Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Urban foraging score

Inspired by Unstuffed and her foraging finds, I have been keeping my eyes peeled in my neighbourhood.

Today I found a patch of wild black raspberries! It was a prickly, mosquito filled harvesting experience. But worth it for about a cup and a half of berries.
Initially I wasn't sure if they were black raspberries or blackberries so I asked my folks and learned that black raspberries are hollow in the middle (like a red raspberry) vs. blackberries which have a solid core.

I'm not sure what I will do with them yet. My family seems to think that they are too seedy for jam (although FoodinJars would disagree). On top of that, I didn't harvest enough fruit to make jam and despite my love for preserving food, I am trying to enjoy the fruits and veggies I harvest in season (and not preserve all of it).

So maybe I will make black raspberry lemonade (sweetened with the lemon grass syrup I made last weekend - with lemon grass from the garden).

Or maybe I will just have yogurt and granola and black raspberries for breakfast.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Milkweed flowerbud capers

I came across some milkweed in various stages of flowering this weekend and vaguely remembered that you could turn something from the milkweed plant into a caper-like product. So I picked some flowerbuds just in case.

When I got home I did some research and learned that you can make 'capers' from either the flower buds (harvested when the buds are slightly loose and green) or from the seed pods (also green but larger pods that appear after the pretty purple flowers fall off).

I'm lactofermenting the flower buds using this recipe.

Here are some pics of the process so far:
Flower buds:

I discarded these. They were too close to flowering:

'capers' in their salty brine:

In a few weeks I will forage some milkweed seed pods and experiment with the recipe in Sandor Katz' book Wild Fermentation.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Green wedding rings

It's official - I am addicted to Etsy. Thanks in large part to certain bloggers who keep posting about awesome locally made upcycled clothes and furniture they've found (I'm looking at you Heartfelt!).

Today I found some beautiful wedding rings made from recycled gold and silver from the AnneHolman etsy shop. I mean come on! Are these gorgeous or what?

This made me think that I should finally write the post that I've been meaning to write forever about options for green wedding rings.

When hubby and I got married, the only place I could find making rings from recycled metal was Green Karat. But it turned out to be a good thing as we were extremely happy with the service (we got custom rings designed) and with the rings themselves. The only thing I would have changed would be to get silver rings instead of gold (we chose white gold without the coating and while less yellow than pure gold, its still yellowy and doesn't match any of my other jewelry).

Getting rings from recycled metal helps to dramatically reduce their environmental footprint. It's no secret that the majority of the mining industry is bad news from an environmental and sadly also a human rights point of view. Green Karat writes a bit about this on their site. But that is only one company's view - if you google "mining, gold, environmental", you'll get more information on mining than you ever want to read.

For a ring with an even smaller environmental footprint, how about avoiding metal altogether? If I had known about this company when I got married, I would have absolutely asked them to make our wedding rings. The company is called Touch Wood and they are based in BC. They make the most beautiful rings you have ever seen. Their rings are made from blown down or bug damaged trees on their property and also from wood from a neighbouring orchard and other scrap woods. They also use vegan glue and their website, home and shop is powered by solar power. I just love this company and their rings.
Hubby do you want to get married again so we can get these rings?

Or maybe I need this for my birthday:

Monday, May 23, 2011


I spent a good part of the weekend filling* my new raised beds with sand and soil and then planting one of them with:
3 types of tomatoes
4 types of lettuce
3 types of bush beans
beets and

This is my first year using the square foot method so I also spent some time googling this and learning how much of each type of veg can go in each square.

Fortuitously, one of the search results was The Man Who Planted Trees on you tube. It's lovely.

*with a huge amount of help from hubby, L & C.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Why I use less water when it rains

I slacked off a little on my water conservation efforts this winter. I tried to keep taking navy showers but some days it was just too chilly and I wanted to leave the water on. It was my little luxury in a house where the thermostat is set to "cold enough you need to wear a toque".

But now that it has warmed up I'm trying to get back into the habit. I'm making a special effort to reduce my water usage when rain is in the forecast. That's because by reducing my water use on those days, I can help to reduce the amount of raw sewage that is dumped into the Ottawa river.

How's that you say?

Well the short answer is that a lot of the sewage pipes in Ottawa are combined sewer pipes. These pipes carry both the waste water from residential homes (from toilets, washing machines, kitchen sinks etc.) as well as the run off water from the street. And according to the City of Ottawa website:

"In the City of Ottawa, the large interceptor sewers can’t handle all of the storm water runoff that enters the sewer system during wet weather. Most of the wastewater is transported to the treatment plants, but to prevent basement flooding and sewer back-ups some of the rain and wastewater mixture is allowed to overflow to the river."

A lot of sewage has been dumped into the Ottawa river in the last 6 weeks. 212,503 cubic metres to be exact. And almost all of it has been on days where we've had a heavy rainfall.

The city is working on the problem and has a 17 project strong Ottawa River Action Plan. They are also maintaining an on-line list of every sewage overflow event including the date, the amount of sewage released into the river and the reason (97% of the 68 events in the last year have been due to rain). They even have an RSS feed set up on this list so that you can be notified every time an event happens.

However, 212,503 cubic metres is a shitload of, well, shit. And its making a mess of our river and our beaches.

But the cool thing is, we don't have to wait for the city to complete the projects on the action plan.

Some things all of us can do to prevent this sewage overflow are:

  • take navy showers

  • use low flush toilets

  • "let it mellow "

  • use shower water to flush the toilet

  • do laundry on a day when it isn't raining (bonus - get to hang it outside to dry!)

  • don't leave the tap running when doing dishes or brushing your teeth

  • defrost meat in the fridge (or cooler!) rather than under running water

Any other suggestions?

For more on this, check out the Ottawa Riverkeeper blog post from March 31, 2011 - "Out of control: Sewage continues to spill into the Ottawa River " if you want to learn more.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Recycling electronics in Ottawa

First of all - wow, it had been so long since I last blogged that I forgot my username. Took about 10 mins trying various combinations to remember it!

Basically, I blame the puppy - who knew they were so much work?! ;-) Speaking of Henry, thanks to all the folks who left comments on my last blog post. We are going to install an in-ground dog waste composter in the spring. Turns out they have to be something like 15 feet from any food crops. I have no spot that is 15 feet from food crops in the back yard! So it will have to go in the front. Although we are pretty sure where all the lines are (gas, water etc.), we will be sure to get the city to mark everything before we start digging!

Ok, so, recycling electronics. We all know that putting waste electronics in the garbage is a really bad idea. Once in landfills they leak all sorts of nasties like heavy metals into the water table and surrounding ground. But it is also important to make sure that when recycling electronics, the company is reputable and does not ship waste electronics overseas (making our garbage someone else's problem - namely children who sort and take it apart under dangerous conditions).

What does this mean for you? Well basically it means you will have to pay to recycle your electronics.

The good news is that the cost is very small. AND if you live in some provinces in Canada, some of your electronic waste is recycled for free. Participating provinces include: Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia and PEI. I know that in Ontario, you can recycle: computers, monitors, tvs, and dvd players all for free. Here is a full list of the electronic waste that can be recycled for free in Ontario.

There are lots of recycling companies that are part of the Ontario program but the only place I take my electronic waste is Computer Recyclers Ottawa. I just love this company. Not only are the folks there some of the friendliest you'll meet, but they insist on complete reclamation here in North America. They never ship electronic waste overseas or to landfills.

Also, they take EVERYTHING. As an example, here are the things I took there this weekend:

  • 2 old computer towers

  • 1 monitor

  • 1 broken mouse

  • 1 teddy bear with electronics in it - you can record your voice and then have it "talk". The roommates and I used to record it saying various obscenities ;-)

  • a number of old RW cds and software

  • a broken lamp

  • broken headphones

  • a broken toaster oven

  • a broken dvd player

  • + more I'm forgetting

Not only did they take all that, they also took all the packaging and ensured me that it would be properly recycled.

The best part? With the computer stuff and dvd player being recycled for free, the total cost to recycle all my electronics was $6.75.

Small price to pay I think.

**Note: I should have mentioned that just because a lot of electronic waste is recycled for free in Ontario, this does not mean that it is included as part of garbage collection. Do not put this stuff on the curb. You have to take it to one of the affiliated recycling centres around town. As I mentioned above, I use Computer Recyclers Ottawa.