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Wholly Canadian Blog

Friday, September 01, 2017

It's Autumn season and I'm thinking about Spring

Saving Seeds. . .

The air has a nip in it, and some leaves are already turning that familiar hue. . .autumn is nearly upon us.  It's that time of year when I start thinking about spring. . .well, sort of.

Now is the time to save seeds for spring. I intentionally don't pick a few pods of my beans and peas so they dry on the plant, and then once they dry, I pick the pods and save the seeds for the following spring. I also harvest the seeds from my peppers, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes for the following spring.

Dried heirloom beans on the vine Harvesting the seeds Placing them in  package for next spring: "Littlefield special"


I mainly grow heirloom or heritage seeds. . .What's so special about them? Let me tell you.  But before I do, let's just clarify a few terms. Sometimes people get their botanical jargon regarding seeds, mixed up. So let me quickly explain:

Heirloom/ Heritage seeds: These are old strains of seeds, some dating back centuries, that have been passed down by a family or community. Let's take a cucumber for example: When you aquire heirloom cucumber seeds, you plant the seed, and the cucumbers that you harvest serve a dual purpose: 1) to eat and be nourished; and 2) save seeds for the following year. Basically, the saved seed, when planted the following year, grows true. Meaning, it grows the same variety as the parent plant. It continues to reproduce its own.

Hybrid:A hybrid seed is a result of cross-pollination. Again, let's take a cucumber as an example. A seed company might desire the taste of one strain and the early sprouting of another strain of cucumber, and thus, cross-pollinate them to receive the benefits of both. (Kind of like cross-breeding dogs) While the hybrid has obvious benefits, and is still natural, it's seed will not grow true. Meaning, it's seed will either exhibit characteristics of one of its parents, not produce any fruit, or may not grow at all. (I've tried!)

GMO (Genetically modified organisms): GMO is different than a hybrid plant--hybrid occurs in nature all the time. Genetically modifying a plant is infusing a synthetic gene in a seed so as to produce some kind of characteristic perceived as beneficial.  It might infuse a chemical-resistant gene in a seed so the crop can be sprayed with a herbicide or pesticide, and then the resulting plant becomes resistant to the chemical where it would have died otherwise. Or it can be infusing synthetic genes in a seed to increase shelf life, appearance, etc. My family doctor, after giving me a lecture about Vitamin C, told me about a GMO apple that has an infused fish gene in it so as to prolong shelf life and prevent browning. {Ever notice that apples you eat now don't get brown as quickly as the one's you had for lunch as a kid?} Now the reason she told me about that, is because those apples have 40% less Vitamin C than their natural counterparts. Crazy! I since then did some researach and found out that there's a lot of "fishy food" in the produce aisle (go ahead and do your research)! You see, GMO food is generally not modified for nutrition, its modified for utilitarian purposes.  When I eat my food, I want it nourish me in its natural God-given form. To say it simply, I want nourishing food. (Side note: You can understand, why I as a  Canadian, want my food in the supermarket to be labelled if it is GMO. It should be a basic right to know)


Heirloom cucumber on a vine Harvesting the seeds Saving seeds for next spring and drying on a plate: "Improved Long Green"


This is why I feel so privileged to participate in growing heirloom seeds and saving seeds. . .

1) Nourishment & Quality: When I'm saving seeds and growing them, I'm growing food for what it was intented--to nourish me wholly. For example, the beans that I grow are rich in magnesium, folate, iron, phosphorus, thiamin and iron. They're not genetically modified and altered for some utilitarian reason, no, they're potent with life-giving nutrition.

2) Rhythm of Life: I'm connected to history when I save seeds. Seed saving is something that my ancestors practiced. They brought seeds over when they emmigrated to Canada because of the inherent connection to life. There were no seed catalogues neatly tucked into their mailbox early February. No, they had to ensure they had saved seeds from the previous year, or they would perish. Seed saving is a practice that has nearly been lost, or perhaps better said, it's a intuition we have buried {no pun intended}.  This is skill or intuition that I want to nurture within my child as he grows. This is something I want him to know before he's 18. My desire is that when the autumn air arouses his senses, he's thinking about more than acquiring a pumpkin-spiced latte, he's thinking about participating in a rhythm of life. . .

3) It encourages localism: Local food is grown for full flavour, nutrient content, and preservation of heritage seeds--encouraging biodiversity. Whereas "travelled" food is grown based on its efficacy in production and growth, how well it travels, and its appearance when it hits the market. (You can see how the need for GMO becomes apparent here.) In fact, these utilitarian factors influence the choice of food available at a conventional supermarket negating the value and potency that real and historically-rich food offers. Conventional travelled food is pre-selected for consumers based on criterion devoid of factors that would naturally influence food selection. For example, a green pepper in the supermarket will be bred for its aesthetic qualities like colour, shine, and how well it travels--but not nourishment! These restrictive criterions discourage biodiversity. Small farms and gardens have the privilege of growing history-rich heritage seeds, sharing seeds, encouraging biodiversity, and employing sustainable practices that encourage beneficial insects, birds, and microorganisms.

4. It's the path of simplicity. It is simple. Not covenient.  In my journey I am discovering that a great deal of true joy is rooted in simplicity.


Heirloom Tomatoes on the Extracting the seeds Drying the seeds. Once dry I place in my labelled envelope: "San Marzano"


Do I save save seeds from all my plants?

No, I'm a semi-novice. I save seeds that are visibly apparent and require little skill, e.g. cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, peas, peppers, squash, cilantro, etc.  I don't save seeds of radishes, lettuce, carrots, etc where the seeds are more delicate. I'm sure I could learn, but I'm content with my current rhythm of simplicity--it suits me in my busy stage of life.  I purchase the more delicate seeds from companies that have sustainable gardening practices.

How do I harvest/save the seeds?

Believe it or not, I've never researched this. I just follow my intuition on this.

  • I simply extract the seed from the matured (make sure it is really ripened) pod or fruit.
  • I let the seeds fully dry on a plate or paper bag (depending on the size of the seed) in a dark cupboard. I've also heard some say that tomato seeds need to be fermented. So do your research on tomato seeds. I've been able to grow tomotoes without the fermentation process.
  • Finally, I place the dried seeds in a labelled envelope for the following spring--storing them in a cool dry place.
  • Not sure if that's correct, but it works for me!

A Few Other Notes:

  • Tomotoes are a great plant from which to save seeds as they self-pollinating, meaning they don't cross pollinate with other tomatoes.
  • If you grow cross-pollinating heirloom plants, make sure to grow them apart from each other, so you keep your heirloom strain pure.

Where did I aquire my heritage heirloom seeds?

So glad you asked. . .

I've been patronizing Heritage Harvest Seeds (located in Carmen, MB) for the past number of years. They have some of the best selections of heirloom seeds in North America. I enjoy browsing their online catalogue and reading the history behind the seeds. Seeds really tell an amazing story! When I read about them, I always want to be part of the story. . .

I also patronize Sage Garden Greenhouse (located in Winnipeg, MB).  My spring cannot officially begin until I breathe in the scent of all their herbs. . .it's intoxicating. I love that place!  Sage Garden Greenhouse is the only Winnipeg garden centre that uses 100% natural fertilizers and 100% non-toxic pest management on all the plants they grow.  They sell seeds, herbs, vegetable plants, wild & native flowers, and much more.


Heirloom Spaghetti Squash Extracting Seeds for next year Drying seeds in a paper bag. Once dry, I store in my small envelope: "Spaghetti Squash"


Will you be saving any seeds this fall? If so, what kind? Tell us your story. . .

Posted by Wholly Canadian at 12:00 AM 2 Comments

Friday, September 05, 2014

Preserve & Serve--Local Style

This year I've had the most joyous time putting away preserves! Care to know why?

I'm employing the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation/ culturing. No canner. No heat. No sweat!

I just simply place my veggies in a jar with whey & salt. I let them cutlure for a period of time, and then place them in a fridge or cold room. Simply put, this is traditional food. . .this is the way my great grandmother would have preserved her food prior to modern conveniences.

Traditional Foods are becoming a part of my rhythm. Are you interested in learning more about Traditonal Foods?

made in canada cucumbers

These jars of pickles tell a story. . .through two aspects of Wholly Canadian's shopping paradigm of goodwill:

Local:

Firstly, local. My garden: heirloom cucs, onions, cabbage leaf to hold the cucs down, and oak-leaf to keep the cucs naturally crisp.  Garden marketJardins St-Leon Gardens--I purchased some cucs, dill, and garlic at this local garden market. 

(Side note: anyone know if one can obtain mustard seed grown in Canada?) 

cucumbers made in canada

Used: 

Secondly, used. All my canning jars are from MCC thrift shops. All my jars are made in Canada.  Canada no longer makes glass jars, so these vintage jars are are a real keeper. Instead of using the rust-prone snap lids, I use the original glass tops along with the rubber rings. While the first objective of preserving food is to nourish my family during the long winter months, I also am so amazed how much I enjoy the beauty of preserves. During these last 24 hours I have marveled over and over again at God's gracious bounty towards us when I look at the simple beauty on my kitchen counter.

 


Lacto-fermented veggies are not only a simple way of preserving food, but is also nutrient-dense compared to canning.  Did you know that canning destroys the nutrients in food, whereas culturing food increases enzymes? You are eating live food! But not just live, but also rich in probiotics--the kind of stuff that makes your gut healthy! And a healthy gut belongs to a healthy person!

  • Interested in adding some traditional food skills in your diet?
  • Care to unearth some practices your great-grandmother would have used in her kitchen? 
  •        Want to deliciously eat your way to healthy?

Right now Wholly Canadian is offering two traditional-food courses

1) bubbly drinks and creams for the whole family; and 
2) sourdough: goodness gracious grains!

Space is limited, so make sure to register soon!

made in canada cucumbers

 

Back to Jardin St-Leon Gardens. . .

The customer service their is top notch. Each person (and I've been there countless times), is so friendly, and they look like you are doing them a favour if you have a question! I always drive away amazed because we live in a day and age when pleasant customer-service is the exception. I recently took my father there,  and he was of course  pleasantly rewarded with many friendly youthful smiles and chit chat. He really hit it off with a young male personnel when discussing apple pastries. {It made me giggle}.

I just bought a case of peaches from Jardin St-Leon Gardens that I want to put into the freezer--but only after blanching the peaches. My mother-in-law is going to come over and show her tried-and-true method of blanching peaches. A few years back, I put peaches in the freezer without blanching and without a syrup. I thought this treatment was for those who wanted extra work. Ha! Mush in the freezer. . 

Well, I was deciding how many peaches to purchase while talking with a few Jardin St-Leon employees, and a young gal really impressed me with her customer service by offering me a variety of options for pick-up, ordering organic, etc. As she rung me through, she chatted with my baby in the cart, and then offered to help me to my car with my purchases. I asked her what her name was, and she said, Jen. So Jen, here's to you!

Update: Here's a pic of the peaches. . .blanched and in a light honey syrup ready for the freezer!

What's the name of your favourite garden market?

Posted by Proof Reader at 7:00 AM 13 Comments

Monday, August 25, 2014

Why We Cloth Diaper

He's responsible for this! Yup, this little baby, who we affectionately call "stinker" some of the time, is responsible for the contents of this  laundry line!  But at least there's a story of goodwill here. The diapers on this line include two aspects of Wholly Canadian’s Shopping Paradigm of Goodwill: 1)Buying Local, and 2) Buying used/re-purposing

 


1. Local/Canadian:

2. Second-hand/Re-purposing:

  • I've purchased used organic prefold diapers
  • Wool inserts (I purchased a vintage wool blanket on kijiji for $5, and had it re-purposed into inserts)

But that's not where the goodwill stops. Shopping locally and buying used is great. But there's more good news on this laundry line! Wholly Canadian is all about whole-life local living. . .


Why we cloth diaper. . .

People choose to cloth diaper for a variety of reasons.

Here are some of mine:

  • Healthy baby’s bottom: our baby has never had diaper rash. We've chosen natural fibre diapers for our babies (cotton, hemp, bamboo, and wool).  Would you want plastic tight wrapped around your bottom? That's essentially what disposables are. It's quite unnatural, really. No wonder rashes, and other ailments develop.  Baby's bottoms needs to breathe! If there is any area that needs breathable fabric--it's their bottom! It always amazes me when parents who cloth diaper choose synthetic fabrics (fleece, mircofibre, etc).  Synthetic fibres (made of petrochemicals) are akin to wrapping plastic around the bottom. So here's to natural fibre!
  • Sustainability: As a farmer’s daughter I have a heightened appreciation of land.  I understand land is a fixed resource. One cannot reproduce more land.  Water, on the other hand, is a perpetual gift (where I live). Even though I pay for it--it's a renewable resource. Thus, it’s a simple choice.  One professor of mine once shared that there is no “away.” When you “throw away” --there is no “away.”  When we travel, we use non-bleached disposables--and each time I dispose of the soiled diaper, I am reminded of the preciousnesses of land and that there is no “away.”
  • Cost: yup, we’ve saved a ton of $. I rarely need to go down that baby aisle.  I’ve got my own baby aisle blowing in the wind. {Giggle}
  • Simplicity: I blogged earlier about the tension between convenience and simplicity. Cloth diapering is the way of the simple life. It is not convenient. It is simple.

Why I hang dry the diapers in summer:

  • It keeps the diapers white:  The sun is a natural whitener for those stains.
  • It keeps the diapers fresh: We've never had yeast in our diapers.  The sun is a natural disinfectant, and boy do the diapers ever need a freshening after a long Manitoba winter!
  • It keeps the diapers in optimal condition. Dryers make the diapers soft, but they also destroy them--slowly and gradually.  What do you think all that lint is in your dryer? Yup, that's the fabric being gradually worn down. Dryers weaken the fabric's fibres, and if there's any item in our household that needs to retain all its strength and fibres for optimal absorbency, well, it's the diapers!  That's why, in winter, we also hang-dry most of them inside.
  • It keeps me in tune with nature: We wash and hang the diapers in summer based on weather. "Today is a sunny day--so, let’s make the most of it!" "It’s going to rain the next few days--let’s see how far we can make these diapers stretch!" {wink}  We work with nature. There is an understanding of cyclical pattern nature gives of work and rest. I can keep abreast the weather by simply looking at my smartphone. Our ancestors did it with merely their intuition and intelligence.  This is a lost skill indeed. . .
    • Just recently I saw dark clouds gather, and heard some distant rumblings. As I had nearly-dry diapers on the line, I looked at the weather on my smartphone to ascertain my next actions. It stated sunny skies all day.  Well, I thought, the storm must just be passing by.  The skies got darker, and the thunder rolled. My intuition (or just common sense at that point) told me it was going to rain and get the diapers off the line. Maybe, I thought, I looked at the wrong city. So I checked the weather report again.  Sunny skies it said--for Winnipeg. I made a split-second decision to believe the technological report.  A minute later the nearly-dry diapers on the line received a heavy 5-min soaking--I considered it a free second rinse.  The freshly rinsed diapers then proceeded to to dry in the sun. . .again. {smile}
  • Sustainability: The sun is a gracious gift, and renewable. Unlike running water (which is also renewable), I don't pay for the sun! But I do pay to run my dryer.  But more than cost-efficient, it's a way of living sustainably and living in tandem with the bounty around us.
  • Simplicity: As I mentioned with the reasons I cloth diaper, the reason I hang out diapers in summer, is that it is the way of the simple life. It is not covenient. It is simple. Do you know the difference? I find myself yearning for simplicity more and more . . .
  • Smiles: My neighbour told me this May (after a really long winter), I know spring has arrived because I see diapers on your line. Yup, we air out all our dirty I mean, clean laundry for our neighbours. . .and I get many a smile.  My dad told me recently that’s how it used to be. You would see a laundry line of diapers and know that family had a baby--and smile. Just the thought of babies make people smile. Sure, go ahead and smile at the thought. . .
  • The Joy of Living in the Footsteps of Those Before Us: What a joy it is to hang diapers. Hanging laundry is one of my favourite chores. It always reminds me of my late mother who hung her laundry out in summer. . .and in a way is a keeping of tradition with my mother, my grandmother, my great-mother, etc. My mother never got to see me as a mama. . .I sure wish she could see this laundry line of diapers now {Tears}.


And here’s a rather organic opportunity to thank my husband who is a vital member of "Team Diaper." He washes them once every 4-5 days, daily brings down the soiled diaper pail to the basement, and then sets us up with a fresh diaper pail (water, vinegar, borax, and a couple drops of essential oil) every day.  Did I already mention, daily? And never complains. And when he’s home, we take turns changing diapers (or we employ "paper, rock, scissors"). The reason I mention this is because he is not as passionate about the reasons behind this as I am.  A few months ago I asked him, so if you don’t feel so strongly about it, why do it? He said something that caught me off guard: “I do it for you.” {Heart melting}



If you have a baby, do you cloth diaper?
Why?


Posted by Wholly Canadian at 4:12 AM 2 Comments

Friday, August 22, 2014

Simplicity versus Convenience

What's the difference between simplicity and convenience?

I find that many people use these terms interchangeably, but they are rooted in two very different paradigms.

Often people say " Let's keep it simple." (e.g. planning a party) What does that mean? Well if party planning it means ordering in food and using disposable dishes, etc. But is this really keeping it simple? The question I ask: Is that simplicity or that is convenience?

  • Simplicity is a discipline. Convenience is permissiveness.
  • Simplicity exerts effort. Convenience takes the road of least resistance.
  • Simplicity is care-full. Convenience is care-less.
  • Simplicity takes time. Convenience thwarts time.
  • Simplicity is a discipline. Convenience is permissiveness.
  • Simplicity exerts effort. Convenience takes the road of least resistance.
  • Simplicity requires less. Convenience requires more.
  • Simplicity is rooted in history. Convenience is the outcome of modernity.
  • Simplicity is the way my grandmother did it. Convenience is this generation.
  • Simplicity is wait. Convenience is now.
  • Simplicity is intentional. Convenience is impulsive.
  • Simplicity is growing a potato. Convenience is being a couch-potato {I had fun writing that one}
  • Simplicity delays gratification. Convenience is gratification.
  • Simplicity is work intensive. Convenience is masked in a pseudo-rest.
  • Simplicity is neighbourly. Convenience is utilitarian.
  • Simplicity is we. Convenience is me.
  • Simplicity is local and fair-trade purchases. Convenience is shopping on the cheap.
  • Simplicity is freeing. Convenience invites the shackles of consumerism.
        

You may say, but I like the terms of convenience: now, gratification, more, permissiveness, least resistance, etc. I agree, they are alluring. And like most, I dip into those many a time. They invite me to feast, they comfort me, and they allow me to believe (for a brief time) that my actions have no consequences. 

But before I proceed, allow me to say that there are seasons in life and circumstances where convenience is quite apropos. I've been there.  There is no reproach for this.  My point is that convenience should not be the default and the "well" we dip into every time.

I am a pilgrim. Not a victor. I am slowly trying to rid myself of the shackles of convenience and live in the freeing world of simplicity. . .the irony for me is that simplicity requires more work--more work in my already full-life.  But should I be surprised? Freedom is not free. Freedom is never accidental. It is the result of the first column of intentional discipline. Simplicity is much like that.

I have to carve out space (sometimes hack at it) to create a pathway of simplicity. This means something else has to go.  24 hours is still 24 hours. But alas, like all of life, it's about prioritizing. Here are some channels of simplicity in my current rhythm and some that are quite simply (no pun intended!) works-in-progress:

 

  • hanging up my laundry in summer
  • refilling glass soap pumps instead of buying new soap pumps
  • no cable television
  • slowing down
  • turning off the computer at 8:15 pm
  • making a roast chicken instead of buying a ready-to-go roast chicken
  • growing heirloom plants with seeds that I can harvest each year for next year's plant
  • rendering tallow and lard instead of buying cheap and convenient liquid oils
  • cloth diapering my baby
  • preserving summer produce for winter: berries, jam, veggies, etc.
  • thrifting at thrift stores
  • farmer's market
  • chemical-free home and cleaning with household ingredients grandma would have used to clean
  • collecting rain water for my garden
  • homemade baby oil and diaper spray
  • making broth
  • composting instead of adding to the garbage dump; composting instead of buying garden fertilizer
  • growing and drying my own herbs
  • transporting food that leaves the house (snacks, sandwiches,etc)  in re-usable containers rather than plastic baggies
  • gardening
  • making a protein smoothie with real food instead of powders
  • walking and biking
  • toys: purchasing used or locally made (this criteria simplifies!)
  • digging out dandelions or just leaving them as the first nectar for bees (I even have friends that eat them!)
  • growing tons of aloe vera for eating, medicinal purposes, and daily facial application
  • bringing a meal as a baby-gift instead of another sleeper
  • travel mugs and water bottles

 

So next time someone says, "Let's just keep it simple," say, "Yes, let's indeed keep it simple."

I would love to know, what are your channels of simplicity?


 

 

Posted by Wholly Canadian at 4:02 AM 124 Comments