Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bringing Sustainability into Christmas Festivities

I enjoy celebrating the year's end. This time of year marks the end of the planet's yearly perigrination around the sun and the powerful impact that bob and weave has on our beautiful blue planet and all our lives. So I begin the celebration by marking the winter solstice.

As a gardener, and grower of food, I am strengthening the awareness that ruled our ancestors existance. Their survival depended on being accutely attuned to the shifts in nature that exerted life and death influences on their hunter gatherer and then on their agrarian way of life. It is only since the industrial revolution that we have fallen under the delusion that our navel string to mother earth has been cut and that we no longer need to care for and respect the natural systems that provide all our basic needs. Folly indeed to allow ourselves to be lulled into such a false sense of security. When I trace the origin of my vital supplies, past the middle men, I clearly see that my needs are provided by, so generously and so ingeneously by the beautiful planet I live on.

"... the earth, gentle and indulgent, ever subservient to the wants of man, speads his walks with flowers, and his table with plenty; returns with interest every good committed to her care."

Christmas, the holiday of my Catholic upbringing has influenced the way that I express the celebration. The Christmas tree, the nativity scene, the twinkling lights and baubles, the gift giving are all fond images from my upbringing. I recognize and respect the holiday as a celebration of Christ's birth and the impact of his teachings.

The source of my inspiration, realizations and creative expressions, however, come from my practise of tuning in to my "heart" - the interconnected source of all.

I value this time of the year as a time to strengthen my role in the family as hearth keeper. A time to focus loving energy into family and home.

Here are some of the ways I thought of for expressing meaning, richness and sustainablity in my year end celebrations.

I made sorrel, a traditional West Indian Christmas drink made from dried flower sepals, bottled it in recycled wine bottles and gave it as gifts.

As a family we enjoyed a wonderful traditional Caribbean meal of pigeon peas, calaloo, stewed eddoes and ochras and macaroni pie.

I had fun creating momentos of my daughters' summer trip to Mexico using their photos mounted on bits and pieces found at V.V. to create a collage.

My daughter made donation to a African NGO on my behalf and I made a donation on thier behalf.

They both gave me gifts from local artisans and a Hatian artist.

I planted spring bulbs for each of them in containers I found a V. V.

I scored a wonderful plaid, woolen shirt for $10 from a thrift shop and patched the moth holes and worn patches. A warm gift for the daughter who lives on a farm.

We enjoyed community by inviting neighbours to participate in making (and tasting) 150 pastels, a Trinidadian Christmas treat similar to tamales.

I made a wreath for the front door and cedar garlands using clipped greenery foraged around the neighbourhood and trimmings from the Christmas tree farm.

My daughter decorated a number of her gifts with pleated late return fines bills from the library! Very effective.

We fanned the family flame by reading writings by my Dad, where he reminises about living on a coconut estate as a seven year old boy while my daughter knits her Christmas gifts.

I used one packet of white tissue and one of coloured tissue to wrap my gifts over a base of recycled white newsprint collected throughout the year. We made a point of folding all the wrapping paper and putting it into the recycle bag once we had opened our gifts.

Lastly, I discovered that the little pairs of juncos that visit our deck prefer pecking food from the ground rather than flying up to feed off the hanging suet block so I cook them a batch of cornmeal made with olive oil and butter which I roll into balls. I replenish the tray about one ball every other day, which they peck away at.

Recipe for Corn meal balls for birds

2 cups water
1 cup corn meal
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup olive oil

Boil together until corn meal cooks and pulls away from the sides of the pot.
When dry enough turn out on the counter to cool. Knead the dough and roll into balls. Store them in the fringe and put a ball out for the birds as needed.
Good entertainment for cats and humans.

Happy New Year to one and all.

Herb Harvest ... Seed Saving ...

Summer Savory

I cut back my summer savory plant in summer and put it to dry in a paper bag. When it was properly dry I rubbed the stems and refilled the herb bottle. Now I am re-stocked with summer savory for another year.

Seed Saving

I remembered to leave some of the sweet pea seed pods to mature and dry on the vines this year. I collected the seed and stored them in the feezer for next year.

Herb Harvesting

I have had an unfulfilled desire since moving from the Caribbean. There is wonderful flavour pepper we grow back home which we refer to as a seasoning pepper or flavour pepper. I did a little research recently and it seems that it is only grown in that part of the world. The beauty of this pepper is it is very flavourful and mildly hot.
I have always missed having that pepper available and have tried acquiring the seeds unsuccessfully. This summer I did get some seed from my sister-in-law who lives in Florida from a plant in her garden which originally came from West Indian seed, however these peppers have reverted to being flavourful but very hot.

Traditionally, we make a special Trinidadian Christmas dish called "pastels", a cornmeal envelope of seasoned meat wrapped and steamed in banana leaf. I made my yearly pilgramige to the Caribbean store in New Westminster to buy the ingredients and discovered that they import flavour peppers and freeze them, so I stocked up. They are all gone now, incorporated into the pastels, but I saved, washed, dried and froze the seeds and will try growing them next year. I look forward to seeing what happens. My theory is that West Coast summers are neither long enough or hot enough to generate the flavour in the peppers that I so fondly remember. I hope I am wrong.

Delicato Squash

My daughter, recently introduced me to the delights of the Delicato squash! Yummy! She prepared it coated in a freshly roasted Indian spice mix, cut into small pieces, skin and all and roasted in the oven. I also saved the very generous supply of seeds from that Delicato squash as well.

However, I also discovered that the genetic purity of the squash family is easily corruped. If other varieties are growing nearby they easity cross pollinate and offspring end up as hybrids, rather than replicas of the parent. We will find out whether this particular Delicato was involved in any dalliances over summer!

Roasted Veggie season

How pretty a combination fall veggies look chopped up and ready for the roasting.

Apples ... Fall's Gift

Once again this year I stopped in to Mariposa, the very large fruit stand off Highway 3 just outside of Osooyos. I bought a very large bag of apples, large heads of garlic for planting, many varieties of peppers and the last of the sunflower heads packed with seed.

My plan was to can apple sauce and I did. I was lucky to find a wicked little gadget on sale for $12 which peels, slices and cores all in one blow and I made good use of it.

Apples reconfigured as apple sauce.

Summer Review ...

Looking back at the photos I have taken is a great way to remember the experiences this summer brought. Its amazing how quickly they pass from memory and one is on to the next thing. What a fabulous summer 2009 has been for growing tomatoes and basil! The tomato sauce I canned is all gone now but it was sure delicious while it lasted.

Some of the pleasures enjoyed this summer have been ...

Eating sugar snap peas off the vine.

Picking blueberries....

Harvesting for the home from our Urban Farming Garden....

Beautiful meals from summer delicacies....

Discovering a summer garden in full bloom growing on an empty lot along a country road....

We so enjoyed our afternoon visit in this garden on the side of the road, walking through the path ways, admiring the compositions from different angles, naming the flowers we knew, discovering new varieties we didn't, taking loverly photos and appreciating the gardener's gift. When I got back the photos, I returned and put some copies into the mailbox across the road and included a thank you note.

"Earth laughs in flowers."
Ralph Waldo Emerson