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Sandy Hill Community Gardening Party

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” – Rachel Carson

I love my community, I must say we’re pretty awesome. Case in point, the Community Gardening “Party” we had two Sunday’s ago where members of our community came out and help weed the untended plots in one of our local community gardens. It was a beautification project of sorts: The community gardeners had gotten in over there heads with weeds (quite literally as some of the burdocks were easily 6 feet I’m sure!) and sent out an SOS which was circulated by active members of our community – Thank you Diane Bennett and Clarie McDonald! – and ASH our community association. So Sunday afternoon we arrived prepared to get our hands dirty cleaning up and tending to the gardens in Strathcona.

I love tangled gardens –  the jungle of weeds vegetables and flowers captivate my mind. At fist glance you might think they’re all competing for the same resources, but look closer and you’ll realize they’re actually not competing but collaborating. You see weeds often they grow in areas where the soil is too poor to support other plants. Their deep tap roots reach down to the subsoil and bring up moisture and nutrients to the top soil. These nutrients are released when the weed reaches the end of it’s life cycle and are then made available to other plants with more shallow roots. For example, burdock means your soil is deficient in nitrogen where as dandelions tell you you’re missing calcium. It’s like a deconstructed puzzle, all the information you need to put it together is there but you have to have patience and take the time to look for the necessary clues to properly reconstruct it.

Volunteers hard at work in the Strathcona Community Garden.

Volunteers hard at work in the Strathcona Community Garden.

The garden was also full of animal life. I did my best to save the countless snails from being smushed by under the feet of busy gardeners but after thirty I decided it was every snail for themselves. I marveled at the pollinators paying their due diligence to the flowers and was even lucky enough to cross paths with a few toads which I encouraged to find an new resting spot out of the commotion. All of us coexisted in the  garden as we untangled the overgrown patches revealing soil that will house the crops of next years avid gardeners.

A pollinator on a burdock flower

A pollinator on a burdock flower

When I left the community garden I thought it only proper to pay a visit to my own garden and give it some TLC. The tomatoes are starting to develop, and the vines of the squash, cucumber and eggplant are really taking off!  A few of the peas have started to shoot up as well but best of all, the kale that almost fell victim a munchy resident Sandy Hill squirrel has made a comeback and it’s leaves were the most tasty nutrient dense kale I have ever tasted!

Mine and France's garden

Mine and France’s garden

All this gardening left me famished. Luckily I could come home to my CSA and prepare a wonderfully delicious meal. I made a salad incorporating a mix of ingredients from my CSA, my windowsill herb garden, my shared garden with France and a little taste of the county with some wine from Harwood’s vineyard.

 

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The Therapeutic Nature of the Garden

When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, there is always the garden. – Minnie Aumonier

The clouds have temporarily retreated allowing us the perfect view of tonight’s first quarter moon. For those of you who have been watching the sky over the past couple evenings you would have noticed it slowly taking shape as it raised at dusk each evening signalling the Sun to retire for the night. It has been a nice change of view compared to the cumulus clouds that have dominated the sky ominously over past couple months.

It’s amazing what a little shift in perspective will do. With a never ending to do list it has been ever difficult to prioritize my resolve to post weekly updates of my “200km Challenge” but with a visit short visit to a Seniors home – more specifically the vegetable gardens maintained by their residents – I have been inspired to write a post.

I accompanied the Student intern working on the Senior Organic Gardener (SOG) program with the Canadian Organic Growers (COG) Ottawa – St. Laurent – Outaouais (OSO) Chapter to their gardens at the Perley Retirement Residence in South East Ottawa.  Amber (the student intern) and Jess (the program coordinator) have been working with staff and residents to plant and maintain garden boxes. Eight residents are actively participating in the program at this residence and each has their own garden box.

This past spring Amber and Jess worked with the residents to plant vegetables they enjoy eating. They have made periodic visits since then to help the residents maintain their boxes and discuss different gardening topics such as: soil health, watering and pest management to educate the participants on how best to care for their plants.

Totmato’s and romaine lettuce

Hot peppers and cilantro

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Romain lettuce

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The first tomato’s

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Amber and Jess tending to the gardens

This is such a wonderful program, not only does it provide these residents with fresh local organic food but it encourages community and exercise amoung a demographic that is most at risk for solitude and immobility. It was so encouraging to see the carefully maintained boxes and notice the cultivation of some of the produce already.

It was a quick visit as were are currently experiencing quite the heat wave here in Eastern Ontario and the heat advisory meant the seniors were not allowed out into the garden. But it was just long enough to rejuvenate me and renew my optimism in the world making it possible for me to once again tackle my never ending to do list when I returned to the office.

If you want to learn more about this program I encourage you to check out COG OSO’s website here: https://cog.ca/ottawa/our-programs/senior-organic-gardeners/

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Perigee full moon

Or at least that’s what those in the astronomical community would refer to tonight’s full moon as.  More popularly it is known as the “supermoon” the closest full moon of the year.  If you are near the Pacific Ocean you have the best vantage point from which to view this celestial wonder; but I’m certain that if these clouds would part, even if only for a moment, we would have just as lovely a view from here in Ottawa.

Tonight’s moon is not quite as close to the Earth as it has been in recent years (two years ago it was 356, 575 kilometers away), but it is pretty close at 366, 991 kilometers compared to the typical 364, 000 kilometer distance it usually hangs out at.

However, it’s not the distance from the earth that makes this supermoon special, it’s the distance or rather lack thereof between it and the solstice that was just two days ago.  This kind of celestial geometry only occurs once every 14 years.  So enjoy tonight’s full moon, it will be the best view you get all year!

In other news, this was my first week sans root vegetables.  As the new growing season has commenced and last year’s stores of root crops are depleting I was reminded again of my self-induced reliance on my local community. I felt spoiled for a while having the choice between lush new spring greens and the remaining root crops still available from last fall’s harvest.  Now the root crops of last year are gone and this year’s crop is young and growing. I will have to wait until the first new potatoes of this year’s harvest that will hopefully be ready in July (although with the cold wet spring we’ve had I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re a little later).

One thing I’ve realized is that there is some truth to the old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I enjoyed the fresh greens of this spring a whole lot more then I felt I had previously.  I am definitely more aware of my surrounding and appreciative of the systems on which our planet relies.  Another reminder of the cycle of things.

In keeping with the full moon as a time for reflection, and since this moon is not only full but also close I can’t help but feel this month’s reflection will reflect similar sentiments.  This month has been the toughest yet in this local journey I have had to practice my patience, a lot.  It takes planning and forethought to eat local. This is especially true in today’s society.  If I’m hungry I can’t just go to the corner store and grab a snack I have to make it myself. I like that though, it forces me to be creative with what I have and I appreciate it more. That said, I’ve been experimenting a lot with rhubarb lately so expect some recipes to be posted soon!

Happy star gazing!

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/06/130622-supermoon-solstice-biggest-science-space-2013-june/

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Happy Summer Solstice!

Today is the longest day of the year1, doesn’t that just make you want to get outside?

This morning I had the most wonderful conversation with a farmer from Montreal named Howard.  He is one of the many farmers that make up Les jardins du Roulant.  He told me all about this wonderful program that he’s involved in called Santropol Roulant2.  It’s kind of like a meals on wheels.  The premise of the organization is to use food as a vehicle to break isolation and build bridges between individuals and generations. This community organization is volunteer based and consists mostly of younger persons.  This service prepares and delivers up to 100 dinners each day, five days a week. Most of the meals are delivered on foot or by bicycle to the homes of seniors and people living with a loss of autonomy.  Super awesome, right?  I know!

Then at lunch time rolled around and Margaret, one of the most awesome COG OSO volunteers (They’re all so great it’s hard to choose but Margaret is just wonderful none-the-less!) arrived with herbs and flowers for our office! It’s so wonderful to have plants inside the office, I feel a little bit better about being stuck indoors all day (although I know the work I do is very important in that it makes sure we still have an outdoors to escape to!)

Windowsill garden

 

Sigh… I love Friday’s like this.  They’re just so uplifting, the perfect start to the weekend!

 

  1. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/06/130621-summer-solstice-2013-longest-day-sun-earth-space-science/
  2. http://santropolroulant.org
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Silver Linings

“Remember, all the magic of creation exists within a single tiny seed.” – Fern Gully

It has been very dreary outside as of late; rain has taken over so many days I’ve lost count.  But every cloud has a silver lining and this clouds silver lining is the new growth that has sprouted in gardens and farmers’ fields as a result.  So I suppose what may be leaving me craving vitamin D is securing the harvest that will sustain me through this winter.

It’s funny how easily we take the food we eat for granted.  I’ve always felt I was aware and conscious of the weather but I was never concerned about a late frost in early spring beyond the effect it would have on my ability to wear skirts.  Never once did I think that a late frost would make or break a crop that relied on the survival of it’s delicate spring flowers.  The threat of frost would decimate the lovely apple blossoms and delicate grape vines.

In an effort to save these delicate blossoms from the wacky temperature highs and lows earlier this spring vinedressers (the official name of a person who tends to grape vines) lit fires to save their precious buds; I’m sure the orchards relied on the same practices.  I was once told that it’s worth it for a farmer to spend up to $10,000 in an effort to save the blossoms on a $200,000 crop.  When you put it that way it makes sense.  I guess not even technology has found a way to conquer Mother Nature when it comes to Jack Frost.  I’m happy to say that the grapes survived thanks to the attentive vinedressers who kept watch and with the luck of a good summer the grapes will grow to be rich and ripe for the harvest come fall.

I’m not sure what I would do without my favorite drink.  The heat of last summer already made my usual favorite Pinot Noir from Harwood too light for my palate.  You see the drought caused most plants to go into survival mode which means that more energy goes into maintaining the vital functions of the plants day to day life and less into the production of sugars to nourish potential offspring (aka the grapes).

Plants never cease to amaze me.  Luck for me, the wonderment that comes from tending to what I have now lovingly dubbed, the flavor jungle on my windowsill has helped me get through the dreary gray skies thus far.  I would however love some sun.  So here’s to hoping for sunshine to compliment tonight’s new moon.

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Urban Gardening

An Evening of outdoor gardening was the kick in the butt I needed to get me back on track with my writing.  I apologize for my long hiatus – I missed the first quarter moon and the gorgeous full moon that just passed but I made it back in time for the last quarter moon.

The Full Moon

The Full Moon

Since we last spoke in this virtual space my window sill has come alive with life (lovage, sage, wide leaf Italian parsley, dark purple Opal basil, rosemary, thyme, chives, hot and spicy oregano, Tiny Tim tomatoes, arugula, and lettuce).  My first chore every morning is to get up and make sure they have enough water.  I feel like a proud parent looking over them and watching them grow (especially the ones that came from seed!).  It’s so rewarding to grow your own vegetables – even if they are just herbs.  I love being able to add fresh flavor to my salads and meals.

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My Urban Window Sill Garden

This evening I had the privilege of gardening with my neighbor, France.  We are experimenting with her front garden and putting in a veggie patch.  Today we went and got all the manure, compost, and peat to enrich the soil.  We also picked up a few vegetables (we decided to plant beans, squash, cucumbers and tomatoes) to put in the plot and some herbs (dill, cilantro, and mint) that she will put in pots on her balcony.

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France and the plot post nutrient loading

I love gardening and I like it even more when you get to do it with friends.  This project with France is especially interesting because we are doing it in her front yard.  There’s something about gardening that is inviting and allows the usually silent city pedestrian to break their silence and greet their neighbours.  Not even five minutes in a little girl stopped with her mom to observe us as we tilled the soil and removed the flowers.  Every passerby greeted us and a few stopped to chat.  A lady from around the corner stopped to chat and ended up taking some of the Echinacea that we were hoping to send to a good home.  She was intrigued by the project and said that she looked forward to seeing the progress as this was on her regular dog walking route.

There’s something about fresh new growth that’s exciting!  I feel renewed and revived.  Expect a recap of the local wine festival, Terroir that I attended this past weekend to follow on the tails of this post.

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Mallory and I – Terroir 2013

Ahimsa

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Aunt Barb – In Loving Memory

Flower“How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet
“You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Pooh’
A.A. Miln

It’s been an entire moon phase since I started this journey and 5 years to the day since I lost my Aunt Barb to cancer.

A loving wife, mom, aunt, sister, daughter and friend; she wore many hats and touched the lives of many people.  Her time with us was short, reminding us of the fragility of life and the importance of enjoying the moments we have with others.  Although she has left her physical form on this Earth her loving presence remains and is felt by those whose lives she has touched.

A great hostess, there was always room for one more at her table.  She made the best raspberry pie I have ever tasted.  I’ll never forget the smell, taste and texture of that pie.  That’s the true mark of a kitchen goddess: an unforgettable dish.  Recipes are unique to the people who create them, especially in baking.  You have to be able to feel when you’ve reached the consistency or texture you desire, a recipe can’t teach you that.  To me, it’s the person that created the dish everyone is dying to get the recipe for that is the real secret ingredient.  They’re the reason why even when you do get your hands on the prized recipe, for the dish you’ve enjoyed at their home time and time again, it just doesn’t taste quite as good.

In honour and memory of my Aunt Barb, I dedicate this post to her and will share with you my favorite bread recipe: Molasses Yogurt Rye Bread.

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To make this bread you will need:
¾ cup warm water
2 ½ tsp active dry yeast (okay so this ingredient isn’t local, I was too excited to have to wait to make a starter for this recipe)
½ tsp molasses
1 cup yogurt
¼ cup molasses
2 1/3 cups whole dark rye flour
2 cups (approx.) bread flour
1 tsp butter (to grease bowl)

In a large bowl add water and ½ tsp molasses, sprinkle yeast over top; let stand until foamy, 5-10 min. Stir in yogurt and molasses. Add rye flour and bread flour and stir to make a shaggy dough.
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Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead, adding more bread flour as necessary, to make a soft smooth dough. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning the dough to grease all over, cover and let rise in a warm draft from place for 1 ½ hrs.
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On a lightly floured surface knead the dough gently; shape into a smooth ball. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for 10 minutes. Flatten it into a 1 inch thick oval, long side facing you. Fold top and bottom thirds over center to form torpedo shaped loaf; pinch the seam to seal.

Place, seam side down, on rye floured or parchment paper-lined peel or baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 45 – 75 min. Cut ½ inch deep slits into top of loaf.
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Bake on preheated baking stone/sheet at 425 F for 20 min, sprinkling bottom of oven with a few handfuls of water when putting loaf in oven and again after 3 min of baking.

Reduce heat to 375 F; bake until crust is hard and bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, approx. 25 min. Let cool on rack.
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This is by far my favorite rye recipe.  It smells absolutely amazing while it’s baking and tastes even better.  Bon Appetite!

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A Day at the Market

This past weekend was opening day for a lot of things:  My parents celebrated opening day for Pickerel in the County on Saturday with a few casts off the dock and a meal of fresh fish cooked over a campfire.  The Main Street Market welcomed the masses on Saturday and then the Brewer Park Market followed suit on Sunday.  I was busy with the Canadian Organic Growers Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Saturday so I missed out on the Main Street Market.  I did however, get the chance to meet with Robert Oechsli of Alpenblick Farm that afternoon, to pick up a delivery of cheese and maple syrup from his organic farm.

Wellers Bay in Spring

Wellers Bay in Spring

I first met Robert last December at COG OSO (Ottawa/ St. Lawrence/ Outauais) Chapter’s AGM and Organic Beekeeper meeting.  He is from Lenk in the Simmental valley of Switzerland, which is very near to where my own grandfather was born.  We talked of Switzerland, our Swiss cow bells and his Simmental cow’s (a breed unique to the Simmental valley in Switzerland).

This past Saturday, my coworker, Ashley and I were busy all morning prepping for the AGM and before I knew it is was 1:15.  The AGM was 45min from beginning and I had to collect my cheese and maple syrup from Robert before it started.  Luckily, our office in Vanier is not too far from the pickup location so off I went.  I was a little anxious to the leave the office, unsure of what exactly to expect.  I was relieved to find Robert, in his traditional Swiss hat, sitting, nonchalant on the tailgate of his truck with a cooler.  It was like meeting with an old friend.  We picked up right where we had left off months earlier, talking of Switzerland, the language, and farming.  One of the many admirable traits about farmers to me is their ability to make you feel at ease.  They always seem so easy going, their perception of time, different from that of a city slicker.  They have time and take time to share with you.  I envy that, it’s so hard to not fall into the rush of the city.

We could have talked all day, but I only had fifteen minutes until the start of the AGM.  I was nervous about my presentation and could not help but get a little anxious, looking at my watch, to get back to the office.  When another customer walked up, I reluctantly bid “uf widerluege” to Robert (Good bye in Swiss) and made plans to take him for coffee next time he was in town.

The AGM went smoothly with only a few minor technical glitches.  I was exhausted, I went home that evening and was in bed by 9.  It had been a long week and while part of me just wanted to hide in my apartment all Sunday, I knew my fridge was looking bare and I could not live off of Robert’s cheese until the Market next weekend.  So Sunday, I awoke early and prepared to tackle the Brewers Farmers Market.  It was another gorgeous day with the Sun shining brightly already.  I collected my thoughts, figured out the logistics, of which backpack (my biggest camping sac), biking or walking (biking), which route (the canal), and took stock of my fridge (three beets and a turnip).  I was set to hit the market (give or take a trip halfway down the stairs and back after almost forgetting to apply sunscreen).

Entrance to Brewers Park Market

Entrance to Brewers Park Market

I arrived to the market around 11am.  It was bustling to say the least.  There we so many vendors and even more people.  It was exciting to see so many people out supporting the market!  One of the first stalls to draw me in was Halsall’s Honey with samples of churned honey.  The woman behind the stall looked very familiar, but I didn’t think much of it.  I was too distracted by the marvelous texture and taste of this churned honey I had just sampled.  After learning how to substitute honey for sugar when canning and why you would want churned honey as opposed to regular honey (It spreads better), it finally hit me: the lady behind the stall was my elementary school Librarian.  What are the chances?  This lady that had read me Jillian Jigs stories and helped foster my love of reading also sells some of the most delicious honey I have ever tasted.

Mustard Sprouts From O'Grady Farm

Mustard Sprouts From O’Grady Farms

Next, I found Roots and Shoots and O’Grady Farms.  Shaw runs O’Grady Farms, a sprout farm, in space he rents from Roots and Shoots.  I met him a few months earlier when I was at Roots and Shoots Farm seeding leeks and onions for a day.  Shawn was just starting his sprouts then in a patch of the greenhouse. I could hardly believe these delicious looking, tiny green wonders were a product of that same barren patch I had seen him working on just two months earlier.  Diane, my neighbor in Sandy Hill and gardening partner (She’s letting me grow vegetables in her garden with her this year!) walked up at that same moment.  We both purchased some sprouts from Shawn (he recommended I try the mustard sprouts) and then found a shady spot to sit and catch up.  By the time we had caught up it was noon already and I had only been to two booths and all I had was honey and sprouts to eat for the next week.  I was in an open area with picnic tables in the middle.  I looked about to plan my path and some familiarly shaped paper bags caught my eye, I had to see if they were what I thought they were.  As I got closer I confirmed that I was not mistaken and I looked at the vendor and exclaimed, “I was hoping I’d run into you!”  It was George, the wheat grower that had been providing the oats in my winter CSA.  I gazed upon his table with delight: rye, red fife, buckwheat, spelt, steel cut oats, rolled oats.  Just wonderful, a bakers paradise! Local and organic grain, words cannot explain my delight.

George handing out cookies to market patrons

George handing out cookies to market patrons

George is one of those people you meet and it’s as though you’ve been friends for years.  We talked for quite some time.  Turns out we both attended the same high school (Osgoode Township High School) and shared the same love for sports (He was a football player).  In the time I spent at his booth I watched him talk to customers with ease, offering samples of cookies baked fresh in his solar over and greeting previous year’s customers by remembering their orders.  At one point, two girls ventured up to his stall and inquired about seeds to grow wheat.  George was quick to provide them with a bags of his unmilled wheat and advice on how to sow the seeds.  He recommended they reference one of COG’s practical skills handbooks on wheat growing.  I encouraged them to stop by COG and visit the library.  We swapped stories about apartment gardening.  They had a rooftop in Sandy Hill that they wanted to grow some herbs and vegetables on this summer.  As the conversation continued we discovered that we are literally next door neighbours, as they live in the building across the street from me, what are the chances!  Then Trisha, whom I know through Ecology Ottawa, stopped by to pick up a bucket of oats from George for her bakery: Branch Out.  She started the bakery in January and was trying her best to use local suppliers (not an easy task as she makes vegan, nut free, gluten free baked goods with only organic, fair trade ingredients).  She told me she thought of me the other day after meeting a girl who told her a story about going to an eccentric farm with someone that was eating local for a year.  She figured that someone was probably me, she was right.  The farm? Robert’s, Alpenblick.

George’s stall was by far the highlight of my trip to the market and where I spent the majority of my time.  When I finally did depart from his stall it was not without rye and some red fife to try my hand at 100% local rye bread.  I continued on, picking up some grass fed stewing beef, a bushel of apples, and my final stop, a package of cranberries before I returned to my bike ready to head home.

My Market Loot

My Market Loot

I had spent three and half hours at the market (and boy was I glad I turned around and headed back up the stairs when I realized I had forgot to put on sunscreen!).  I unpacked my treasures on the kitchen table, excited at the potential for so many different meals!  I couldn’t help but muse over the connections I had made with people.  A diverse range of people from all chapters of my life.  Whether it had been my Swiss heritage, my small town schooling or my current home in Sandy Hill.   The familiarity of these geographic locations allowed me to connect and reconnect with so many people.  It really brings new meaning to the term six degrees of separation.

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Beer Braised Short Ribs

“I am thankful for the mess after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.” – Nancie J. Carmody

Beer and beef.  What’s not to love?

This is a favorite go to for me when entertaining; a sure crowd pleaser with the meat lovers.  A super simple dish with minimal prep, it allows you to spend your time with your guests and not in the kitchen.  It’s also great weekday dinner dish; you can prep it in the morning , turn the slow cooker on low and it’s ready for the finishing touches when you walk back in the door that evening.  The longer you cook the beef the more tender it will be as you are breaking down the collagen in the meat (But, cook it too long and you’ll dry it out so be careful!).  The recipe as is will serve about six people and keeps great in the fridge or freezer as easy meals during a busy week.

You will need:

3lb (1.35kg) beef short ribs (I used Rob Dobson’s Organic, Grass Fed: Cobden, ON)

3 thick slices of bacon, chopped (Aubrey’s Butcher Shop, Nitrate Free, Double Smoked: Ottawa, ON)

1 onion, chopped (Roots and Shoots Farm, Organic: Manotick, ON)

3 cloves of garlic, diced (Roots and Shoots Farm, Organic: Manotick, ON)

3 mushrooms, chopped (Carleton Farm, Organic: Osgoode, ON)

1 large parsnip, chopped (Le potager d’Émylou, Organic: Hatley, QC)

Bottle of your favorite dark ale beer (I used Mill Street’s Tankhouse Ale: Ottawa, ON)

½ cup water (Using beef broth in place of water will enhance the flavor I just didn’t have any on hand)

2 tbsp flour (Castor River Farm, Organic: Metcalfe, ON)

1 garlic chive, sliced (La défriche, Organic: Ripon, QC)

Cut beef into 1-rib pieces. Arrange then on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil, turning once until they are well browned (approx. 8-10 minutes). Once finished, transfer them to the slow cooker.

In a large skillet cook bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Remove the bacon from the skillet and place on paper towel lined plate.

Set aside excess bacon fat and add onion, garlic, mushrooms and parsnips to skillet.  Cook these over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, approx. 5 minutes.  Add to slow cooker along with bacon.

In the skillet, whisk together beer and water.  Bring to boil, scraping up brown bits.  Stir this juice into the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low until the meat is tender (approx. 5-6 hours).

Whisk flour with ¼ cup water add into liquid stirring to distribute evenly and avoid clumping.  Cover and cook on high until juice is thickened (approx. 8-10 minutes).  Plate and sprinkle with garlic chives.

I like to serve this savory dish with a hardy bread like my favorite molasses yogurt rye bread (check back for my recipe to come!) and a dark ale, such as Mill Street’s Tankhouse.  For sides, I go for something simple like a steamed green veg (think broccoli or kale) and I like sweet potato fries but a baked russet would go nicely as well.

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Meaning

Ironically enough, as I was at a loss for words to place to into sentences for my previous blog post, I have been surrounded by words ever since.

It has been almost a month since I started this journey; it feels like it’s been a month since last week. Over the past seven days I have been especially acute to words, their definitions and most importantly, their meanings.

Two of my dear friends came to visit me in Ottawa Saturday evening and how better to celebrate the arrival of friends than to eat and drink? Great! I love to cook and I have plenty of local spirits. The only thing missing from this equation? The addition of time, my time was subtracted. I was busy becoming a WordPress Master at Word Camp on Saturday. Not to worry, there are plenty of local restaurants I’ve been wanting to try and what better excuse than company to check them out. So off to the Byward market we went to see just how local the Ottawa restaurant scene could be.

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It was not until around 9 pm that we settled upon the Black Tomato as our establishment of choice. Now, the Black Tomato does not advertise itself as “local” so I must say I was impressed that their main dishes boasted meat from O’Brien Farms a local area farm. Their spirits and vino on the other hand not so local, with most coming from across the pond they were well out of my 200km reach. However, I knew of a restaurant that had satisfied my local palate a few weeks earlier with Norman Hardy Pinot Noir and I could wait to quench my thirst till after dinner.

The Albion Rooms is a new restaurant in Ottawa that prides itself on: Pulling inspiration from the culture that surrounds us and the history that defines us. In perusing their menu of charcuterie, cheese and wine I found a few of my county favorites (Norman Hardy wine and Black River cheese) and word of mouth told me they might be a hit for local spirits too. So off we went. This was my first encounter with the word local and its loose definition, for upon further investigation I discovered that the Albion Rooms defined local as produced in Canada. So was my definition of local too strict or there’s too loose?

Interestingly enough, on Monday there was an article highlighting exactly what the definition of local is in Ontario1. According to this article, local can mean it comes from within 50km or that it comes from within the province depending on who you ask. Based on this evidence it could be deduced that both myself and the Albion Rooms were incorrect in our definitions of local only adding to the confusion of what “local” really means. Without clearly defined constraints on the definition, the meaning of local changes based on the audience to which it’s applied. This is a very important observation. The same is true for the term natural as I have touched on in earlier posts. This further emphasizes the importance of understanding the definitions and meanings behind jargon and buzzwords and how tight or loose the constraints of those definitions are in order to make informed food choices2.

The Scientist and organic activist in me was satisfied this week when I stumbled upon (and by stumbled I mean eagerly refreshed my browser homepage) Nature’s highlights. This week Nature is highlighting research on GM crops. In particular, they conducted a case study taking a deeper look at transgenic crops and used scientific data to determine the true, the false and the still unknown of GM crops3.  It is so refreshing to see an evidence-based peer reviewed article on such an important topic. Especially one that has been know to have so many unfounded claims pushed forward by both parties to their own discredit.

But, evidence or no evidence, it must be noted that there are exceptions to every rule, which brings me to my final experiment of the week: planting my window sill herb garden. That’s right, I finally got tired of looking at my empty window sill baskets. It was as though they were taunting me, I had all the ingredients needed to provide me with delicious herbs, I just had to combine them. The interesting variable here is that the information that was enabling me to complete this task was the same information that was holding me back: the instructions.

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Perhaps I just had too much information, too many words, too many instructions, all for one little seed. It seemed as though everything had an opinion on how to plant the seeds: The potting soil came with instructions, the seed packets came with instructions, my gardening magazine had instructions, and my herb planting handout also had instructions. How many instructions could I possibly need? It’s not rocket science, right?

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As a competent baker I pride myself on my ability to produce delectable baked good sans recipe or instructions. I use my love of math and chemistry combined with logic to deduce the proper ratio of ingredients I need to combine to produce the chemical reactions that result in the desired product. However, I have to remind myself this is not something I learned over night. It was countless hours of trial and error (mostly thanks to procrastination when under a deadline to submit a report for school) that brought me this comfort and ease in the kitchen. A combination of theory and practice.

I suppose it was this contention that I had to come to terms with before I could plant my seeds. The idea that I could have all the instructions in the world and that would not guarantee my success in turning these tiny seeds into new growth on the first try. I had to understand that the theory of herb planting would only get me so far and I needed to combine my theory with practice if I expected to improve. I think that this is a very important conclusion. That theory and practice are of equal importance for different reasons and that their combined effect is far greater than the sum of their individual effects.

Now, I leave you with the product of 15 minutes of writing from a sound poetry workshop I attended this evening with Nathanael, a local artist:

Adduce the evidence to support your contentions.

Impossible? I’m possible?

Adduce the evidence to support your contentions.

Through the looking glass I saw myself therefor I’m possible.

I saw the looking glass through which I walked, does that make me impossible?

Adduce the evidence to support your contentions.

Quantum superposition.

The probability I’m possible, but also the possibility I’m impossible.

Is it possible then that: I’m impossibly possible?

Or am I possibly I’m impossible?

Adduce the evidence to support your contentions.

1. Ontario’s Wynne in a ‘local’ food fight with Ottawa. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2013/04/25/wdr-definition-local-food-act-ontario.html

2. What Does Organic Mean Anyway? Food Buzzwords Demystified. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQom1inHnkQ&feature=youtu.be

3. Case Studies: A hard look at GM crops. http://www.nature.com/news/case-studies-a-hard-look-at-gm-crops-1.12907