Finances: Daily Mindfulness and Long Term Planning

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Our big August theme concerns finances. With big life changes and shifts happening for all of us in
the past while and the near future, we have all had money on the brain.

In the spirit of “being prepared” here is a link to information about setting up a will:
Wills: some helpful info

Now let’s enjoy some August bounty!

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Hard work ahead!

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Food waste

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Continuing along the theme of Waste Reduction… I’m loving the posts on composting as I’ve been thinking a lot about food waste lately.

Summer is the season of abundance. There are so many amazing things to eat, so much lovely produce growing in the garden (did I tell you about my massive Radicchio crop this year? Have I tried to pawn some off on you yet?) and there are just so many temptations available at the local markets. It’s also the season for BBQs and potluck get-togethers with family and friends, which of course means crazy left-overs for the hosts and an abundance of delish little tidbits hiding in the refridgerator! Which means that if we aren’t careful about getting to those left-overs they quickly morph into crazy little science experiments at the back of the fridge, on the counter top and in the garden… I’d really like to avoid the penicillium covered bread and bortytis-affected strawberries this year and maybe save a little on my grocery bill so that I can afford a bit of gourmet, mouldy cheese!  So… that’s why I’ve been thinking a lot about food waste.

I was checking out some info on an organization near and dear to my heart – FarmFolk CityFolk, down in Vancouver and to my delight they have just launched a new program called Foodprint http://www.farmfolkcityfolk.ca/projects/foodprint/

There’s some pretty cool resources on the site, including an “Eat in time” chart. In the spirit of waste reduction,  I’m thinking of signing up for the Foodprint Challenge – want to join me?

 

Nobody Likes to See Good Food Go To Waste^ - N...

Nobody Likes to See Good Food Go To Waste^ – NARA – 533917 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Haikus: not just for elementary school

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One of the writing tasks from my week at Sorrento Centre with Heather Jessup (author of “The Lightning Field”) involved a contemplative walk on the on-site labyrinth followed by the composition of some haikus.

One of the developments in haiku lately is that the writer no longer must stick to the traditional rules of 5 syllables-7 syllables-5 syllables. Instead, the focus is on capturing a moment in nature and making it come alive, possibly with a transformation or significant moment. So, I aimed for that. Am I an expert? Heck, no! Did I feel connected to nature as I wrote? Absolutely. For me, that means the goal was accomplished.

Cabana picnic table
Gathers people in
New stories

—————–

Sun formed body
changes slowly.
Whose shadow?

——————

Waving daisies up
stems thin but strong
down roots grow

—————–
Visitors from different times
same time
now

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Beautiful flowers on site at Sorrento.
http://www.heatherjessup.ca/
Check out Heather’s website for some inspiration!

Just Put On Your Pants: Getting Back to Writing.

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I returned to the Senior-level English classroom in September 2012. Since then, while I have been able to be creative in my lesson planning and assignments, I have also spent an inordinate amount of time as a consumer of writing. I’m not sure exactly how many pieces of student writing I read during the school year, but with up to 150 students at one time, multiplied by at least one significant writing assignment every week or so, it equals a lot. I would do the math, but that’s not my specialty. 😉

One thing I have really missed this year has been the time and inspiration to engage in my own writing. So, my goal for the first week of summer was to reconnect with my writer’s voice by taking a creative writing course at Sorrento Centre, an amazing retreat centre in the Shuswap region of BC.

The course was led by Heather Jessup, a creative writing doctoral candidate and recent sessional instructor at Dalhousie University. Heather is also an old friend, so that made the opportunity even better.

We spent 3 hours a day for 5 days working on various prompts, reading sample pieces and generally getting right down into the dirt of finding words to tell stories.

The biggest lesson I took away from the week (which was completely amazing, worthwhile and inspiring) is that the most important thing any of us can do is (metaphorically) just put our pants on. What does this mean? Well, when avoiding exercise, merely putting on the running tights and sneakers is usually enough to get out the door. When taking care of chores, setting a timer and just picking up the cleaner will probably do it. With writing, we learned that starting with 5 minutes and low expectations can often be enough to get the creativity flowing.

Based on that, I put on my pants (and put down the procrastinatory summer margarita) and started this blog post.

The picture is a sample of one of our exercises, involving the 3 main pieces of a story (character + desire, rising action, resolution) which we then mixed up for fun. So cool (and useful in my classroom, which is helpful too)!

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Adventures in Composting…

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Beginnings…

I was lucky enough to get an awesome composting lesson from Molly at the farm on Tuesday. It was great! Super hot out but our little buddies (Gus and Jonah) were on their best behaviour while we dug through dirt and talked compost…

I learned a ton about how to make composting easier, but most of all, I learned that if you have all the right ingredients easily accessible, it is quite easy to make your compost work. My biggest question for Molly was how to balance greens and browns in the compost. I also had questions about how much moisture should be added… and of course, I wanted to know any hints she had for sticking with it as I have failed at composting MANY times before.

So, it wasn’t until Saturday that I had time to devote to restarting our compost. Both Alya and Jonah napped for the same 2 hours (miracle!) so i got to hit it hard and finished the whole task at once without interruption (another miracle!).

Here is a brief play-by-play of my composting adventure…

The first task was to unearth the compost from behind the garage. It was buried behind pieces of plywood, a large over- grown weed/bush, and a road hockey net among other things. David dug it up for me and I was shocked at what I found inside! Beautiful rich gorgeous soil!

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Ok, a few rocks and things but considering all we had done for 2 years was dump kitchen waste into it and that we literally had not touched it in a year, it was incredible soil. I don’t mean to get all eco-geek corny here but I was honestly humbled and amazed by this feat of nature. With almost no effort  from me (aside from chucking the stuff in there) these little organisms had worked there little butts off and created soil. Sooooo cool.

Task number two was to separate this beautiful soil from the rocks, garbage, and other things that had made their way into the compost. I wanted to use it to start off the new compost.

I actually loved getting my hands right in there with the critters, spiders and dirt…

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On the left, beautiful separated soil. Middle, soil about the be separated, and on the right, rocks etc. that were taken out.

After the separation process, I had to decide where my new compost would live. I wanted it in a place that would be easy to access, but away from the house in case it got a little stinky. I also wanted to have enough room to have my trusty container of maple leaves nearby (more on the leaves later) and a spot that would not become cluttered like the last location. I decided to put it behind our garden shed in the corner of our yard.

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Our compost’s new home.

Next, I got to work laying down my base for the compost to sit on. One of the many things I learned from Molly is that it is helpful to lay down some sticks or rocks so that air can circulate through at the bottom and so that excess moisture can drain out easily. I decided on a stick configuration.

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Next I placed my Green Machine on top of the sticks. Then I added some of my above mentioned beautiful compost soil…

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Next came a sprinkling of dried maple leaves from Molly’s farm 🙂 Thanks! This is one of the life- changing compost lessons I learned from Molly- keep a pile of dried brown stuff beside the compost and every time I add kitchen waste, I also add a sprinkling of maple leaves. This was always my problem- too much green stuff and not enough brown… Having it right beside the compost makes it so easy to maintain a balance!

Next came the kitchen waste on top…

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Then another sprinkling of maple leaves on top for good luck!Image

And…. DONE !! Yay!! 🙂

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The last part of the process that I haven’t tackled yet is to set up my containers inside the house so that it is easy to collect the different types of composting materials… I am thinking of putting some little signs on the containers too so that all members of the family will know what goes where… 🙂

Big Take Away Lessons of This Project :

1) Composting is not as hard as it seems. The secret (like many things) is in the preparation and organization upfront.

2) Having a stock pile of brown items is a must. Keep them beside the compost and add a little every time you add kitchen waste. Molly has lots of leaves to share with y’all 🙂

3) Moisture is important. Too much and it will be a soppy stinky festering pile. Too little, and the organisms won’t have enough to moisture to survive and do their thang…

4) This project rocks. I felt so excited and motivated to tackle this whole composting thing mostly because I knew that I would be able to share it with you and that you would be excited and supportive 🙂 It was so fun to learn from Molly and then put my new knowledge into action!

So satisfying to get this project underway! Huge thanks to Molly for the great lesson and making me realize that it is not as hard as I thought to compost! Also thanks to the rest of you for being awesome and making me accountable and excited to share my composting story!

Until next time!

Practical composting – step by step

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Two days worth of Kitchen waste, including citrus peels, strawberry tops, lettuce trimmings, coffee grounds, egg shells and a paper napkin-  all ready for the composter.

Here we are looking into the Earth Machine and getting ready to start the composting process…
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Step 1. Add kitchen waste. Step 2. Cover with a layer of dry leaves.DSC04760
Step 3. Water! Especially the sides of the bin where the composter dries out the most.
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(Alternatively) Step 4. Add a layer of grass clippings after mowing the lawn.
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Step 5. Top with Wood chips (or more leaves, prunings, straw, other brown materials you might have).
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Keep layering, watering and stirring (twice a month!) and after waiting patiently… Voila! DSC04759
Compost! Rich, dark, sweet smelling – Compost is a great source organic matter, full of nutrients and is now ready to be used on your garden, lawn, flower pots and house plants.

Composting Demonstration

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Mixing Greens and Browns…

Greens are low in fibre, high in nitrogen and break down quickly. Too much green can leave your compost wet and stinky! Greens need to be mixed with browns to avoid creating a wet sludge in your composter. The browns are tough, fibrous and slow to decay. It may be best to chop, shred or grind up your browns depending on their size, for easier mixing with the greens.

For the kitchen composter, I find that a layer of greens (kitchen waste) topped by a layer of browns (dry maple leaves) works well.

Quick Tips for collecting materials:

  • Save bags of leaves in the fall to use as browns during the next spring and summer.
  • You can pick up bags of coffee grounds at most Starbucks and some local coffee shops.
  • Put prunings in a black plastic bag and leave to heat up/break down before adding to compost.
  • Adding a little finished compost to a new pile is a good way to introduce microorganisms.

Setting up your composter:

  1. Place composter on soil. Bare ground is good for your composter as microbes and other soil organisms can come up into the composter from the soil.
  2. Add some sticks, twigs, chopped up leaves or straw on the bottom to let air circulate.
  3. Layer your greens on top of the sticks and cover with a layer of browns. Keep alternating layers as you fill the bin. (Covering up with browns on top layer may help keep flies down!)
  4. Water dry ingredients and/or mix dry ingredients with wet ones.
  5. Cover the bin, to allow contents to heat up.
  6. Stir/turn contents 2 times per month to get air into the composter and allow for the pile to heat up again.

What does “finished” compost look like?

Compost is ready to use when the ingredients are broken down and no longer recognizable. The compost will have a crumbly texture and be dark brown in colour. It should have little smell or maybe a little “Earthy” or slightly sweet. It should not smell mouldy or “rotten”!

Resources:

 Regional District of Central Okanagan: Waste Reduction Office http://www.regionaldistrict.com/services/regional-waste-reduction-office.aspx

RDCO Composting Page: http://www.regionaldistrict.com/services/regional-waste-reduction-office/reduce-and-reuse/backyard-is-best/composting.aspx

Backyard composter Brochure (RDCO): http://www.regionaldistrict.com/media/21586/CompostingBackyardBrochure.pdf

 For fun! Spring Gillard writes about Composting, Agriculture and Food: http://www.compostdiary.com/

Composting Techniques- Magazine article: http://www.canadiangardening.com/how-to/organic-gardening/three-composting-techniques/a/44176

 

Type A Goal Oriented People with a Desire to Re-Connect to Everything

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This Re-Connection Project is a collaboration between a group of friends who, in an effort to be their best selves, felt they needed to re-connect to family, friends, our food and the Earth.
Every meeting will require delicious, healthy, and as local as possible food & wine.  Of course.

Every meeting will require delicious, healthy, and as local as possible food & wine. Of course.

It all started when we decided to connect for a long overdue get-together.  We met at the playground of course, because, in case you can’t tell, the demographic of the group are women in the early 30s (ok…borderline mid…) who inevitably have a few toddlers between them.   While sharing a picnic among playing children, the conversation turned to personal goals that seemed to be constantly in a holding pattern. While we all felt like we were doing a good job of living ethically and responsibly, we did not feel like we were doing quite enough to achieve our goals of treading lightly and living with integrity.  As we shared our individual goals (learn to compost! find a cow share! make homemade bread with fewer preservatives! make homemade cleaning products!) we realized we all had similar stumbling blocks with many goals.  The knowledge and resources to achieve relatively simple goals seemed to be as much a challenge as the usual “excuses” (time and money).  For example, where do you buy a cow share and how do you actually adopt a flexible 100 mile diet?  So we decided that we would actually do something about it – create a structure to help each other individually and collectively set and achieve personal goals.  And, on that beautiful spring day, we were all inspired. And the “Re-Connection Project” was born.

There is a difference between scratching your ass and scratching it right off.

We all needed support to achieve these hamster-wheel goals; but we also respect a guilt-free environment to do so. It is OK to switch to cloth diapers for most days, but use disposables on a road trip.  It is ok to eat non-local grain fed chicken at friends house for dinner. We do not want to turn ourselves into obsessed crazy people. But we do want to encourage, support and help each other with our goals.  So we decided that we would start a structured “goals” club – kind of like a book club.  We brainstormed monthly themes that are broad enough for each person to select their own goals within the theme. Then we plan to meet monthly, discuss progress on the previous month’s achievements and set goals and strategies for next month.  Whenever possible, we will have a hands-on component: guest chef, garden experiment, make-your-own cleaning products, etc.  Each of us has expertise in a certain area and will be the expert leader for that month – connecting the rest of us to resources and ideas and organizing that month’s meeting.

 Do you get the feeling that there are a few first born, type A, teachers in this group?

Check, check, check.  We may not have much time to get together as friends to hang out anymore, but add some structure and goals to the scene and suddenly we have an excuse to get together, share some food and wine, and help each other live sustainable and balanced lives. Our husbands are wary of our “meetings” but we know it is more than just a friendly hangouts: we have developed structures and agendas to our monthly meetings so that we meet our goals.  We are excited and inspired to get on board and help ourselves and each other re-connect to things important to us, which includes being a better citizen of our local and global community.  Much of our energy and enthusiasm comes from the desire to do the right thing and re-connect to family, friends, our food and the Earth.  Just the basics!

Accountability and Sharing

Just as we are using each other for inspiration and support, we thought that we could extend the invitation to old and new friends who are also keen to make changes in their lives by creating an online sharing portal.  So we are creating this blog – partly as a way for us to keep in touch and share ideas between our meetings, but also as a way to connect to other people with ideas they can share with us or ideas they can steal from us.  So please, if you have something positive to contribute, don’t be shy!

 

Aside

Our next meeting is July 2nd and this month’s theme is Waste Reduction!

Several of our group expressed an interest in reducing the amount of waste created around our homes. Whether it be tackling that overflowing garbage can, minimizing the limp veggies and other nasties growing in our fridges or opting for products with less (ridiculous!) packaging … we each have a different goal for this  month’s theme but composting resonated with each of us. It seems that composting home and garden waste is something we want to be doing but could use a little push to start doing, do more of or do better!

“The ground’s generosity takes in our compost and grows beauty! Try to be more like the ground.”-RUMI

English: Home Composting, Roubaix, France Fran...

Home Composting, Roubaix, France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Composting is an active, microbial process – in order for soil microbes to function (and survive!) they need three important things…  

1. Air

2.Water

3.Food

Sound like any other organisms you know?

To be successful at composting you will need the following materials…

  1. Vessel for your compost (Earth Machine, Food cone, Worm box, Barrel, Pallets, etc.)
  2. Kitchen vessel to collect materials, preferably with a lid (an ice cream bucket, pail, Tupperware).
  3. Water!
  4. Shovel
  5. Green and Brown materials

GREENS

BROWNS

OTHER ITEMS

AVOID

Vegetable waste

Dog hair/Hair

Egg shells (Calcium!)

Meat/Fish/Cheese

Weeds

Straw

Wood Ash

Dog/Cat Feces

Green Leaves

Old, dry leaves

Cardboard

Dog/Cat Litter

Flowers

Manure mixed with straw bedding

Newspaper, shred or torn

Cooking oil, grease

Grass Clippings

Corn/Sunflower stalks

Sea shells, oyster shells (ground)

Plastic bags, twist ties & tabs

Coffee grounds, Tea leaves & bags

Paper bags, coffee filters, napkins, paper towel

Feathers (Nitrogen)

Poisonous plants

Soft prunings

Old, dry prunings

Wool or other natural fibres

Perennial weeds

Practical Composting