Start A Garden, Change The World


Hope you are enjoying a relaxing long weekend Friday, as we are. One of the topics that has come up while we relax and sip our morning tea is the plans for our garden this summer.  Besides just talking about it, my husband, also spent time this morning tending to his basil seedlings and babying the green pepper plants that he brought indoors in fall, which are amazing all of us by blossoming and setting fruit. Here they are:

Gypsy pepper.March 2013
Gypsy pepper.March 2013
Mole Pepper.March.2013
Mole Pepper.March.2013

In case you need some inspiration to start planning your garden – whether it’s in pots on your balcony or on half an acre, here’s a video narrated by one of my eco-heroes, Dr. Vandana Shiva, about how planting a garden can change the world:


It’s All About Food – and Zombies

from Canning, Preserving, and Dehydrating Food

Okay, maybe we don’t need to worry about zombies but we should certainly consider future food shortages, not to mention the pesticide-laced food and genetically modified food (GMO) we are already exposed to on every trip to the grocery store. Today is World Food Day, and while I write this I’ve got a batch of Green Tomato Pasta Sauce bubbling away on my stove. It was a bumper tomato harvest this year, and we’ve already put away jars of salsa, both mild and medium, as well as more conventional red tomato spaghetti sauce. Also preserved in our pantry are: canned carrots (processed using our new pressure canner), pickles, dozens of jam and jelly jars, yellow and green beans, and chicken broth.  Our freezer contains some swiss chard (see below), which was a bit fussy to process but I’m sure will be delicious in January, as well as rhubarb, and strawberries waiting to be made into delicious fruit crisps in the dead of winter. Here’s some photos that show the chard’s transformation from garden to freezer (I followed the great instructions found on The Art of Doing Stuff blog).

Some of our swiss chard harvest earlier this week, waiting to be processed
All of those chard leaves after processing! Now they’re ready for the freezer

If you haven’t started to preserve your own food, or food that you’ve picked up at a local farmer’s market, I would encourage you to start – and if you can join forces with a friend, so much the better! Some community organizations and churches have started to offer help with preserving – check around to see if this is available in your community. As George Monbiot wrote yesterday about the impacts of climate-change-related extreme weather events and food:

...This summer the UK and the US seem to have found themselves on opposite sides of stuck meanders, and harvests in both countries were savaged by opposing extremes of weather.

This is where we stand with just 0.8 degrees of global warming and a 30% loss of summer sea ice. Picture a world with 2, 4 or 6 degrees of warming and a pole without ice, and you get some idea of what could be coming.

Farmers in the rich nations can adapt to a change in averaged conditions. It is hard to see how they can adapt to extreme events, especially if those events are different every year. Last winter, for example, I spent days drought-proofing my apple trees, as the previous spring had been so dry that – a few weeks after pollination – most of the fruit shrivelled up and died. This spring was so wet that the pollinators scarcely emerged at all: it was the unfertilised blossom that withered and died. I thanked my stars that I don’t make my living this way.

Perhaps there is no normal any more. Perhaps the smooth average warming trends the climate models predict – simultaneously terrifying and oddly reassuring – mask wild extremes for which no farmer can plan and to which no farmer can respond. Where does that leave a world which must either keep raising production or starve?

And – while you are preparing for the new normal, which includes rising food prices and less reliable global food production (and frankly, what system which takes 10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food could be sustained indefinitely?) – how about calling or writing to your local and federal political representative and telling them you want them to take decisive action on climate change now.  While zombies may be difficult to prepare for, we know that if we take action on climate change we can avoid the worst effects that will be visited on our children and grandchildren. If you want to learn more about how to do this effectively, go to Citizens Climate Lobby, a grassroots group focused on creating the political will for a sustainable climate.

A few of my pantry shelves


jams and jellies. 2012


I’ll let this short video prepared as part of the Proposition 37 campaign in California, requiring that GMO foods be labelled, have the last word today:



Thanks to Jeanette M for sharing the canning and zombies photo.

Incredible Edible Movement: If You Eat, You’re In

It’s TED Talk Tuesday on 350orbust. Here’s Pam Warhurst from Todmorden, U.K, sharing about the revolution in local food growing that she and the rest of her volunteer community association started three years ago. Very inspiring!

What should a community do with its unused land? Plant food, of course. With energy and humor, Pam Warhurst tells at the TEDSalon the story of how she and a growing team of volunteers came together to turn plots of unused land into communal vegetable gardens, and to change the narrative of food in their community.


Our Broken Food System And Our Poor Health

Everyone on the planet requires regular meals every single day of our lives. Despite the incredible importance of food, our North American food system, like much of the rest of the world’s, is dominated by a handful of agricorps that have a very cozy relationship with the U.S. and Canadian governments. This means that decisions are often made that benefit the corporations but not the public. The result is that our food system is very very very broken – and it is affecting our bodies and the health of our planet.

In this 2011 TEDx talk, former food industry analyst Robyn O’Brien discusses her food “wakeup” call and what she is currently doing to alert the rest of us about the sick state of our food.


More links:


We Are The Solution As Well As The Problem

This podcast features Joel Salatin,  interviewed by Chris Martenson from Peak Salatin rejects the idea that all human involvement in shaping the landscape is bad; in this interview he discusses how humans can improve the environment through “ecological participation”. I always feel better, and more optimistic, after listening to/reading America’s foremost “philosopher-farmer”, so I’m happy to share this conversation with you in the hope that your day is improved, too. I’m going to listen to it again while I sort through the 6 litres of wild blueberries I picked yesterday (I think Mr. Salatin would approve!).



photo: wikipedia commons


What are you making for supper on this Meatless Monday? Right now we have an abundance of swiss chard, although our other greens have been slow to come in. I substituted chard for kale in this family-favourite salad yesterday, and it was deemed acceptable by the more discerning (aka “picky”) members of the family.  So if you have kale or swiss chard handy, here’s the recipe; served with a loaf of fresh bread and cheese, it’s a tasty and easy Monday summer supper. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the transformation of a garden from a barren plot of dirt in April to the abundance of a mid-summer riot of greenery and colour.

Favourite Kale Salad Recipe

Dressing:  ½ cup extra virgin fruity olive oil, 3 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 clove garlic chopped or put through a press, 1/2 tsp salt

To make salad: Toss above with a large bowl of kale, ½ cup chopped oil packed sun dried tomatoes, 1/4 cup cup toasted pine nuts.

And while we’re on the theme of unlikely pairings, check out this video from the U.K., The Edible Bus Stop, which asks the question “what spaces are waiting to be transformed in our communities?


* Edible Bus Stop turns London transit routes into network of community gardens.

And here’s an interesting article re the pressure on the USDA to retract it’s support for Meatless Monday (which it promptly did!): USDA Retracts Meatless Monday Recommendation.

Hope Is A Verb With Its Sleeves Rolled Up

Sometimes it feels like the forces working against a sustainable future for humanity – vested interests like Big Oil, Coal, & Gas, and the politicians they’ve bought, as well as an overall apathy among the general population – are too formidable to be overcome. We are so close to losing the battle, as Bill McKibbon’s brilliant article in this week’s Rolling Stone underlined; it’s easy to lose hope in the face of this overwhelming problem and dysfunctional political system. What we all need is a vision of what the future could be like, if we wrestle the fossil fuel demons to the ground and make our politicians work for us the citizens, instead of those with the biggest bank accounts. Here’s a video that gives us a glimpse of that future, a future that is happening right now:


*Thanks to Elli Sparks, fellow Citizen Climate Lobby volunteer and climate warrior extraordinaire, for sharing this video.*


One of my favourite quotes on hope is from Professor David Orr , “Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.” Do you have your sleeves rolled up?

Transition Network: Supporting community-led responses to the challenges of climate change shrinking supplies of cheap energy while building resilience and happiness.

Post-carbon Institute: Leading the transition to a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable world.

Geography of Hope: Book Review

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

Vandana Shiva: A “Dinosaur” Mentality Guides The Planet Right Now

One of the best interviewers on television, Bill Moyers, speaks to one of the global sustainability movement’s “superstars”, physicist and food activist Vandana Shiva. The discussion is wide-ranging but centers around genetically modified seeds/foods and the fight against corporate agro-giant Monsanto:

These seeds — considered “intellectual property” by the big companies who own the patents — are globally marketed to monopolize food production and profits. Opponents challenge the safety of genetically modified seeds, claiming they also harm the environment, are more costly, and leave local farmers deep in debt as well as dependent on suppliers. Shiva, who founded a movement in India to promote native seeds, links genetic tinkering to problems in our ecology, economy, and humanity, and sees this as the latest battleground in the war on Planet Earth.



For the full 25 minute interview, as well as the full transcript, go to

Meatless Monday Thoughts: The Stinky Circle of Life

One of the problems in our industrialized, heavily urbanized North American society is the huge disconnect between our food system, and the cycle of life and death that nearly every other generation of humans in the history of our planet has known intimately. As I sit here at my computer this morning I’m reminded quite vividly (and pungently) about how close I am to (some) of my food, as well as the circle of life. First thing this morning I watered my hugel kultur raised beds with the liquid fish compost that my husband Mark has been cooking up for a few weeks in a plastic garbage bucket in the garage. Phew – what a stench! I can’t seem to quite get the smell off my hands, despite scrubbing hard with soap and orange hand scrubber. I had to change, too, because the hem of my pants got a little damp while I was watering and the smell was overwhelming. I’m having flashbacks to my childhood on a prairie farm every time I get a whiff. Here in our corner of northern Ontario we have more access to decomposing fish parts than to livestock manure, so it makes sense to augment the fertility of our garden with a local source of rich organic material. We’ll have to see what our neighbours say, though – be thankful you are reading this in the comfort of your own fish-fertilizer-free home.

And speaking of food (and it is Meat Free Monday) here’s Michael Pollan on why a bunch of carrots costs more than a package of Twinkies:



According to a new report by two genetic engineers, genetically engineered foods are not safe, have not been properly tested and pose a serious threat to human health and the environment.

In GMO Myths and Truths, the scientists refute the claims made by companies that produce genetically modified crops and organisms (GMOs):

“GM crops are promoted on the basis of ambitious claims – that they are safe to eat, environmentally beneficial, increase yields, reduce reliance on pesticides and can help solve world hunger,” said co-author Dr. Michael Antoniou of the King’s College School of Medicine in London, U.K.

Click here to read full article in the Toronto Sun, or read Marion Nestle’s review of GMO Myths and Truths on Alternet.

More links:


Meatless   One day a week, cut out meat

Check out my new apron from my sister in spirit (and rabble-rousing) Donna

*Update: At lunch, my husband suggested I remove the hat I wore in the garden this morning. Which seemed a little random, as it hadn’t been anywhere near the watering can. But I did take it off, and realized it was quite pungent. Apparently anything within 5 feet of an open fish fertilizer bucket will stink to high heaven for quite a while after exposure!

Thirty Minutes To Change Your World

The Spring of Sustainability is a three-month series of events that allows callers to interact directly with world-class visionaries by phone or webcast, for free.  Since the end of March, this amazing series has brought visionaries like Vandana Shiva, Hunter Lovins, John Robbins, and Van Jones to people all over the world, for free. If you  haven’t tuned in yet, don’t waste any time, as free access to each talk expires after 48 hours. Because I haven’t been able to listen to many of the talks within the 48 hour time frame, I invested the money to have unlimited access to all of the talks; but if you’re more organized than I am, you can access all this wisdom and insight for free. Click here to go to the Spring of Sustainability website.



Spring of