The Link Between Good Food & Good Health

It’s TED Talk Thursday on 350orbust, and I’m reposting this talk from TEDx Austin 2011. I’m presenting about GMO/GE foods at a regional diabetes conference this week, and as part of my preparation I listened to Ms. O’Brien’s talk again. Her journey from Wall Street executive to food activist is worth listening to more than once:


More links:

June 11, 2013: World Exclusive: Evidence of Harm in GMO Pig Study

Canadian Biotechnology Action Network

City of North Vancouver Votes Unanimously To Become GE Free Zone

Growing Food, And Other Radical Acts


It’s time for a tour of my garden, as promised. I should preface this by saying there’s a reason that I’m attracted to the randomness/wildness of the “hugel kultur” raised bed garden. (“Hugel” means hill in German – thanks Mom Polle – so saying hugel kultur – pronounced “hoogel kultoor“-  raised bed is redundant; but it is kind of fun.) As you will be able to tell by the pictures, my HK piles are not very lovely – I’ll leave the aesthetics to my husband who likes symmetry and orderliness in his well-tended garden beds. My good friend Suzanne, a sister Citizens Climate Lobby volunteer and avid local foodie, introduced me to the idea of hugel kultur piles early in the gardening season. This spring, Suzanne made an in-ground hugel kultur pile where she planted a “Three Sisters” garden, based on the traditional indigenous way of gardening, planting corn, beans, and squash together. This inspired me to get to work on my own hugel kultur raised bed, which grew into two (with two more in development for next year), as I discussed a few weeks ago. Hugel kultur raised beds, for those who missed my earlier posts, are made by piling logs and branches together and covering them with soil, to make a garden bed that needs little watering (because wood absorbs water as it decomposes) and also improves as it ages, as the decomposing tree matter adds nutrients. In our part of the world, it also saves money because here in the Canadian Shield we have lots of trees, rocks and lakes, but little rich garden soil. And speaking of rocks, hugel kultur piles can be built up right on top of rock, which is clearly a benefit in northern Ontario (see Wendell Ferguson’s “Tree and Rocks” song below).

Here are some pictures of my hugel kultur beds. I transplanted several squash seedlings a few weeks ago (thanks Donna!), and most of them survived. A week ago, I planted corn and scarlet runner bean seeds in pile #1, which gets much more full sun than pile #2.

My three sisters hugel kultur garden


The second pile was an after thought, and after all the work of piling the trees and branches for both of the piles, as well as covering each of them with well composted wood shavings  (obtained from a local logging company for free), I wasn’t going to go to the trouble and expense of the last step, covering the second pile with soil. But in the end, I couldn’t resist completely. Rather than covering the entire pile with soil, I did some “skin grafts” onto strategic places. The result isn’t beautiful, as I said earlier, but it is surprisingly good at growing things. I planted cucumber seeds there last Monday, and they started coming up this weekend. I also transplanted an extra tomato seedling and a squash seedling, and they seem to be doing alright.

Cukes up in 5 days


It ain’t beautiful but it works

More garden updates will happen over the summer. In the meantime, here’s some other interesting things growing in our one and a quarter acre Canadian Shield garden:

Mark is the real avid gardener in our family, and he’s recently developed an interest in grafting fruit trees in interesting combinations. Here is a hybrid cherry-plum branch that is flourishing on a native pin cherry tree:

hybrid cherry-plum grafted onto a pin cherry tree


This spring has been good to our grape vines as well; they are well ahead of schedule, and have started to put out abundant bunches already:

Look hard, you can see the bunches already formed


Grape vines need to be well trimmed every spring. This year, Mark took the cuttings and, after sharing them with friends, had enough left over to plant in various places around the yard, including on the edge of the bush. Grape cuttings seem to be quite hardy and will grow in many kinds of soil, as long as they are kept well watered in the first few months. Here’s some flourishing on the edge of our bush:

grape cuttings planted on edge of the bush

Now that you’ve had a tour of our Canadian Shield garden, here’s Canadian singer/songwriter Wendell Ferguson singing about his visits to northern Ontario (“…rocks and trees, trees and rocks, by the time you hit Kenora, you don’t wanna see any more of, rocks and trees, trees and rocks…”).



And speaking of radical acts, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Andrew Scheer, just ruled against Elizabeth May’s Point of Order regarding the Harper government’s horrible omnibus budget bill, C-38 .  In doing so, Scheer has ruled against a century of parliamentary tradition, clearly for partisan reasons. Canadian democracy is being killed not incrementally by this government, but swiftly and surely as they stomp all over Canadian values and democratic tradition. If you are a Canadian and you care about our freedom, please call Andrew Scheer’s office, 619-992-4593, and let him know how appalled you are by this ruling. For more information about May’s Point of Order, and its importance, see these links: To Allow C-38 to Masquerade As A Legitimate Omnibus Bill Will Bring Our Institutions Into Greater Disrepute For The Record: House of Commons Speaker Rules Against Elizabeth May’s Point Of Order

Eating Local Is Delicious With Rhubarb Kuchen

Here in northern Ontario where I live, rhubarb is the first harvest from the garden that we  look forward to.  In anticipation of a meal of homemade pasta and grilled eggplant that’s planned for tonight (thanks to Michael who is willing to share his expertise in Italian cooking gained in the kitchens of his mother and grandmother) I picked some rhubarb from the garden for a very Canadian dessert.  Here’s the result, adapted from a Peach Kuchen recipe from the More With Less cookbook (fyi – I doubled it):

Red Lake Rhubarb Kuchen

Combine in bowl:

1 1/3 cup sifted flour (I used a combination of unbleached white and whole wheat flour)

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 T sugar

Then, cut in 1/3 butter (I used half butter and half light olive oil) and then pat mixture over bottom and sides of a 9″ pie pan or skillet.


Arrange in pastry:

2 cups fresh diced rhubarb

Then sprinkle rhubarb with:

1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon (I used honey)

Bake 15 minutes.


1 egg, beaten

1 cup sour cream, sour milk, yogurt, or combination

Pour over rhubarb and bake 30 minutes longer.

Rhubarb Kuchen

Okay, now it’s confession time – as I was typing up this recipe, I realized that I had baked the crust without the rhubarb (I have no excuse, I guess I wasn’t as wide awake as I thought)!  Since I realized this, I’ve had a small taste of it, and the rhubarb is slightly under baked but still tasty.  I also decreased the amount of honey by a bit, so it is a little tart.  It will still be dessert for tonight, but with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side to balance the tartness.  And next time, the rhubarb definitely will be baked for the right length of time.