Monday, March 31, 2008

The Plunge

I've been struggling at work, trying to balance the professional corporate world against my personal health and sanity, for quite a while now. I strongly identified with my position as a professional but in the end I decided that I could no longer play by their rules and remain a sane person. I was already struggling with depression and I felt as if I was losing the battle. I approached the management and explained the situation and was informed this was not their problem and that I had to learn to deal with situation.

Thursday I took the plunge and handed in my two week notice. In classic Dilbert fashion my manager announced that I had to have my desk cleaned out by the end of the day and I was no longer required to finish my time. I guess I can't blame them, a disgruntled employee can cause a lot of harm in the business they are running. However, it further reinforced the feeling that the "Company that Cares" really didn't care and was all to glad too see me gone.

Today is my first day as a housewife and I'm finding myself in shock. It felt really good to sleep in this morning but now I can't seem to organize myself enough to get the house cleaned and decide on what to fix for supper. I hope this lost feeling dissipates soon or I fear the negative downward spiral that is depression will eat me alive and the decision I made last week will be for nought. Self recriminations will pile on top of low self esteem until I am in a deep dark well with no hope of getting out. I know, I've been there before many, many years ago.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Organic Produce

Over the last few months PeterC and I have been moving toward more "organic food" whenever possible. We started with meat. We buy grass fed "organic" meat from a local farm by the quarter cow. We began buying vegetables and fruit at the local grocery store which are labelled "organic" as well. We started this because, at the time, we noticed that a lot of the produce available was from other countries and felt that going organic would at least limit the number of pesticides that coat our food. We don't worry about all produce, but definitely produce where we eat the outer layers.

We also prefer to buy Canadian as much as possible but have had a hard time finding any Canadian produce especially organic produce. It turns out Canada imports a lot of food, which could be grown locally, from the USA, Chile, and Argentina. It might make sense in the winter but not during our own growing season. Luckily there is currently a movement among grocers to bring in as much local produce as possible during growing season. But, there is a definite lack of Canadian organic produce available even during our own growing season.

We recently made a bulk purchase from Homestead Organics. They are a supply house and resource centre for farmers and consumers who are wanting to go organic. They sell seed stock to the farmers and grain, legumes and other long storing items to the consumer. As we were loading the order into the truck I noticed that only one item of the eight was Canadian grown, and it wasn't the wheat. Canada is a major exporter of wheat but apparently we can't get organic wheat grown in this country. It is late winter so maybe, just maybe, it is a simple timing issue.

Perhaps the Canadian wheat is already used up but something tells me it just isn't available. Wheat is one of those things that,when dried correctly, can be stored almost indefinitely. So, you would think that Canadian wheat would be available year round. Instead, the wheat we bought was packaged in Canada but was a product of the USA. Do we just not have anyone willing to take the extra steps required to be certified organic in this country?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dairy Queen and Seagulls

Yep, Spring is definitely on its way. The two surest signs of an impending Spring are the re-opening of the Dairy Queen and the miraculous re-appearance of the seagulls. Miraculous because the seagulls reappear literally within 5 days of the Dairy Queen re-opening for the season, regardless of when they re-open.

The Dairy Queen is owned and operated by a local mom and her children. She closes every year for about three months to "spend time with the kids that isn't making burgers or ice cream". Pretty noble really, but also economically smart too. In the Summer months people have been known to take the Scenic Highway drive out to our little town just to stop by Dairy Queen. In the winter there are fewer residents in town and the roads limit the amount of Sunday driving one is willing to do, no matter how good the food or friendly the service.

The Dairy Queen usually closes around Halloween and re-opens again sometime in late Winter. Some years it opens as early as February 28th while other years she stays closed until March 21st. Regardless of what day the shop opens two things are guaranteed to occur. The shop will be packed, cars lined up down the street, on the first Friday it is open. The second, and in my mind the most interesting, is the seagulls return within five days of the opening of Dairy Queen.

I've been convinced that birds must have some extra sensory perception when it comes to food for years now. There won't be a bird anywhere in the yard but they start gathering on the outskirts as soon as I start filling the bird feeders. Like the shadows of werewolves gathering around lost teenagers in B-grade horror movies, the birds start gathering in little groups of twittering, peeping, chirping, and whistling waiting for the fateful moment when I fill the last feeder and return indoors.

The reappearance of the seagulls in co-ordination with the re-opening of the Dairy Queen reinforces the belief in some form of food sense in birds. They start appearing overnight in small groups of six to ten birds. Within a few days, of the first seagull sighting, the flock will have grown from a few adults to dozens of adults and year old chicks. You never see them winging in formation like the migrating geese, they just appear hovering around the parking lot waiting for scraps to be tossed out. As the season progresses they start sleeping in large colonies on the roofs of local businesses and start making pilgrimages inland to the municipal dump.

At the end of season, and with the closing of Dairy Queen, the seagulls disappear as quickly as they appeared. The majority disappearing in the night, leaving behind a few stragglers which are usually the summer chicks all grown up but not quite sure about leaving what has proved to be a source of food all their young lives. Soon they too disappear only to return the following year, bringing Spring along with them.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Morning After

Today is the morning after the "Storm to end all Storms" according to the weather predictors. I think they blow everything out of proportion to scare the pants off all the silly, paranoid people who live in the big cities. Maybe they find it funny to see herds of anxious, angry, and scared people crowding into the grocery stores buying anything and everything that comes to hand.

The truth is it was a big storm for this time of year but it wasn't the end of the world. A minimum of 30cm of snow, freezing rain, and sleet fell over night. There were great flashes of lightening, enough to give the street lights trouble, and great booms of thunder. The wind blew and threatened to knock the house down but she stood strong and proud, protecting us from the weather. We were warm and comfortable all night and not a fear in the world that we would suffer from the storm.

This morning it is cloudy and there is a breeze blowing across the snow, lifting the lighter layers to create clouds of blowing snow. The birds are all out singing and winging in the yard, landing every once in a while to steal a bit of feed from the newly filled feeders. Starlings and Red-winged Blackbirds jostle for position at the dried corn. Sparrows and Chickadees swoop in to land on the tube feeders. Even the Blue Jays and Cardinals have made an appearance this morning. The world goes on as it does everyday, and only the humans are complaining about the weather.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Into Silence

Into Silence
Monochrome World, Muffled in White
Sounds in the Distance Fading
Into Silence.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Why...?

I am often asked by the few people I spend any time with, mostly coworkers, why I bake my own bread, plant a garden, preserve my own food, use sourdough starter to bake with, and in general be as self sufficient as I can be. The simple answer is "It is in my blood". I grew up on five acres where we grew a large garden, raised chickens and ducks for eggs and food, had milk cows for part of the time, and spent every fall preserving what we grew and what we foraged. My father hunted and fished year round and we ate wild game if we had to.

In truth the answer is a little more complicated than that. Yes, being self sufficient is a trait I was raised to have but I see the need for self sufficiency more today than ever before. I see signs of economic distress all around me. Companies are closing up shop and moving to countries where they can pay their employees less money and where environmental restrictions are less strict. More and more people are using the Food Bank to supplement their grocery shopping every month. Most people are in debt far and above their income.

So many people do not know where their food comes from and those who do, know it as a dim memory of talk of farms and happy animals in animated cartoons from Disney. If the economy takes a complete downturn, and food becomes scarce, I fear the majority of the population will be starving within a matter of weeks if not days.

During the Depression people were without work, food, and shelter. Even people who seemed to be stable soon found themselves cinching their belts a little tighter and loosing hope. During the last world war rationing was put into place to feed the troops but still keep the population fed. Being able to grow a garden sometimes meant the difference between lean meals and starvation in both of these cases.

My knowledge of gardening, preserving food, and cooking using staples that were commonly available during those lean times, will allow me to feed my family and maybe even a few of my neighbours if they are not capable of feeding themselves. It may be a boring diet, eating the same things every day, but we won't go hungry.

But preparation doesn't end in the kitchen. Both PeterC and myself are trying to learn as many skills as possible so that if the need arises we can take care of ourselves, be it field first aide, emergency shelter, or saving ourselves if the calvary is busy somewhere else. Think about everything you buy at a store and see if you can figure out how to produce it yourself or, better yet, if it is something you can live without. You don't have to live like the Amish or be a Luddite but you can try to learn now, before you are forced to learn later.