Monday, September 14, 2015

You Are What You Eat (feeding your food).

We sprouted whole wheat,
Covered it with water .
Stirred in some apple cider vinegar,
like they said,  and
it started to ferment.

Two containers, one to soak and sprout,
one to ferment.
Feed from the ferment. Replenish the ferment

Friday, February 14, 2014

Post-World Youth Chess Championship reflections

It's the start of a new year, 2014, the Year of the Horse.  The snowdrifts are creeping up the trunks of our fruit trees.  The silence of the wintry landscape is broken only by the occasional voices of chickadees and whiskey jacks, and of the dogs barking at distant coyotes and not-so-distant moose.  This makes it difficult to recall being in the Middle East just weeks ago.  The preparation, the trip itself, returning and recuperating (Kai brought home a cold bug and generously shared it with his folks), took a good chunk of time and energy out of our year, including the entire Christmas season.   Sometimes it seems as if the whole thing was just part of a dream, or a movie starring familiar actors whose names I can't quite remember.

 It was an extraordinary experience, one which we are still digesting.  I was never a part of anything so huge when I was Kai's age.  I don't think he fully understands that not everyone gets the opportunity to travel to the other side of the planet, or to participate in such a large scale international competition, all before the age of 11.  He says it was cool.
 One thing is for certain - Kai will carry a part of this experience with him for the rest of his life, as will myself and Scott, but for Kai it will undoubtedly loom much larger.  One of those unforgettable formative blips in a young one's existence.

Left Al Ain sadly, a beautiful oasis in the desert.  Palm tree-lined throughways, low-lying burnt orange buildings a few shades lighter than the ever-present sand dunes visible just beyond the rooftops.  We did manage to get to the desert by hiring a taxi to drive us to the city limits and wait for us as we ran barefoot into the dunes.  The thrill was tempered somewhat by nearby SUV-driving yahoos (similar to some of the snowmobile-driving ones back home) but we managed to climb and roll far enough away to get some sense of the mind-blowing vastness of the desert.
Visited the world's largest shopping mall in search of souvenirs, but were defeated by the seemingly endless covered walkway (serviced by a string of moving sidewalks) that connected the metro station to the mall proper.  By the time the actual shops began to appear,  all we could think of was finding food and escaping.  We did manage an escape of sorts, and ended up in the mall's theatre complex watching the Hobbit, with Arabic subtitles.  On the way out, we did see the mall's aquarium, which must have been about 3 floors high and housed stingrays, sharks and eels among countless other forms of marine life.  Quite stunning, and surreal, sitting amidst Starbucks, the Gap and other familiar retail names.
Still needed to pick up souvenirs so the following day we headed back to the old part of the city, this time starting from Bur Dubai, then crossing the Creek by abra (water taxi) to Deira, which we'd explored the first time.  Lots of narrow alleyways, colourful storefronts with apartments above, noisy hawkers.  Kai had his first drink of coconut juice from a green coconut, wandered through the Spice Souk and Gold Souk (one of the biggest gold markets in the world), had some tasty paneer and mutton kebabs, back to the hostel.
 Got to know the metro system, where there is a women and children's car which men are supposed to stay out of during peak hours, as well as a Gold car, which is roomier and costs more.  Every stop is announced in both Arabic and English, the diversity of passengers is fascinating, everyone is very polite and quick to give up seats to women with children.  I don't remember seeing any elderly people on the metro.  I read that expats must leave the country once they are no longer employed.  And perhaps Emirati elders take cabs.
Our final day in the UAE was spent relaxing on the sands of the Arabian Gulf before the gruelling trip home.  We rented an umbrella for 10 Dh and staked out a spot on the sparsely populated beach.  The Hungarian couple who had given us directions to the beach had declined to swim (too cold. Only Russians swim there at this time of year.  And perhaps a few Canadians, they had chuckled).  The water was cooler than I had expected, but lovely once in.  I realized I was floating effortlessly for the first time in my life. Salt. We swam, Kai built fortresses, across the water from Iran, and Iraq. 
 The metro was packed, and the hostel manager was unable to call a taxi to the airport for us due to the crowds heading to the World's Tallest Building (the Burj Khalifa, which we had seen from the World's Largest Shopping Mall) to see Biggest Fireworks Display Ever.  We did make it to the airport, dragging our suitcases through the crowds at the metro, and departed from Dubai at 11pm, just missing the New Year's extravaganza (see Dubai New Year's fireworks on YouTube)

 The bright sunshine, the sub -35C mornings, the pots of soup on the crackling woodstove, are the things shaping our thoughts right now.   And it's all good.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Bushcraft and Sustainable Garden

We live in the bush and have created a garden that was unheard of in these parts. In fact, the old timers thought we were crazy. Cultivating wild flowers, greens and vegetables along with domestic greens and vegetables. Enriching the soil with what is around us. Doing it all by hand with the help from tools we've made. Simply. Leaving a light footprint.
We call it bushcraft gardening.
150lbs of tomatoes

We've learned about patience, stamina and how to relax here.

Fruit trees have been difficult but now we have a small orchard. Between moose, deer, bears, voles and mice it has been a challenge.

Honey bees have been emotionally draining because they die from causes we can't control but now they are thriving.

We now raise them in empty boxes, no frames, They build their own natural comb all the way down. We've combined a traditional Japanese method with Warre managment methods. No chemicals, no treatments.

Growing our own food has taught us in between frost, hail, bear, moose and deer, birds, rabbits, mice, voles, bugs, hillbilly pigs and the dreaded free range cattle to relax. The boreal forest is filled with animals that want almost everything that we grow.

This gardening method is sustainable, organic and has very little impact .

It's a state of mind going into the wilderness with nothing but seeds and a shovel, an open mind, relaxed and keenly observing your surroundings with a sense of freedom and balance.

Everything around you may have a use for your bush garden. Rocks act like sinks storing heat energy from the sun that can offset cool nights. They are fertilizers slowly giving important nutrients to the soil. They collect and trap water. They can also be protection from animals and cover for others, like toads.
That old stump – do I remove it, or can I plant a garden around it and let it slowly fertilize?
Rocks picked for a garden wall
Rotten wood has got to be the supreme bush fertilizer adding organic material and fluffing up heavy soil.There are droppings from animals like deer, moose and rabbit which are good "on the spot" fertilizers.

Harvesting what you need with care and never taking more than 1/3 of anything.

Surviving with respect and again, with a light foot step
Those “weeds” or wildflowers – pull them out or cultivate them, let them flower to attract the bees.

If the location of your plot is covered with grass or weeds turn it over and leave it in place. It will decompose and become food for your plants.

Fireweed shoots--Excellent greens

Certain bugs, wild plants and critters can help. In a wilderness garden you may cultivate dandelions, wild onions, wild parsnip, lambs quarters, mushrooms, chickweed, cattails. In fact one could have an excellent wild garden cultivating just wild plants.
Crops like garlic, potatoes and broad (fava) beans can be grown without the stress of everything else wanting to eat them. We grow these crops without any protection.

I asked my son what his first thought was on our gardening in the bush. He said food.
It is about the food, the sustenance.

Soil, your climate, exposure to
the sun, access to water, location of your plot, predators...

We've been fertilizing by mulching with green grass (before it goes to seed) covered with an inch of sand then covered with an inch of rotten wood. We have some chicken manure that we fertilize beans and greens with. After the crop is harvested we plant rye grass or Chinese vegetables. When the thick head is 6 to 8 inches high we turn it over.
17 years Aki and I have done it this way. Kai can pick any 2 x 2 foot spot in the garden and pick enough worms for a day of fishing trout.

Aki and Scott

Our business,

Friday, December 28, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

Swamped... A Forest Falls

I watched a tiny spider
Scurry across our rural road
Leaving no visible tracks
On the freshly fallen snow
It stopped at the edge of a sudden crevass
Left just moments before by our dog
Walking beside me
The spider hesitated
Then dropped into the abyss
Scrambled about the toe holes
Then back up to the surface
On the same side
The wrong side. A pause
The spider dropped back
Into the crevass
Scrambled about the toe holes
This time she crawled up the other side
And continued on her way
Leaving no visible tracks
On the freshly fallen snow

Aki is showing some of her work in a solo show on May 3rd through to May 31st.

The show is upstairs at the Station House Art Galley, Williams Lake, British Columbia.