I am always on the lookout for unique deliciousness – home-made ingenuity, character, panache and gusto. Passion and hard work are perhaps the main ingredients in making dreams come true.
Vancouver Island is filled with such stories. Farmers and artisans from all walks of life who bring their own brand – mainstream or not – and make it work.
Don Genova, a Canadian Journalist, has written a very informative book with amazing home-grown recipes about the Food Artisans of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands that captures the spirit of this place off the west coast.
Don’s enthusiasm for local food, wine, ciders, farms and the people behind such artisanal exploits is inspiring and his book is a beautiful window on the options and opportunities as well as some amazing recipes. This book is a wonderful guide for foodies and those who engage in casual or serious travel-for-food – a virtual trip through bakeries, chocolatiers, cooking gear and kitchen shops, farms, specialty shops, butchers, charcutiers and salumists, sea food, specialty shops and even some recommended Saturday adventures. Start planning for your next vacation or your next escape!
After moving to Vancouver Island on a whim three years ago – not knowing much about the local farm or food scene – I was quickly drawn deep into the mystical feel of the land, nature and the potential to do and create in harmony with the planet. Very early on, I met many people who were on a path that was never even a consideration in my mind. But this is what this island and surrounding islands do, they gently nudge and offer.
Locally sourced and biodynamic stopped being abstractions and became reality. I wanted to support these people who worked their butts off and didn’t allow corporate cents and sensibilities to dictate their passion and vision.
My next expedition is to Alderlea Farm near Duncan, Vancouver Island, where Katy and John run a family friendly farm-to-table cafe and take part in community-supported agriculture.
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Bees are almost impossible to capture in action. They flutter about with such focus and determination, rarely stopping to pose for the camera. Whenever I water the garden, I am armed with my camera in hopes of capturing the abundant life, activity and beauty.
My hope is that such photographs capture the very interconnection and divinity of life that happens all around us, all the time. Blink and you miss it – perhaps even take it for granted. Without this microcosm of activity, there would be no food. We are all connected and depend on one another for survival, big or small.
All photographs by Jane Grueber 2017
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The sheer beauty of sun, sand and ocean waves is indescribable. I am always in awe of the immense power of water and bathe in the blues, greens and yellows of summer as often as possible. These photographs capture my love of the earth’s summer beauty.
Here are three good pieces on the current state of the world today. I hope they inspire you to look around and be the change we need.
- The future is living local, growing local, being a good neighbour and citizen. James Howard Kunstler exposes and asks critical questions about our current urban design and why we stopped developing places that are worth caring about. What has changed in the last 50 years in how we design the very places we inhabit? What does current architecture communicate to us? What does it really say about us? Do we use ‘Nature Band-Aids’ to remedy ‘mutilated urbanism’? Do current habitats induce anxiety and depression? (Note: contains foul language and intense cynicism). Put on your seat belts, the age of the 3000 mile Caesar Salad is coming to an end and I couldn’t agree more…
2. Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture News is a hub of useful and relevant articles available from his Permaculture Research Institute.
‘What is Permaculture? “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labor; of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.” Bill Mollison
3. This is a must read for those who are currently indifferent to or apathetic about Genetically Modified Organisms that flood our processed foods and crowd out supercenters. The jury is not out on GMO foods as some would have us believe and the hidden funding of ‘impartial’ academic research by big agro is the tip of the iceberg. This article was forwarded to me in the early morning hours by a very good friend of mine.
This article is about the impending defamation lawsuit launched by an academic who was called out by a New York Times journalist on his undisclosed research funding sources. I look forward to seeing all the evidence in this suit.
All photographs by Jane Grueber 2017
It is always so remarkable to see bees in action. As I read about whole bee colonies being doused out by synthetic agricultural chemicals around the world, it is my hope that these images speak to the beauty of those most vulnerable and those we take for granted. Nature isn’t here for us to use and abuse. Vote with your dollar for ethical companies and local food producers as much as possible. Plant flowers that nourish your local ecosystem. Grow your own food.
All photographs are from our garden.
All photography by Jane Grueber
“Fruit is nature’s purest and most immediate enjoyment, requiring nothing more than a rinse or simple rub on your shirt to clean it. From the fruit-eater’s point of view, it’s effortless pleasure. It demands non of the slicing, chopping soaking, or parboiling needed by vegetables. Even on a chemical level, its energy is more accessible, more mobile, with no complex starches to break down.” (MK Wyle in Greenhorns: The next generation of American Farmers, pg 97)
Improved Well-Being Linked to Growing Your Own
This will come as a surprise to no one, connecting to nature creates improved well-being. Research has repeatedly shown that sensory gardens and the practice of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing practiced in Japan), for example, have direct positive effects on emotional, cognitive and physiological well-being. So when I came upon a recent article from the Washington Post extolling the wonders and scientifically-proven benefits of involving children in gardening: building microbiomes, better attention skills and patience, trying the fruit and vegetables they helped to nurture along and growing happier and healthier kids overall, I wanted to share it and add to it. In my opinion, not only is growing food good for the individual, it is good for community and humanity; developing understanding, empathy, and compassion are direct side-effects of growing and sharing food.
It is encouraging to see that growing food as a family is becoming more common, again. As we pat ourselves on the back for reaching this get-back-in-the-garden milestone, it is important to remember that most of the world (other than North America) still grows its own food, as well as the food to satiate the ever expanding North American appetite. Families used to grow their own food in North America and Europe in the not-so-distant past. It’s what they needed to do in order to have something to eat. It’s important to not forget that growing our own food is not a new lofty ideal, it is imperative for health, food security and environmental regeneration.
In a recent book I read, Greenhorns: The next generation of American farmers, 50 new generation farmers discussed their modern day challenges with feeding the North American inflated expectations that fly directly in the face of growing food naturally and in sync with nature.
“In our supermarket culture, fruit has become so visual, so linked to beauty and perfection, that people ignore the fundamental paradox of modern fruit production – high levels of chemical are the cost of unscathed, ‘perfect-looking’ fruit. In pursuit of this ideal, we’ve lost a sense of what good fruit might actually look like, cosmetic imperfections and all.” (pg 98)
Can’t Grow? Help instead!
I am a huge advocate of growing our own food, regenerating soil, getting the whole family involved in the process, sharing the food we grow with neighbours and others who face food insecurity.
I am a big believer in ‘real food is medicine‘ – preventative medicine. The more we are in tune with Nature and eat what Nature provides, the more we may improve our body’s functioning, mental clarity and overall well-being.
If you are not able to grow your own, support those who can and who are growing their own.
- Contribute water to the community garden,
- Buy seeds for those who share their garden bounty with you,
- Share saved seeds,
- Buy a bag of organic worm castings to help your neighbour’s garden grow,
- Volunteer to glean your neighbour’s apple, cherry or pear trees.
- Learn about regenerative gardening and growing practices (e.g, permaculture) See the short video below…education is power.
Teach your whole family to be a part of the locally sourced, regenerative gardening/farming and organic food solution in what ever way, big or small. Teach your children about the importance of healthy soil, rampant food insecurity and how to create meaningful change in this world.
I woke up this morning to a great post written and illustrated by two women, Jennifer Luxton and Erin Sagen, titled Comic: Why You Should Turn Your Yard Into a Mini-Farm. Take the time to read it and get inspired to do things differently.
They wrote this article for YES! Magazine to incite people to ditch the 40.3 million acres of front lawns in the Continental US and to grow food, herbs and ‘weeds’ that are beneficial for humans, animals and the planet. I couldn’t agree more. Re-creating the vast suburban luscious greens lawns into mini-farms is the future of locally sourced, nutrient dense food as well as a way to create food security.
To get you started, here are some ideas for growing delicious edibles that are also wonderful for honeybees, bumblebees and other beneficial insects.
Herbs and Edible Flowers to Grow from YOUGROWGIRL!
- Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) [leaves, stems, and flowers]
- Basil (Ocimum spp.) [leaves, stems, and flowers]
- Bee Balm (Monarda) [leaves, stems, and flowers]
- Borage (Borago officinalis) [young greens and flowers]
- Brassica flowers (i.e kale, mustard greens)
- Calendula (Calendula officinalis) [flowers and young leaves]
- Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) [leaves, flowers, and bulbs]
- Dill (Anethum graveolens) [leaves, stems, and flowers]
- Edible weeds
- Garlic (Allium sativum) [flowers/scapes]
- Lavender (Lavandula spp.) [flower buds are best]
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) [leaves, stems, and flowers]
- Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) [leaves]
- Marigold (Tagetes spp.) [flowers and leaves of some species. Consume in moderation]
- Mint (Mentha spp.) [leaves, stems, and flowers]
- Nasturtium (Tropaelum majus) [flowers and young leaves]
- Oregano and Marjoram (Origanum spp.) [leaves, stems, and flowers]
- Pansies and violas (Viola cornuta, V. tricolor) [petals]
- Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) [leaves, stems, flowers, and roots]
- Add Pea flowers (Pisum sativum)
- Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) (flowers)
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) [leaves, stems, and flowers]
- Roses (Rosa spp.) [flowers and fruit/hips]
- Sage (Salvia spp.) [leaves, stems, and flowers]
- Scented Geranium (Pelargonium spp.) [leaves and flowers]
- Shiso (Perilla frutescens) [leaves, stems, and flowers]
- Sorrel (Rumex spp.) [young leaves are best]
- Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) [leaves and flowers]
- Sunflowers (Helianthus annus) [flower buds, petals, and seeds]
- Thyme (Thymus spp.) [leaves, stems, and flowers]
- Violet (Viola odorata) [flowers and young leaves]
Food Politics is one of my favorite blogs out there. It addresses the business that the food we eat truly is. Marion Nestle suggested a great read on her blog today about the development of Urban Food Policy – it’s about time.
Enjoy her brief blog post and links and pick up the book “What Makes Urban Food Policy Happen?” that highlights five successful urban policy case studies from around the world.
This book is a must read for those (like me) who want to create an Urban Food Policy in every town – rethinking the way we grow, transport, process and buy food.
“To the Wild Woman, being spiritual means whispering to the trees, laughing with flowers, falling in love with the sunset, consulting the waters and worshiping the stars at night. One hand to her heart and one hand toughing Mother Earth.” ~ Shikoba
These are recent photographs from our garden and our neighbourhood.
The summer and the entire growing season is going by so quickly. The garden changes almost daily and we are fully enjoying our harvest. Lettuces and spinach make for simple, flavor-filled salads. We shuck peas for breakfast, snack on strawberries, radishes and broccoli. We infuse our drinks with fragrant herbs and patiently await the arrival of our tomatoes and cucumbers. There’s nothing like a fresh salsa or bruschetta on a hot summer day.
Here are some photographs from our garden and its progress. I am really loving the companion plants we put in this year. Not only are they distracting pests of all sorts from the crops, they are a joy to look at.
It looks like a busy place but among all those companion plants, there are fruits and vegetables.
Giant dill that is now taller than our scarecrow.
Runaway cauliflower. If not harvested at the right time, it goes on to create little florets that are not very tasty.
As someone who loves cakes, I have been thoroughly enjoying the edible flowers in the garden as well. Flowers add such a lovely touch to the top of any cake without the need to go heavy on the icing.
These cake topping beauties attract bees. Borage flowers, the dashing blue stars, refill with nectar every two minutes and have a way of keeping the bees’ attention. I have been on a mission to capture a bee in action for some time. They flutter from flower to flower and are surprisingly difficult to capture.
I am in the process of starting up a larger Urban Garden Farm. I want to focus on growing specific greens and herbs that are known to be especially powerful for healing, or helping to ameliorate symptoms of, chronic conditions.
So now I am on a mission to find a polytunnel that will be a good fit for our back yard and for growing food free of chemicals or any off-farm inputs.
We will be sharing our debut book, Give Me Your Feet, as part of their Summer Reading Club.
Any questions? Please contact us here.