How time flies…

November 7, 2009 at 7:29 pm (environment, food, Gardening, permaculture) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Is it really November already?  Seems like just last week the tomato vines were laden with heavy ripe fruit and we were eating garden-fresh salads daily… oh, and it wasn’t raining every dang day!

Yes, November is one of the wettest months in Vancouver, so when the sun is out we have to make good use of it.  Already this month I’ve dug up two patches of the front lawn for new veggie garden beds.  One, the garlic bed, is about 15′ x 2′ and it’s up against the hedge row on the east side of the house where it will get good sun for much of the morning and mid-day hours.  After two beautifully sunny days of working on this project–removing all that grass, and digging in 3 very full 5-gallon buckets of compost into the top 10-12″ of soil–Day 3 saw rain, rain, and more rain.  Nevertheless, I trudged out to the yard in full rain gear to plant 54 of the largest cloves of garlic I could get my hands on.  I finished off with a layer several inches thick of decaying leaves collected from my own yard, my neighbor’s yard, and even the street.  About the garlic, some 20 cloves are a hardneck type called Music that I purchased from one of my favorite Farmer’s Market vendors–Brian from Sheffield Farm.  The rest are supermarket garlic–smaller, less pungent, but guaranteed to be organically-raised and as local as you can get.  I know, I know, 54 heads of garlic sounds like a lot, and maybe it is, but I’d rather have too much than too little.  It’s fun to share!

Besides, I was inspired to try growing enough for a whole year when I recently attended a workshop on the long-term storage of raw foods like squash, pumpkins, onions, garlic, potatoes, tubers and root vegetables.  The class focused on how to cure veggies for storage and how to decide where to store them so that they receive appropriate amounts of moisture, warmth, light or dark–just as you decide where to plant what in the outdoor garden based on the “micro-climate” of a given spot (how much sun it gets, how well-drained the soil is, or whether the spot is warm and protected from wind due to a nearby wall, for instance).  The workshop, taught by Robin Wheeler (whose book Food Security For the Faint of Heart I devoured in a matter of days and ultimately got her to autograph!) was a nice complement to my recent interest in other types of food preservation such as canning and drying.  This summer saw my first rough attempts at hot water bath canning.  I did some whole, peeled tomatoes, tomato sauce, applesauce (from some beautiful Ambrosia and Gala apples obtained at the Farmer’s Market), huckleberry jam (a failure due to bad recipe calling for waaaaay too much sugar), blueberry-rhubarb jam (a winner), and spicy dill pickles.  I love the look of all those colorful jars up on the kitchen shelf and the feeling, not just of security and comfort knowing it’s all there waiting to be eaten, but of satisfaction and pride in having put it all by, all by myself:)

Oh yes, back to the garden work I’ve been up to… The other new bed that I created in the front yard is a large round area tucked up against the west side of the porch stairs, a perfect spot, some would say, for some lovely ornamentals and perhaps a colorful flower border.  But not me!  I transplanted my rhubarb crowns there and look forward to seeing their bright red stems and broad green leaves displayed next to the lilac bushes, tucked in with the perennials as if they belong there–and they do!

Since I’m renting, I’ve inherited a yard that is well-planted, but somewhat over-landscaped (for my tastes and purposes) in bushes, bulbs, and ornamentals.  My plan is not to commit to any major earth-works and not to invest too much time and effort in tearing stuff up and starting over, but to work with what I have, even if it means that I end up mixing veggie plants and berry bushes into the established perennial borders.  In fact, maybe the result will be all the better for being nice-looking as well as edible.  Edible landscapes are a recent phenomenon, you know… As an aside, I picked up a circa-1970’s gardening book from a thrift store over the summer and I was amazed (in a horrified kind of way) and kind of saddened to see the vegetable gardens all tucked away in hidden, unused corners where they do not detract from the look of the landscaped yard.  Interesting how times have changed…

Other stuff that’s changed since last I wrote–I know, I know, I’ve been really bad about updating this blog lately…  Well, I completed my yoga teacher training program at the end of June and taught two classes over the summer.  The first was nerve-wracking; the second went so smoothly and the response from my students was so positive, it was a major confidence booster.  I came out of that class feeling like I had really achieved something and had really made a major transformation from the beginning of the training program to the end.  I still don’t know if I want to pursue being a yoga teacher as a profession; that was never really my intention in deciding to enter the program.  I wanted to challenge myself to do it for the deeper understanding of yoga philosophy and physiology, as well as to push myself into a deeper commitment to my own yoga practice.  Unfortunately, summer visits, trips and the lack of free time due to no more Happy Hands for Eleanor have all conspired against my sustaining a regular yoga practice and, because I feel out of practice myself, I do not feel like I’m in a position to teach.  However, I’m trying to get back into a regular practice and I have noticed in the brochure of classes offered in the new community center that there’s no one teaching a mom-and-tot yoga class or a class for moms with child-minding available (it was for want of these types of programs when Eleanor was a toddler that I first got it into my head that I could become a teacher and offer them myself), so we’ll see what the following year holds…

Deciding to do the yoga teacher training program in December of last year also held out the hope of possibly being employable if Stephen’s job ended up taking us to Switzerland, where his boss was and presumably still is trying to start up an office.  Well, I don’t know if you all have noticed, but the economy hasn’t been that great lately and financial services companies have been especially hard hit.  Stephen’s employers are apparently doing just fine, but certain things like opening offices in Switzerland have taken the back burner for now.  That’s okay, though.  Stephen has decided that he wants to go back to UBC and complete his PhD.  He can continue working for his current employer nearly full-time and incorporate his work-work into the work he’ll be doing for the PhD so he can continue to be paid as he currently is and we can consider ourselves settled for the foreseeable future–which is a good thing for me since I just went to all the trouble of digging up two new garden beds and I’m sprouting asparagus from seed this winter and I won’t be able to harvest it for at least two years!

Here’s a thought…  Renters are hesitant to do much in-ground gardening and they certainly don’t bother to plant things like berry bushes and apple trees that take years to produce their first crop, mainly because they regard their adobes as temporary shelter, they know it’s only a matter of time before they move on and they don’t want to make long-term investments of which they’ll never reap the benefits.  Imagine, though, if every renter who felt that way went ahead and planted those long-yielding perennials anyway.  Then, every time they move, they wouldn’t have to mourn the loss of those raspberry canes or that strawberry patch, because they’d have fresh blueberries, and an established, productive asparagus patch to look forward to.  It would take a change of attitude on the part of renters everywhere: namely, to stop thinking of their gardens in terms of what it produces for them, or how much money it saves them, or that it’s even “their” garden.  A garden does not serve the gardener.  A garden is self-creative and self-renewing; planting one and cultivating it is a service to the earth and to one’s community.  Renters should go ahead and plant anything and everything that strikes their fancy, knowing that they’ve done their small part to heal a little piece of earth (and more, the more they frequently they move) and that one day down the road many, many people will enjoy the benefits of their labor, as as they themselves will go on to enjoy the benefits of someone else’s labor at their new place… Just a thought…

In other news, Eleanor’s doing great.  She’s as smart as a whip and very clever, too.  She’s got a real sense of humor these days and, though she doesn’t shy away from poot jokes, she’s also very mature for her age.  She’s in a combined three- and four-year-old preschool class for two hours two days a week.  Her favorite thing to do at preschool is dress up in the beautiful dress-up clothes.  She’s a real girly-girl.  She was also doing ballet and gymnastics once a week and a program called Happy Hands, which is just like preschool, all at the community center.  The center has been slated to move into a new location for a long, long time and the time had finally come… or so we thought.  The old center closed and took reservations already for classes at the new center, but they’ve just informed us that construction delays at the new center have held up the move once again, so everything is canceled for the rest of the year.  Boo hoo…  That community center was like a second home for me when Eleanor was young and we were new to Vancouver and to parenthood.  I started taking her there when she was just a baby; I met a lot of my neighbors and other moms there; Eleanor’s practically grown up at the tot gym there… and now it’s all over… and we’re stuck waiting around for the new center to open.  The new center will be very nice and I like that it has a library in it and it will be easier to get to from our new house.  In the meantime, Eleanor and I have been forced to find other things to do on the days that she doesn’t have preschool.  We’re discovering free drop-in playgroups and strong start learning centers all over the place.  Vancouver’s publicly-funded services for families cannot be beat!

Well, there’s a lot more I could write about.  Seeing as I haven’t blogged in well over half a year, I have a lot of catching up to do.  Knowing myself, I won’t make promises to be back often and fill in all the details of the summer months or recent projects taken up around here, but I’ll do my best.  Even if I never get into the habit of blogging about everything that goes on in my life, I would like to share more of my thoughts and philosophical ideas about the world and what in it is important to me–my family, community, good food, the environment, my garden, sustainability, politics… I could go on and on and on…


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Officially In Training to Be a Yoga Teacher

January 19, 2009 at 10:52 pm (Other) (, , , , , )

It’s a small class, but the yoga teacher training program is happening… and I’m in it!  Wow!  What a way to start a new year!

Training to become a certified yoga teacher is something I’ve thought about doing for at least the last six months.  I got really good at making excuses for why I shouldn’t do it–it’s too expensive; it’ll take too much time away from my family; I don’t have enough experience as a student of yoga to teach yoga…  But, alas, with the opportunity, thanks to Stephen’s employment, to move to a Swiss resort town looming in the fast-approaching future, the time is nigh to get off my butt and make the rest of my time in Vancouver count for something.  It isn’t just that teaching yoga would be a marketable skill in a place where wealthy Europeans go to relax, and therefore a good credential for me to carry into a new life there.  The real focus for me isn’t even the graduation (although I will certainly be proud to possess the certification), it’s the process and the time spent getting to that day six months from now.

I need to do this to keep my mind focused on the here and now.  I know from the experience of waiting to move to Vancouver, that when a major life change is in the offing and it’s just a matter of time before you take the plunge, it can be exceedingly difficult to enjoy the present, to remain engaged and interested in what’s around you.  Waiting for what comes next is no way to live, so I’ve decided to focus on myself and the present moment through doing this yoga teacher training.  Ultimately, I don’t even know if I want to be a yoga teacher.  Maybe I’ll decide it isn’t for me.  But, I do want to learn more about yoga and about myself and both will definitely be addressed by taking up this challenge.

I’m writing all this with the perspective of having exactly one session of the program already under my belt.  I started this journey on Saturday with seven other individuals from all walks of life (well, there was only one guy) who I have no doubt I will get to know very, very well as we all get to know ourselves a little better in the process.  Part of the training program, and one of the reasons I wanted to make the commitment to do this, focuses on “living yoga,” or living a life in balance.  We were asked on Saturday to picture our lives several years from now and to think about setting some goals to put us on the right track to eventually achieve our biggest dreams.  This part was difficult for me because the move to Switzerland seems to be a major leap into the unknown, like the life I can reasonable plan for ends six months from now.  Setting goals or trying to picture what life will be like after the move seems a practice in futility.

If I had to set a goal for this period of my life, I would have to say that I want to learn to leap without looking, to not be fearful when making decisions.  I want to be able to take action with the confidence of knowing I’ll be able to handle what life throws at me.  I don’t meant to say that I intend to start acting without any consideration of the consequences of my actions, but I do know that I’ve been very indecisive in the past and it has not served me well: over-analysis leads to paralysis.  Once a decision is made, I aim to be able to stick with it without wondering if it was the best, most perfectly right thing to do.  A good first step might be to challenge myself to order from a restaurant menu in under ten seconds…

I’ll report back on how I fared with that challenge a little later… My point is that big goals are not met without first meeting many incremental goals which, though small, are far from insignificant; baby steps allow us to see progress for what it is–not a long way to go, but a great distance traveled: an achievement in itself.  For now, I’m congratulating myself–despite nerves, reservations, and fears–on simply showing up Saturday to take part in the first of over twenty full-day sessions.  I dissuade myself from nervousness about the actual teaching part, the practicums, by reminding myself that, for now, I am simply the student.

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On Being a Full-time Mom

July 3, 2008 at 4:15 pm (goings-on, Other, parenting) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

So, I finally quit my job.  Yeah, I’d been thinking about it for a little while, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go the route of full-time mommyhood.  Why?  Because of so many societal and cultural pressures to always do more: to work more, make more, be more.  Especially as an educated woman of a certain class, it’s as if I’m expected not to fritter away the workplace opportunities that countless women before me had to fight a political and cultural uphill battle to gain.

That we farm out chores like housework and childcare to women of a lower socio-economic class than ourselves belies how much we really value the most intimate functions of domestic life.  I’m not arguing that cleaning toilets and mopping floors is for everyone.  (Although, housework can easily burn as many calories as a trip to the gym, so why not save money on the maid and the membership?)  Childcare, on the other hand, performed full-time by loving and invested parents, has got to be better than institutional care for a young child’s social and emotional development–their confidence, self-esteem, and sense of security in the world.

Ultimately, I think, children value your time and attention more than the things you can buy them and the shiny wrappings in which they come.  Young children who haven’t yet attended school and have no experience yet of peer-pressure and cultural cues, do not care that their clothes aren’t name-brand or that their furniture and toys are second-hand.  In fact, they don’t even know what a brand is or what consignment means.  So, what better time to be poor than when your children are young?

People are always congratulating Stephen on making it through his Master’s program having had a baby in his first year, but we say grad school, with it’s flexible and autonomous work schedule, was the ideal time to have a baby.  Stephen was always able to work around me, whether I worked a solid and stable two full days like at the bakery or a random and ever-changing schedule of afternoon demos like with Horizon.  In the end, though, me working full days was better for Stephen because when he had to come home early for me to be off to do a demo, the commute-time meant he only got two or three hours of work done on some days–hardly even a half-day.

This summer, Stephen landed a job with a hedge fund manager that not only pays amazingly well, but that he really likes and looks forward to doing part-time even when he has to return to school in the fall (if he returns to school in the fall).  Since Stephen is able to make at least three times more than me per hour and since he can easily make all of our financial ends meet, my work was just cutting into our time together as a family.  When Eleanor was four months old, I went back to work because we needed the money and I’ve been working Saturday or Sunday–sometimes both–ever since in order to not cut into Stephen’s work week too much (since we don’t have a nanny, me going to work means he has to stay home with Eleanor).  Only having one-day weekends–our “family fun day”–was a sacrifice we were willing to make when it was financially necessary and now that it isn’t, it’s a sacrifice I can’t rationalize making any more.  We were starting to wonder how we’d spend all the extra money we were making, anyway, and then it occurred to us that we didn’t need to make money that we can’t use.

Things would be different if my job at Horizon was something that really fulfilled me on more than a financial level–my ego, my soul, my future.  Don’t get me wrong, Horizon was a great company to work for, the job I was doing was engaging, my boss was really flexible, and the pay was great.  I certainly got a lot of practice speaking off the cuff and to groups of strangers and, in general, dealing with the public.  These are valuable skills that I can take with me to any future position and, on a personal level, I feel more confident with the experience of this job under my belt.  But, alas, I was in sales and marketing–a department I was never quite comfortable with, although I didn’t have to be an aggressive salesperson because I never worked on commission.  That I was “marketing” to the public made me feel, sometimes, like I was just out there hawking products.  Sometimes, the products were awesome–organic, local, independently-owned, something I’d actually buy–but a lot of the time I was demoing products that I didn’t personally like or regard as being particularly healthy or eco-friendly.  On those occasions, I made it my personal mission to at least use the demo as an opportunity to discuss with members of the public the environmental impacts of their food choices and why they should consider paying the little bit extra for quality organic products made closer to home.  But, let’s face it, I mostly worked in Capers and Choices markets, which are the Talley’s Green Grocery of Vancouver–meaning, if you’re shopping there, you already care.  So, basically, I came to feel like I was preaching to the converted.

So, what’s next?  Well, in the fall I want to start volunteering at the Aquarium again.  Maybe this time I can be a presenter or group leader or something a little more engaging than data entry, not that I didn’t learn a lot about the coastal geography of the Pacific Northwest by entering data for the Cetaceans Sightings Network.  Also, I’m thinking of enrolling in a yoga teacher training program; there’s a dearth of child-friendly yoga classes in my area.  Ultimately, though, this move to not hold a permanent paid position for the time being, allows me to spend every glorious day of summer with my little girl and what could be better than that?!

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