Monday Morning Music - April 9, 2012

A weekly post, featuring a song that has had some influence on me in the past week.

Last night, a friend mentioned that, while she and her hubby are trying to eat a healthy diet, she would kill for an ice cream.

Which, of course, made me think of this song.

It's from the Anne of Green Gables musical, which we performed in Grade 8. Good times!. Now I'm craving a double scoop.... and singing songs which I can still remember, mumblemumble years later....

"Ice Cream"

Oh say, can you see?

I keep mentioning that I live really close to the border. But it's time to actually prove it :)

So here's proof - that picture was taken from my driveway. The water is Lake Erie, and the land on the other side is the USA.

See? I am that close! This explains some of the issues I have with the Bulls-eye diet!

Independence Days Challenge - Week 9

1. Plant Something.

Peas and potatoes!

2. Harvest Something.

Nothing this week. Everything has been held back by the cold weather, but it is still early in the year... and things are starting to sprout!


3. Preserve Something.


4. Waste Not.

Again, just adding scraps to the stash.

5. Want Not.

I didn't add anything to the stash this week.

6. Eat the Food.

Not much from storage this week - granola or oats for breakfast, odds and ends for lunches and I made a potato, leek and blue cheese soup with biscuits for supper. I did use dried chives in the biscuits - yum!

7. Build Community Food Systems.

Nothing this week.

8. Skill Up.

Nothing this week.

Bulls-eye Challenge Report:

I mainly ate food that was already in the house (even perishables like milk and the leeks - I bought them last week, before the challenge started). For shopping this week:


Already! My locally sourced beef won't be available until fall, so I have the choice of either not eating beef until then, driving far, far away to find "organic" meat (which is not a guarantee of being humanely raised or local), or caving in and buying meat from the grocery store.

Yes, I'm a horrible person. Prime rib (Ontario? The slaughter house was in Ontario, but that doesn't mean the meat was. I'll use Canada for this one) was on sale, so I picked up two. I *am* getting better at sourcing humanely raised meat. Not there yet, but getting better :)

I also needed potatoes (Ontario) and ricotta cheese (Ontario) for something I'm working on, and celery for general cooking (USA - everywhere else). And while I was at the store, I got seduced by the half-price bread cart (Canada) and the fact that brie was on sale for half price (Canada).

These first few reports are going to be full of food that I either didn't grow myself or couldn't source locally, but I'm still reporting this, simply to be able to track my journey.

As for the budget:  (hahahhhahahaa!!)

Weekly budget: $10 for perishables, $10 for adding food to the stash.

$16.07 for perishables, but that includes the ricotta and potatoes, which are going to be used to make something that will go into the stash, so... hrmm. Let's say 25%/75% for this on those two - I'll eat 25% of the recipe this week, and 75% will get frozen, so...

$8.57 for perishables, and $7.50 for the ricotta and potatoes, plus the beef ($39.14  - I know, I know) for the stash.

This brings up an interesting point. I'm not sure this is the best way of doing this. Let's look at one beef roast - $19.30. If I roast it this week, and get four meals out of it, then use the scraps from the bones for another four meals of hash, and the remaining meat from the roast goes to a pot pie for another four meals and beef soup for yet another four meals, then the bones go into the stock pot....

I can't put the entire $19.30 under "perishables" for this week. But how do I divide it up? Same as the potatoes and ricotta.

So I think I'm going to change this already :) I think I'll stick to my $20 a week (on average), and maybe do a Local/Regional/National/Everywhere else division by price? So, for this week:

$55.21 (-35.21) total, 18% province, 78% national, 4% everywhere else.


One potato, two potato, three potato...

... more!

I had originally planned on buying seed potatoes from a local farm supply store. I bought potatoes from them last year, and they did fine.

But then I started looking. And thinking. And coveting :)

There are so many varieties out there! And as we all know, variety selection is my downfall. So I decided to order my seed potatoes this year. And as much as I like to support local businesses, the best combination of price, quality and selection I found was from West Coast Seeds. Of course, I was a bit late ordering them, so next year I can hopefully find a closer supplier.

They arrived safe and sound (along with some seeds I also bought - I have a problem, I admit it) and some cover crop seeds (buckwheat and red clover). The weather was nice yesterday afternoon, so I prepped the bed and planted the early potatoes.

Early potatoes? Yep! I was planning on only planting one bed this year - before I went to the workshop at Tree & Twig farm. Linda mentioned that she doesn't plant her potatoes until the beginning of July! For her, it's so she can miss the main potato beetle season. But for me, a light bulb went off. I can plant early in the year, start harvesting in June, and have potatoes all summer long. I can then plant a second bed in July for winter potatoes. Brilliant!

And thankfully I bought more than enough to do two plantings :)

I chose Yukon Gold, Chieftain (red) and Kennebec again this year, as those three did well last year and stored well. I also added a Russian blue, for the novelty of eating a blue potato, and Russet Norkotah because... well, it was there. There are more varieties to try, but I am limited by space - and money!

I also decided to try hilling this year. I dug a trench and planted the potatoes (one per square foot) in the trench. As the plants grow, I'll fill in the soil, and then continue to top with straw. Hopefully this will work!

The straw in the bed is the residue of last year's mulch. I try to mulch most of the beds with straw - it cuts down in the weeding and helps to retain soil moisture.

I can already taste that first potato salad....

More potatoes, less bread

So what will focusing on the bulls-eye diet actually mean for me? What changes will I have to make?

Luckily enough, not a lot. I have been trying to eat more locally for a while now, so I already have a foundation for this challenge. I already have my local "farm gate" suppliers of chicken, eggs, cherries (both sweet and sour), apples, pears, corn and beef (hopefully - still working on that one). In addition, there are the local farmer's markets - a great source of things that I'm either not growing, or I don't have enough of. There are also stores in the area that I can source other local meats and fish, and other fruits and veggies. And there is even a local peanut store - homemade peanut butter, anyone?

Yes, peanuts grow here. In fact, I'm probably located in one of the best areas of Canada for a challenge like this. Other than tropicals, almost everything can grow here. Of course, there aren't a huge numbers of grain farmers left in the area - hence I'll be eating more potatoes and less wheat. More winter greens and home-preserved foods, less imported food come winter. More home-grown herbal tea, less hot chocolate (gasp!). More cabbage, less iceberg lettuce.

For me then, the focus won't be so much a change in my diet, but in trying to actually provide more of my food from right here in my backyard (technically side-yard, but whatever!)

Hopefully I'll be expanding the garden this year, from six 4' x 12' beds to twelve. As well, once I get the yard fenced, beds will go in along the fence for herbs, perennial veggies and fruit plants like rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries. Of course, even if I get the fruit planted this year, I won't get a harvest. Small steps :)

The other big change? Season extension. And this past winter really brought home just how much can be done with season extension.

See that? It's a Napa cabbage.  In my garden. Unprotected. On New Year's Day.

It made a great stir-fry.

I realize it was an abnormally warm winter, but even in a normal winter, with protection, I should be able to continue to harvest hardy greens and vegetables for months later than I currently do. Two issues I know I 'll run into are wind and snow load (this is the land of the 5' snowfall, after all!), but I should be able to figure something out.

Now, off to plant the potatoes!

Monday Morning Music - April 2, 2012

A weekly post, featuring a song that has had some influence on me in the past week.
Have you noticed it?  Even with the colder temps this past week, it's noticeable. The sun - it's coming back. I especially notice it in the evening - it's staying light  longer and longer.

And nothing makes me happier that the promise of summer :)

"Here Comes the Sun", George Harrison

April Fool?

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll have realized it's morphed from a home reno blog into one that's more focused on food and sustainability. And bacon. I really am working on the renos, and will post more soon, but really, there can only be so many pictures about drywall seams, right?

But, there will also be more posts about food and local eating and sustainability. Blame Sharon Astyk and her newest challenge: The Bulls-eye Evaluation.

This way of looking at the source of your food was developed by Sharon and her co-author Aaron Newton as a response to the popular 100-mile diet. You can read more about it here, but basically, the main issues with the 100-mile diet is that it doesn't put a greater emphasis on food closer to your home, and that for some people, 100 miles simply isn't large enough (think about someone living in New York City. Or Iqaluit). The Bulls-eye diet puts a greater emphasis on sourcing your food as close as possible to your home, but at the same time, doesn't impose any maximum limitation.

As much as I like the idea behind the 100-mile diet, the reality is that most people are unwilling to give up foods like coffee, tea and imported spices, not to mention foods like citrus fruits that simply will not grow in Canada in large amounts without a large investment in infrastructure: what's worse, importing citrus fruit from Florida, or building a greenhouse here to grow my own? And historically, there has always been trade in foods like this.

There are a few things I still have to figure out though, and issues I have with this diet. Based on the bulls-eye, it's "better" for me to get food from my "state", Ontario, then my nation, Canada, then everywhere else. Thus I should try to source food from, say, Thunder Bay or Vancouver, B.C., before I look outside the country. The issue with that? I live on the border. I can see the USA simply by looking out the window. So if one is going strictly on distance, the target system doesn't actually work for some of us once it gets past our region.

There are other issues that come into play, of course. As close as I am to the US, I don't actually do a lot of shopping there, and there are differences in their food safety system I'm simply not comfortable with. So, for me, this challenge will be more about keeping my food supply within the Regional boundary, with the emphasis, of course, on my home and local farmers, then skipping past state and nation and going right to everywhere else.

For me, local trumps organic/sustainable/fair trade (for example, I'll buy conventionally-grown sweet corn from a local farmer before I'll buy imported organic sweet corn), but once I hit that "everywhere else" circle, I'll try to buy only organic/sustainable/fair trade if readily available - things like spices, coffee and chocolate.

There will be some assumptions I'll have to make. For example, I know Canada is one of the largest exporters of wheat, other grains and legumes such as lentils, dry peas and chickpeas. So,  if I cannot find the information on the label, I'm going to assume these foods come from Canada. Same as milk: as far as I know, any milk sold in Ontario comes from Ontario. This doesn't hold true for other dairy products, but most of those (other than imported cheese), come from Canada.

And to make this even harder? I'm trying to do all this on a budget, of course. I'm hesitant to set a weekly limit, but I'm thinking of somewhere around $20 a week - $10 for normal spending on perishables (milk, eggs, etc.) and $10 to go into the kitty for bulk purchases - meat, dry goods, and other things that I stock up on when they are on sale. To keep some sanity, though, I'm NOT going to do any sort of inventory of current food - what's here is here. This challenge starts from today, and anything currently in the house is grandfathered in. My challenge, my rules :)

Of course, there are some exceptions as well. This doesn't include meat for the dogs. I'm also claiming an exception for guests - that includes Dad (and other family members) when he's here working on the house, and the whole family for our monthly meals. Of course, I'll still try to source those items locally, but they don't come out of the budget.

The budget also doesn't include gardening supplies, preserving supplies (lids, etc.), any non-food purchases, or eating out (not that I eat out a lot).

Now, about the reporting. I can't think of anything more boring that reading about what someone ate each and every day, so I'm leaning more towards weekly reports on grocery buying - and I can probably work that into the Independence Days Challenge reports.

And just in case there was any doubt: the April Fool is me :)


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