Month: June 2015

For the Love of Garlic Scapes – 10 Ways to Use Them!

Our garlic scapes are now coming fast and furious!  They are a wonderful byproduct of growing garlic, since by harvesting, the garlic bulbs grow much larger.  In the interest of making no waste, we use every single one!  I get asked a lot what we do with them all, so I thought others may have the same question!  Here is a list of 10 ways we use garlic scapes:

  1. In stirfry!  Slice them into pieces a few centimeters long (about an inch) and throw them in!
  2. Grill them whole on the barbeque or by using a grill over an open fire.
  3. Make garlic scape pesto.  I have used this recipe in the past, and it turned out well.  For me it was nice to cut the raw garlic bite with a bit of spinach and parsley.
  4. Pickle them!  Use a favourite pickle recipe or lacto-fermentation method.  We used a favourite pickled bean recipe and they turned out great.
  5. Throw sliced scapes in with roasted vegetables.  Chop a variety of root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.) and scapes into 1 inch pieces/cubes.  Cover root vegetables and scapes with olive oil or cut chunks of butter on top of the mix, sprinkle on some salt, and other spices (cayenne and thyme are two of our favourites) if you like,  and roast at 350˚ for about an hour.
  6. Chop finely and use in place of garlic.
  7. Blend into a paste by adding some oil and use as a garnish on soups or to flavour dips (like hummus) and dressings.
  8. Chop coarsely and add to soups or stews.
  9. If you don’t have time to deal with them all, they freeze very well and can be thawed and used later in all of your culinary delights.
  10. I saved my favourite until last…most of our scapes end up as garlic scape powder.  It takes up far less space to store than the scapes themselves, and I haven’t bought garlic powder in years!  To make it, se blend the scapes in our food processor, dry them in the dehydrator, then when they come out dried, we blend them again to make a powder.  To vouch for it’s awesomeness, it sells for over $25 per 100g!

Top 10 Permaculture Parenting Tips

When I think about what it means to me to be a ‘Permaculture Parent’ I feel that it really is defined by my approach to life.  Looking for ways to live more in line with the Permaculture principles is a way of approaching life.  When I change, those around me change.  When I learn, those around me learn.  Permaculture is a design process by which you observe nature and try to learn as much as possible about natural systems.  I see my family as a natural system.  I, as part of the system influence all other parts of the system.  When I change, the system changes because part of it is new, and it must adapt.

Permaculture is more than a design system for me.  It is a way of thinking about and approaching the world.  We consider as much as possible in our lives how to live by nature’s patterns.  I am constantly self-reflective in order to observe and interact with my own behaviour patterns.  The beauty (and most difficult part) of having children is that they allow your dark side to surface so easily.  Despite the deep love and reverence I have for my children, the day to day living with three little beings that all need help from me pushes me into my edges of human capacity.  Of course it is in these edges that the most growth will occur.  In these moments of being stretched, the tiny cracks in my psyche expand and allow for patterns from my past to emerge.  There is often no time to ‘catch myself’ before reacting.  But these unsavoury moments become fodder for where to turn my attention next.  I try to view each challenge as a guild project, one that needs careful attention in order to discover a way to make the many different levels of the situation work together to support each other rather than out-compete.

When I read other people’s articles about parenting, I love succinct lists of practical changes I can make, things I can do right away!  The difficulty with Permaculture, and parenting, is that neither one offers clear cut answers.  The approach is just that…a set of guidelines by which to structure your actions.  They both take thought, engagement, careful observation and response.  But in the interest of providing something useful that helps to bring focus to a sea of grey areas, I have put together this list of 10 ways I try to be a better Permaculture Parent:

  1. Slow down the pace of life, remove the excess, simplify: physically, emotionally and mentally.  We constantly ask ourselves if things are ‘necessary,’ because if they’re not, the outcome also isn’t worth it.  In the spaces we create, creativity blossoms.  We try to disengage with the ‘overculture’ of consumerism, technology, fear, control, apathy, etc., as much as possible, carefully considering where to place our engagement.  We try to be present and mindful to the situation at hand, knowing that everything else will wait.
  2. Respond rather than react – I try to take a deep breath to reconnect with the Earth before responding to any given situation, there are very few situations that cannot withstand a 10 second delay in response.  This is also modelling a great skill for my children to learn that will serve them.  Taking pause allows me to observe before interacting, by this I mean mainly observing my own inner landscape!
  3. Get outside.  Spend loads of unstructured time in nature.  It’s hard to recognize ourselves as part of nature if we are separating ourselves from it.
  4. Accept feedback in all its forms.  As difficult as it is to take a critical look at my role in my children’s behaviour (especially those rough times), usually the root cause of the turbulence is that I’ve inadvertently created a climate of ‘control.’  If I can find a way to release my ‘old paradigm’ approach to controlling my children and look for creative and less obvious solutions to work cooperatively, I can usually turn things around in a hurry.  The trust required for this took  several months to build.  I had to learn to trust that there was another way that would work, and my children needed to trust that I could change my way of engaging with them indefinitely.  It takes radical trust to allow our children to receive their own feedback and respond to it, but when I am able to step back and observe (with the help of sportscasting or non-judgmentally verbalizing the events of a conflict), it is amazing what solutions the children reach for their own problems – ones that wouldn’t have been obvious or fair in the eyes of an adult.  In treating problems between my children this way, we are also allowing them to learn fundamental Permaculture skills.   Aside from behavioural conflicts, we try to communicate clearly, about everything.  If my children ask a question, I try to give as complete an answer as possible while still being age appropriate.  Our children want feedback about their world and experiences too!
  5. Enjoy time together as a family as much as possible – I have learned to find joy and gratitude in tiny spaces to combat the illusion of drudgery…most of the time.
  6. Practice and teach extreme empathy.  “The Golden Rule” is prevalent in our home.  Not just applied to others in our home, but to all beings, plants, and Mother Nature herself.  My hope is to help my children know and feel the impact they are having on everything around them, since everything in this living system called Earth, is connected.  I hope to help them understand that they are only in control of their own actions, but that their participation in the system will ripple out in positive and/or negative ways.  When my children are upset, the first thing I do is empathize with them, despite my gut reaction to apply logic or quell their emotional response.
  7. We find small solutions to big problems.  I have started to focus on one small thing at a time to try and make change happen and sustain.  For example, I wanted to have a moment of gratitude before sharing our meals, so we started saying a family blessing.  It has taken a while for it to become routine, but now the children remind us if we forget.  We were also having difficulty with tidy up time (a time rife with the temptation to control!).  I started having a tidy up time every day before dinner.  Once dinner was ready to serve, we’d tidy until the house was clean, then eat.  It has also become a pattern we’ve been able to stick to.  I’ve taken to tackling one thing at a time, until it’s established.  Related to this, I have made many mistakes along the way.  When something doesn’t work, or fails to flourish, I try another approach to the same problem.  Being willing to take chances and make (many) mistakes in the process of trial and error is part of the learning process.
  8. We carefully consider the foundation of our children’s days.  Their basic needs are an essential way for my children to catch and store energy.  In our house, sleep is treated as sacred.  We try to work our activities around sleep routines so that my children have enough rest to participate fully in life and with their best selves.  We also make food a priority by consuming nourishing sustenance.  My children help with planting, tending, harvesting, preserving, and preparing food where possible.  We engage with food on as many levels as possible. If you consider other mammals, they spend most of their time eating, drinking and sleeping.  We should also afford these things as much value as possible.
  9. Set clear limits, and allow things to run a bit wild within the defined boundaries.  Our top concern when setting boundaries is safety.  Apart from that, we have certain things which are not tolerated in our home: violence, disrespect of people or destruction of property.  These are hard and fast.  We debate about the best ways to ensure these expectations are met, and have tried many things!  Luckily, since there are few of them, and we always follow through with some method of dealing with the problem, we don’t have to address this issue too often.  Where possible we try to use relevant meaningful consequences.  For example, if you colour on the desk, you clean it up with guidance.  If you upset someone, find some way to make it right (apologise, give the toy back, do something to make the person feel better).  If you throw your food, you clean it up and you can can choose to eat what was thrown or be finished eating (make no waste!).  Our philosophy is similar to that of good design principles.  If we put the time in up front, at the messy design stage of planning, the long term yields will be much higher.  All that being said, we do give time outs for physical violence, as we feel strongly that this is not acceptable in our home and sometimes a timeout is warranted for the safety of all involved.  Most of the behavioural guidance we offer our children comes in the form of asking questions to provoke extreme empathy or by having them predict what might happen if they carry through with an action (for example what might happen if we ran across the street without looking?).  As far as what is and is not acceptable in our home, it is family choice based on our own comfort levels.  We set many smaller limits, but these are situational.  A great tip I follow from Janet Lansbury is that if something is making you feel uncomfortable, set a clear limit and if you have lost your temper, you waited too long to set that limit.  After I set limits, I refer back to the question ‘is it necessary,’ since sometimes these limits are not genuinely serving a need, but come from the overculture, and require a more scrutinous look at a later time.  I am often trying to push my edge as to what ways I can continue to offer my children more freedom.  In the moment where I am dealing with the child, I will set the limit, because it can always be changed, with a new clearly defined boundary in the future.
  10. Awaken curiosity.  There is so much humans don’t understand.  Invite surprise.  Discover together.  Learn together.  Grow together.  Accept growth as a messy process that doesn’t always look pretty.

Summer Freedoms

I love this time of year.  This time of year where snack time means wild foraging.  Strawberries, mulberries, black caps, sorrel, wood sorrel, clover, mallow.  It is a time where shoes (and pants) are optional.  A time where dirt is added to our diet like a food group.  There are special memories being made under this summer sun.  They are the memories that will feed my children’s future.  They will know how to find food to eat from the wild.  But more importantly, they will know how to find and experience joy.  Summer days are made for love.

Enabling Reacting

I have received a few big news events via email over the past couple of weeks.  I wanted to fire off an email immediately to participate in the conversation and share my initial reactions to these pieces of news, but stopped myself.  If I hastily send something, I often regret what I did or didn’t write, and ultimately think of the email I wished I had crafted after the fact.  In conversations this is not possible, but with the space and distance created by technology, I am afforded time to ponder a response before committing to it.  So in these more recent instances of receiving news via email, I’ve chosen to wait to reply.  What I have found is that it’s given me time to digest the information and be sure that I’m responding to the email rather than typing a reaction.

Social media is rife with reactionary slews.  Everyone seems to have opinions about everything – which is true in real time as well, it’s just that people have the discretion not to verbalize it, and body language can be selectively ignored.  There is something about the disconnect created while using the internet that allows people to feel they can react however they please to another person.  It is as if people forget that it was indeed a person on the other end of the mechanized network that expressed a thought or feeling.  Our disconnectedness breeds disconnectedness.

After going through this thought process, it struck me that our digital age enables reaction.  Replying to an email or Facebook post is as efficient as placing a few quick keystrokes and mouse clicks.  The act creates a one sided conversation.  When most of our communication is non-verbal, using technology to communicate changes the very communication itself.

Responding rather than reacting allows for growth.  Self-regulation and listening to feedback.  Slow and small solutions. Observing and interacting.  When I act to quickly I assert my agenda as more important than other beings around me…human or otherwise.  I am questioning the role of the internet has in our current global situation.  I am thinking about how much our engagement with the digital world influences our reactions in the real time world.  I am wondering how the internet might be used to help us move away from our reactive cultural norms.  I am also curious how many people are participating this technologically enabled one sided conversation…

Strawberry Rhubarb Apple Fruit Leather

Summer has arrived, and so has an abundance of fruit!  I am so excited to be preserving fruit from our land for the coming winter months.  We have collected rhubarb and strawberries and wanted to preserve what we’re unable to eat fresh.  I have been freezing berries whole and unwashed, so they don’t stick together.  I tried my hand at slicing the berries and drying them.  This was good, but I like making fruit leathers with apple added in to ‘stretch’ the berries further.  Although apples are out of season currently where we live, I went to a local orchard who was clearing out their crop from last year that have been stored all winter – apples perfect for drying.  I was able to get two bushels of Ida Red apples for $15 CAD!

Here is what I did for our Strawberry Rhubarb Apple Fruit Leather:

4 cups coarsely chopped rhubarb

8 cups strawberries, hulls removed

12 cups apples (I used 15, cores removed but left the skin on)

In batches, blend all the ingredients in a food processor.  Combine in a large bowl.  Spoon onto teflon sheets, being sure to make the outer edges slightly thicker to help with consistent drying.  Turn dehydrator on to 145˚ for approximately 45 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 115˚ and leave running over night.  The taste is delicious with no need for added sweeteners!

(In case you’re wondering, we use the Excalibur 9 tray dehydrator and the Paraflexx Sheets)

Missing Out

The downside of a digitized culture is that it makes it so easy to feel like we’re ‘missing out’ on things.  Here I find another place where I’m unlearning what has been bestowed upon me.  I will on occasion experience feelings of loss because of the choices we’re making as a family to diverge from mainstream culture.  I often have the feeling that I don’t ‘fit in’ anywhere and that ‘everyone else’ enjoying themselves doing carefree things that are, by choice, no longer part of my landscape.  Those ‘fun’ things no longer seem fun to me.  What I really crave is the ‘easiness’ of it all, the ability to be impulsive and joyful.  But the contentment I seek does not come from the outside world, making it more difficult to seek and find it in a culture obsessed with consuming.

Social media allows us to see what everyone else is up to through our online lens, creating the illusion that things are so much better for someone else than in our own day to day routines.  Consumption of the lives of others has become a new outlet for gluttony.  Wanting more, wanting the best, having what everyone else has.  The reality is that what we see flash across our screens is but a small portion of life, one that has been constructed, edited, and shared with intent.  Carefully selected highlights.

Parents feel pressured to expose their children to a multitude of extra curricular activities in an effort to provide them with a ‘perfect’ childhood.  In my eyes, the shuffle of activities leaves the childhood part out of the equation.  I don’t want my children to miss out on the opportunities to muck about and learn by engaging in what they’re interested in at their own pace.  This is one of the reasons I have come to form new opinons about schooling and education.  Are my children missing out on a traditional education because I’m choosing to home school them?  Of course they are.  They will not be in a class of 30+ children all of the same age.  They will not spend their days sitting indoors at desks.   They will miss out on being told in no uncertain terms how ‘smart,’ ‘athletic,’ or ‘popular’ they are, since they’ll not have a group of people constantly measuring them against others.  They will not be denied their passion for a topic because it’s not the curriculum being taught.  Their engagement of a topic will not be cut short because it’s time for science/lunch/recess/the next unit of study.  They will miss out on being the centre of attention during snack and lunchtime for our lack of consumption of sugar, wheat, corn, and processed food.  They will not have the opportunity to be able to defend our family’s choice to buy used where possible.  They will not spend their leisure time at school talking to other children about the violent video games they’re playing all night long or media they’ve watched. Yes, indeed they will miss out.

Sarcasm aside, it is hard to avoid the inevitable fear of the unknown.  Pushing edges means leaving comfort behind.  And there are of course things that I greatly enjoyed growing up in a school setting that create a reason for me to pause.  I would love for them to be involved in choir or band.  I wish for them to learn another language.  I want for them to find a group of friends where they feel belonging and trust.  I want them to discover knowledge and skills that I don’t have.  But these things seemingly offered by an institutional setting are not best suited to a classroom either.  They are available to my children without the social structure that fails to mimic natural systems.  Creativity, passion, and determination cannot be underestimated.

We can’t do it all.  We can’t have it all.  We don’t need it all.  We just want to be happy.

Manifesto of Possibility

Beneath the greatest of mountains there is the same structure of matter.  All matter being comprised of the same basic elements.  How amazing to be able to look around and witness the diversity and abundance made possible by the tiniest of particles.  What whispers of truth ride on a spark?  Or hints of purpose rest in the soil?  How does thought float in the breeze?  Or a glint of change caress a droplet of water?

By some miracle that which is beyond the realm of measurable science arrives on the wings of the elements.  How is it possible for consciousness to arise from Earth, Air, Fire, and Water?  Or is it perhaps that they embody their own version of consciousness?  How else could they arrange and rearrange form form to form, pushing into few forms, reforming and now deforming.

The elements have it figured out.  They respond to the state of our world as cancerous tumors.  They are delivered as warning signs and cries for help.  The element speak through their manifestations – and currently they’re retreating.  The wind gusts too strong and dusts our air.  The fires of the sun burn too hot wiping out once fertile land.  Our soils are depleted, mineral and nutrient deficient.  We have drought riddled lands, representing dehydration of more than just the soil.  The elements are mixed up – but with such determination that it seems it is the reader rather than the writer who is lost.  There are messages in their destruction.  The elements are speaking up in their form of language.  They are calling out to be heard.  Their cries for attention are getting louder and more intense the longer they are unmet.

The language of the elements is so very clear and succint.  We humans think we’ve got it all figured out because we’ve got our own secret languages and preoccupation with pursuit of knowledge.  But there really isn’t any room for improvement.  Our attempts to clarify and expand on what nature offers have only convoluted matters.  At the end of this long, mostly one sided conversation, the outcome is already clear.  The elements will remain elements.  Their manifestations will return to their original elemental forms when they no longer serve this planet.  Humans are also mere manifestations of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire.  Let us recognize ourselves as such in order to awaken to our own possibilities brought forth by the elements.  Let us awaken our potential – we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.