Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kevin Kossowan's 1 hr veg garden

Kevin Kossowan, an urban gardener/farmer, locavore and blogger from Edmonton whom I greatly admire recently began a new project he titled 'the 1 hr garden'. The goal of the project is to bust the myth that it takes a lot of time to grow your own food. The video below tells the story. Since Kevin made this video he has started selling greens from his garden (including the 1 hour garden) as part of an urban farm cooperative. And in his words "First 1hr Garden harvest = $8 sale price at market. 1/2 hr in, $16/hr and just starting. "

Not bad eh?

Monday, July 16, 2012

On buying less and working less

Approximately 5 years ago, I started actively reducing my carbon footprint.

Just over 2 years ago I switched from working 5 days a week to 4 days a week.

These two events are connected.

Often I get asked how much money I save from the environmental changes hubby and I have made. "Just how much do you save by not having a fridge?", is the most common question. When I tell them that it is probably a hundred bucks a year I generally get a lot of "oh".

It's clear they are disappointed.

The truth is that the cumulative savings from getting rid of the fridge, the car, the dryer, and using less water is substantial enough to make all these things worthwhile financially as well as environmentally.

But the one change we have made that has saved us the most money by far, is buying less stuff. Less clothes, less electronics, less take out food, less household items. Basically we stopped buying things we didn't need.

I won't go into the environmental and social issues related to over-consumption because I couldn't hope to do a better job than Annie Leonard did in The Story of Stuff.

Suffice to say it's not good.

But even with 'the Story of Stuff', the environmental benefits from individuals buying less doesn't get a lot of airtime. We tend to think more about our utility usage (gas, electricity, wood, water) when we think of our carbon footprint. These things are easy to measure and so we can assess and compare our success. I can personally attest to how good it has felt to see our utility usage go down.

On the other hand, it's impossible to measure the environmental savings from not buying all the "stuff" we might have bought over the last 5 years. I don't know what those things are nor how or where they would have been manufactured. So I can't use a cute calculator that will tell me how many barrels of oil or trees I have saved. It's not so warm and fuzzy.

But what I do know is that buy buying less stuff meant that after only a short time we were living below our means. Way below our means. And because of that, reducing my work week by 1 day was financially easy. Almost unnoticeable.

And so life has slowed down. I'm not rushing, feeling out of breath, feeling that I'm missing out on things. This morning I took the dog for a long walk through the little urban forest near our house. I came home and had a breakfast of yogurt (homemade), granola (homemade), and local raspberries. As I type this I can hear the birds chirping outside my window. Later today I'll bike up to the library and then perhaps go swimming in the community outdoor pool at the end of my street. Life is good.

Friday, July 13, 2012

2 mornings on a lavender farm

Hubby and I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Prince Edward County. Always one of our most favourite places to go, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It's hard to beat evenings sitting on a deck drinking wine and gazing at the West Lake.

For me though, this visit was all about lavender. Derek and Rolande of the Prince Edward County Lavender Farm were kind enough to let me come to the farm to help with their harvest and give me a crash course in essential oil making via steam distillation and all things lavender.

Last year the farm produced around 11 litres of lavender and lavadin essential oil which is sold as is and also made into soaps, lotions, body washes and creams which they sell in their store on the farm. They also have hives on site and sell pure lavender honey and have collaborated with local companies to make lavender chocolate and preserves. For the aromatologists and aromatherapists in the crowd, their lavendula angustifolia oil meets the ISO 3515 standard (the oil is sent to a university in Quebec for the gas chromotography analysis).

The lavender is harvested by hand and it is no easy job! Doing so means that the birds and rabbits that nest in the plants are minimally disturbed since the only equipment used is a hand scythe. I'm not going to lie, it was a little backbreaking. But it was so peaceful without the sounds of heavy machinery. I definitely shouldn't quit my day job - the experts Dave, Miranda and Holly harvested 2-3 rows to every 1 row I harvested! But, I enjoyed my time among those rows and rows of purple. The scent of lavender kept me energized (lavender is one of only a few balancing oils which can relax as well as invigorate) and the hum of the bees remained in my ears long after leaving.

Derek and Rolande were so kind and generous to share their knowledge with me not only of lavender and essential oil making but also on running a farm. I learned so much.

I can't recommend a visit to this farm enough. Bring a lunch and sit under the trees next to the lavender fields. Come during harvest season (late June/early July) and you can get a tour of the farm and watch the essential oil being made (call ahead to find out what time they are planning to make the oil so you don't miss it).