produce enough kitchen scraps for them, as at this time of the year (eating seasonally) we only have potatoes, carrots and other roots, squashes, onions and garlic, and I even use up the peelings and tops to make soup stock. There's not much left for the hens. It's a bit of a sacrifice to give them the kale, which we would also like to eat, so I approached the produce department at a nearby grocery store today to inquire about "waste" greens. They told me I can have as much as I like, as they go through the produce every morning. I plan to pick up as much kale, broccoli, romaine and other tasty treats for the girls several times a week. Our bike trailer should hold a fair sized box and make it through the snowdrifts. It's nice to turn "waste" into a useful resource!