Saturday, October 30, 2010

Oh crap

Well the big news around our house lately is that we got a puppy. His name is Henry and he's part cuteness and part monster. But we love him always even when we are wondering if there is such a thing as catnip for dogs and if so, why did they stuff our couch with it?? And why didn't the SPCA tell us he has this addiction?

Getting a puppy has had many unexpected consequences.... One of these is that hubby and I are now having a lot of conversations about poop.

Did he go? Where? How many times? Even... consistency? 1 week ago I would have found this utterly disgusting. How quickly things change!

On top of analysing his poop, we also needed to figure out how to dispose of it. Obviously I was not keen on putting it in plastic bags. Here in Ottawa we have a city wide composting program called the Green Bin Program. So the first thing I did was look through the printed green bin literature. I was very happy to see that animal waste was allowed. Yippee! So for the last week I've been picking his poop up with newspaper and putting it in the green bin. (full disclosure - he hasn't had all his shots yet so he doesn't leave our backyard).

For some reason in my sleepy stupor this morning (pre-puppy I rarely saw 8am on a Saturday now I'm up at 6am!), I decided to quickly double check the green bin web site to make sure the rules hadn't changed.

And sure enough they have.

Now dog waste is specifically mentioned as a 'do not put in the green bin' item.

So what should I do? Any suggestions from green dog owners out there?

In fact, any suggestions in general on how to green up dog ownership would be much appreciated! I'm thinking: food, toys, treats etc?

Henry and I say thank you. :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Woman's Day, 1952

I was going through a box of my grandad's things at my parents' house on the weekend and found a copy of a Woman's Day magazine from 1952. We'd kept it all these years because in it are the plans for the wooden farm that my grandad built for my dad and my aunt when they were little. This farm is amazing and includes a barn, a water tower, animals and more. I'll be posting the full instructions soon, but in the meantime below are some of the canning recipes that were also in the magazine.

I find old canning recipes really interesting from a historical point of view. I'm fascinated with what people used to eat and especially what they used to can.

Generally it's not a great idea to use old canning recipes because what was considered safe in the 50s is not what is considered safe now.

But I might try some of these. The fruit ones look like they would be fine but I will make sure to compare any recipe I try with some similar recipes written recently (for example Food in Jars recently posted a similar recipe for watermelon jelly). And I will definitely, absolutely water bath can anything I make. If you are thinking of trying any of the recipes I'd encourage you to do the same. Using old canning recipes is definitely something that falls into the 'at your own risk' category.

I was going to crop out the advertisements on the pages but they were just too good. I love the 'waste not, want not' message in the Kerr ad above right. We don't see that much anymore huh? And I thought the refrigerator ad was a great example of the 'resist anything old fashioned' propaganda that was so ubiquitous at the time.

But my absolute favourite is the lipton tea comic strip ad. Is it me or is there some subliminal messaging right around panel 4? I call d.i.r.t.y.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Damson gin or vodka

One of my favourite things to do with damson plums is make damson vodka or damson gin. It's easy to make, is delicious and makes a great gift!

You'll need:
  • damson plums. For one jar you only need a half litre of plums.

  • approx. 250ml of sugar

  • approx. 750ml gin or vodka

  • one litre glass jar

1. Fill a jar half full to 2/3 full with damson plums. Prick each plum with something sharp before adding to the jar. This helps release the juices. Alternatively you can freeze the plums first. I use frozen plums. It's way easier.
2. Add sugar so that it fills approx. a quarter of the jar

3. Fill jars to the top with vodka or gin. Screw on lid.

4. Shake jars once a day until the sugar dissolves. Store in a dark place for 3 months. Remove the plums. Enjoy!

The vodka/gin will keep for at least a year. It does not need to be refrigerated.

The alcohol steeped plums can be eaten - they make a nice boozy addition to a cheese board.

The vodka/gin can be enjoyed straight up, over ice, or in a mixed drink (with mineral water and a twist of lime is nice).

Thursday, September 30, 2010

One week to save Ottawa's Beaver Pond old growth forest

I received an email in my inbox today about the short amount of time left to save this wonderful forest. I've tweeted about Beaver Pond forest before but I don't think I've ever blogged about it.

In short, it is something that we need to protect. It's unique. We are priviledged to have such biodiversity here in Ottawa. We shouldn't be bulldozing it.

Below is the text from the email I received. It describes the situation better than I could. Please write or call your councillor and ask them to vote to expropriate the Beaver Pond Forest. An election is coming up. This is a chance to be heard.

I've just emailed my councillor. Will you?


On October 6, Ottawa City Council will vote on whether to save Ottawa’s Beaver Pond Forest from development. Amazingly, the unparalleled value of this City forest, believed to be one of the most biodiverse regions in Canada, is not in dispute. Ottawa is the only major city in the world to have an old-growth forest with so many different plants and animals within an urban area—not even Vancouver’s Stanley Park or NY’s Central Park can compare. It is the only expression of the Canadian Shield in urban Ottawa, one of only four Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest in all of Ontario (another is Algonquin Park), and home to over 675 species, including many at risk. Recent discoveries show it may also be the oldest site of a Stone Age human civilization in Ontario. Calls to save this forest have come from the David Suzuki Foundation, Sierra Club of Canada, Canadian Parks and Wilderness, Green Party of Canada, a dozen Ottawa-based organizations, and many others, including a 5,000-member grassroots Facebook group.

But it appears that developers, alone, get to make the decision to wipe this old-growth forest and its endangered species off the map, even though their decision will have profound environmental consequences for us all. Even though there are far more suitable places to build, the area’s protected status overturned in 1981, and we are expected to abide by this “development at all costs” decision in today’s global-warming world. At the same time, the 40% Agreement allows a privately owned, $22,500-annual membership golf course to be “protected” from development, while the old-growth forest with endangered species is put on the chopping block to be clear-cut and paved over for developers’ profits.

It’s time for people like you and me to take back our right to have a voice in environmental decisions that affect us. The environment is too important to have these decisions made only by developers who are driven by profits, and those politicians who always vote in favour of more and more development, no matter what the costs. Last year the City had over 115 infrastructure development projects, and not one was a green infrastructure project. We need to tell all Councillors and Mayor Larry O’Brien that the people of Ottawa want a say in this environmental decision, and that this forest must be preserved. The City currently has a surplus of unspent money for infrastructure projects—more than enough to cover the $14-$22 million expropriation fee compared to the $192 million being spent on Lansdowne Park.

City Council will vote on this motion to save the Beaver Pond Forest on Oct. 6. To politicians, silence = compliance, so please contact your Councillor and ask them to support the motion TODAY.

And if you can, please FORWARD this message to five people you know

who are also tired of being “the silenced majority”.

Once the forest is gone, it’s gone forever. Taking a minute of your time now will help us get our voices back—and allow us to save something very precious for future generations as well. Please send the following email to your City Councillor with a cc to the Mayor at Feel free to add your own comments too. Addresses for all Councillors:

Dear Councillor,

I live in your ward and I urge you to expropriate Ottawa’s Beaver Pond Forest. How you vote on this will influence who I vote for in the upcoming election.

- Expropriation is the right thing to do and the only way this City can correct the mistake made by the RMOC when it allowed the area to be included in the Campeau development plans back in the 1980s. Every politician of that day now recognizes that it was a mistake and, given what we know now, would never have allowed it to happen had they known more facts.

- The cost of expropriation is reasonable. The assessed value on the land is less than $55 K /acre. Staff valuation will certainly be generous and fair to the landowner.

- The funds for expropriation are available. The City currently has a surplus of $31 M in unspent infrastructure funds. I’m tired of seeing my tax dollars being used to support only non-green development projects. Last year the City had over 115 infrastructure development projects and no green infrastructure at all.

- The electorate is increasingly attuned to green issues as a result of climate change, oil spills, soaring energy costs, etc. A survey of Ottawa residents by the NCC found that Ottawa residents overwhelmingly place a high value on green space and want it expanded.

- Protecting the Beaver Pond and the South March Highlands creates immense value for the City that, properly managed, can be used to attract tourism. No other city in the world has an old-growth forest teeming with species-at-risk and other wildlife, stone-age archaeological sites, ancient vortexes/energy sites, and unique geological features that showcase how the Ice Age transformed Canada.

- The City may be able to make some money on the transaction if the NCC moves to expand the Greenbelt in 2 – 3 years and buys it from the City, since land values are likely to appreciate.

Therefore, I ask that you vote FOR Marianne Wilkinson and Clive Doucet’s motion to expropriate the Beaver Pond Forest in the South March Highlands of Kanata.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

What's a Really Really Free Market?

A really really free market is basically like a yard sale crossed with a farmers market.

Except that everything is free.

No really.


I'm so excited that this this weekend marks Ottawa's first really really free market!

It's being organized by fullcircles ottawa.

Here are the deets:
Date: Saturday Sept. 18, 2010
Time: 10:00-14:00 (drop off of items starts at 8:30)
Location: 236 Levis Avenue, 1 block south of Montreal Road via Olmstead or Begin Streets

There isn't a ton of info about this event on line but I got the below from fullcircles earlier last week.

Update to Members: Full Circles Ottawa is sponsoring Ottawa's first Really Really Free Market and we are counting down the days to the event on Saturday, September 18th from 8am - 4pm. The market opens to the public at 10 am but drop off starts at 8:30.

The location has not changed but the venue has and we are moving to the lot across from Assumption School and will be using the lot at the school for parking. We are now visable from Montreal Road and should attract visitors who are not aware of the event. We are also tied into Community Events on that weekend and have been placed on the schedule.

If you can donate any time on Saturday September 18th the FCO would be very indebted to you.

A certified OES eWaste collector will be on hand and will be accepting drop offs from 8:30 am.

The event is outdoors and we are a go regardless of weather. We have the support of the Ottawa Catholic School Board, Vanier Community Service Center, The Ottawa Food Bank and the Vanier Business Assocation.

Tables and tent tops are being loaned to us by the Vanier CSC and Vanier Business Association. So FCO volunteers will be sheltered regardless of weather.

I am expecting every dealer and re-seller in the city to show up earlier than we are ready and so I need a volunteer to work the entrance with me and I need 3 more to unload boxes and put items in the appropriate areas.

We also will be hosting a bevy of green and free vendors who are coming to us from outside the group.

For more info: 613-322-5372 shelbycooper13 (at)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My plastic #fail at Dairy Queen

Yep, it's true.

I went to Dairy Queen.

I know I shouldn't. I mean first of all: the food. This is not the gorgeous, local, fresh, organic food that I love. Can you say: GMOs and artificial flavouring and modified milk ingredients?? Second of all, like all fast food chains, they make a hideous amount of plastic garbage.

I know all this. And yet inevitably, a few times a summer I end up at my local DQ for a small skor blizzard (

But this time I had a plan. I had a spoon in my pocket. I was going to REFUSE their single-use plastic spoon. And with a cup that can be composted in Ottawa's green bin program (it can right?), I thought that at least all I was hurting was my stomach.

So I order my blizzard and say clearly "No spoon please". The order gets passed on to the person making the blizzard with the 'no spoon' specification.

I have a bad feeling about this.

Sure enough, after whirling my blizzard in the machine, the DQ dude grabs a plastic spoon, uses it to wipe the rim of my cup, then puts the spoon on the counter (soon to be in the garbage bin) and brings me my blizzard (without a spoon).

I'm sure other people would react to this calmly. I on the other hand, had a mini meltdown.... as I saw him reaching for the spoon, I cried out "nooooooooooo" and dramatically raised my hands in the air (as if this is going to help). At this point other patrons turn to look at me. Hubby gives me a look that equates to a {facepalm}. I put my hands in my hair like maybe I was just fixing my hair. Nothing to see here everyone.....

The worst part is, when he brought the blizzard to me, DQ dude must have assumed I wanted the blizzard to go (why else could I possibly not want a spoon). So he put a plastic lid on my blizzard. That's right folks, for those keeping asking for no spoon actually put MORE plastic into the world. Sigh.

The thing about disposable plastic at restaurants is that it happens in seconds. The second that spoon went in my blizzard they would never be able to use it again. And the second he put the lid on my blizzard, it was already going in the garbage.

I know I should have given the lid back to him (politely) on principle. But sometimes it's too hard being the weirdo that everyone stares at.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Today may have been grey and rainy but it happened to also be one of my favourite days so far this summer.

First I headed to the farmer's market where I bought among other things: some organic corn, elderberries, blackberries, and a yellow watermelon on special because it had been dropped and was split (only $2!).

At the market I met a dear friend and we proceeded on to the arboretum for a walk amongst the trees.

Once home I:
1. made elderberry syrup using elderberries, honey and some vodka. For sore throats, coughs and general deliciousness
2. blanched the corn and put it in the dehydrator
3. put some of the watermelon in the dehydrator (an experiment)
4. made some 'hot fudge sauce' using honey, the blackberries and some fair trade cocoa. (will go on crepes for tomorrow's breakfast)
5. husked and cleaned approx. 50 black walnuts (adding to the stash of 70 already drying in my sunroom)
6. tried and failed to fix my knitting. Gah. Have a hole. Mum! Help!
7. sat back and watched a few episodes of Kirstie's homemade home (lovely programme about refinishing a home using predominantly second hand and hand-crafted items).

Wonderful day. :) Now it's time for bed.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Clean Bin Project - the movie

Ok, just a quick one because I'm supposed to be working on my part of the urban livestock policy as part of the Food for All initiative (more on that later).

But I thought it was important to procrastinate on that briefly to say "go and see the screening of The Clean Bin Project!". I went to see the Ottawa screening last night and it was really great. The Clean Bin Project movie is a documentary about BC couple Jen and Grant who decided to compete for a year to see who could make the least amount of garbage.

What I loved about this movie is the feeling of community I had at the end of it. I know there are lots of us out there struggling with the same things (like how to buy cheese without any plastic packaging). But to see it on the screen and to hear everyone cheering at the end, made me so happy. Makes me think we really can make a difference because there are so darn many of us!

Oh and there's also a great extended cameo by Chris Jordan (love!).

Here's the trailer...the next screening is in Wakefield at the Black Sheep Inn tomorrow night (Thurs Aug. 19). Then Jen and Grant will be continuing their cross-Canada bicycle tour with screenings on the east coast.

The Clean Bin Project - Trailer from Grant Baldwin Videography on Vimeo.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cucumber kimchi

This year we planted four english cucumber plants in the garden. This is probably too many for just two people but I'd never been successful with growing cucumbers before so wanted a backup in case any of them didn't take. Well I needn't have worried. They are growing like crazy! They even loved growing vertically which is perfect for our small urban space. Next year I'm going to put them up against one of the fences so they have lots of room to grow up.

Anyway, all that to say we have a bit of a surplus of cucumbers here at the efficiency urban homestead. Coincidentally, I've been going to a Korean restaurant a lot lately and recently got to try cucumber kimchi for the first time. Wow. It's delicious. So I decided to try making it myself.

I found this recipe which has a really easy to follow set of steps and helpful pictures. But it had some ingredients which I though were a bit strange for a fermented recipe (vinegar especially but also honey), so I checked with my wild fermentation book (which I don't use nearly enough). The kimchi recipe in there didn't use any honey or vinegar so I used the on-line recipe but just left those two ingredients out. Oh and I also left out the green onions because I didn't have any.

In hindsight I wish I'd drained the brine off the cucumbers, added the other ingredients and then put them in jars, and THEN topped the jars off with brine (as opposed to just adding all the ingredients to the cucumbers and brine). That way the spice would have been evenly distributed (the way I did it most of the spice ended up in the last jar). I decided to ferment the cucs for 5 days (2 days less than wild fermentation but 3 days more than the on-line recipe recommended).

Long story short they are really tasty.

I also love that they are good for me (hello probiotics!) and that fermenting food is a low energy way to preserve food.

For any Ottawa folks out there, I got my red pepper powder (kimchi spice) from Arum Korean Grocery.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Plastic pollution in our oceans

Midway Atoll is one of the most remote places on earth. It is home to the majority of the world's Laysan Albatross and also a vast number of other birds and marine animals. Yet it has the misfortune of being near the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Tragically, as a result, many adult albatross have been mistaking the plastic floating in the ocean for food and have been feeding it to their chicks.

A number of artists including the wonderful Chris Jordan are chronicling how plastic is devastating the albatross population on Midway. They have been sharing what they have found on their blog Midway Journey (and on Twitter).

The videos and images are often difficult to look at. But so very important.

In this short clip (the trailer for the film that is being made of their journey), Chris says "I don't think we act until we feel something".

These images were front of mind for me when I made a trip to the seaside while in the UK last month. A walk along a seemingly clean beach, quickly revealed a large amount of plastic garbage. Mostly bottle caps and plastic netting but also straws and pieces of hard miscellaneous plastic. As soon as I saw the first piece, all I could think of was that if I don't pick this up, it could end up in one of those images choking the belly of a baby albatross. Immediately I picked up a plastic bag that I found on the ground and started filling it with plastic. My whole family pitched in. We kept picking up garbage until we couldn't fit any more in the bag.

Here's what we collected:

We tied the bag tightly and put it in the garbage can as we left. Obviously it isn't great that this is all going to a landfill but I am so pleased to have taken it away from the ocean. And the albatross chicks.

Thank you Midway Journey team for your courage and for bringing your images to us.

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Grandad

I wrote the text below a year ago. At the time I decided not to post it because it seemed too personal. But I want to post it now. You see, my grandad died a few weeks ago. I read this post at his funeral.


My grandad lives in England. It's where I lived as well until I was 10. My grandad has advanced parkinsons and while he lives in his own flat, he has carers that come in regularly throughout the day to look after him. He's quite frail. Lately he's started sleeping for 2 sometimes 3 days at a time.

But it wasn't always like that. When he was young my grandad worked as a sales apprentice at a mens tailors called Montague Burton in Dover. They only made suits. 35 shillings a piece.

Because of the war, staff were asked to work night shifts protecting the shop from fire (due to fire bombs). My grandad was trained to use water pumps and sand to put out potential fires. During those long nights all the shop workers on fire watch would hang out and play table tennis set up at one of the shops to pass the time.

At the recommendation of one of the other fire watch men that he should get a trade, my grandad volunteered at the government training centre. His first job was in Holborn in a yard behind the nurses home for Great Ormond Hospital. He worked as a vehicle fitter turning lorries into tipping lorries (ordinary trucks into dump trucks). When he contracted oil poisoning he decided to change careers and started taking mechanical engineering courses on the weekend. And so the young shop worker became an engineer.

My grandad met my nanna on the #10 bus. Each day he would see 2 girls on the bus. They were always giggling. One of those giggling girls was my nanna. Eventually she and my grandad were introduced and before long my grandad would only get on the bus if my nanna was on it.

My grandad proposed to my nanna on that bus.

My nanna and grandad had two children. A boy, the eldest, my dad. And a girl, my aunt. They were serious outdoor enthusiasts and would walk and walk until you thought your legs would fall off.

They were blessed with two wonderful grandchildren. :) Me and my brother. Both on the other side of the ocean from them.

My nanna died 14 years ago and every year since then, my Grandad has traveled to Canada to be with us for Christmas.

Until December 2008 when he was deemed too frail to travel.

The telephone is a poor substitute for an in person visit. But it's all we have so I call him when I can.

I called him today.

"Hi Grandad!" I yell when he picks up the phone.

"Rachel!" he says with happiness and surprise after a slight pause.

I do most of the talking because he struggles to find words.

But he still asks me a lot of questions, like how is hubby, the job, the house?

He tells me that he has been doing ok and has been awake for the last 10 days. Meaning he has slept regularly for the last 10 days. No sleeping for multiple days. He's pleased. The long sleeping worries him.

We talk about the garden and he always gives me good advice. This time I told him that I need to dig up some of my raspberries because they are taking over my garden. He told me that I should put them in a tub - then they wouldn't be able to. I told him he was right.

I also told him that I am crocheting a rug out of old t-shirts. He told me that his mother used to do the same thing. He specifically remembered a rug that she had made out of fabric scraps that was in front of her fireplace.

Then he asks me about my plans for the summer and my heart breaks when I tell him that hubby and I are taking the train to PEI. I know he would rather we come to see him. But he doesn't say it. "Isn't that near where the ocean drops?" he says, amazing me with his knowledge of Canadian geography. "Yes" I say. "The Bay of Fundy".

"Of course" he says.

"I love you grandad" I say as I'm hanging up. He doesn't say it back. He never has. But I know that he does.

"Thanks for calling" he says. "Take care".

"You too grandad".