Sunday 31 May 2015

What Inspires?

Writing prompt: "What was the last thing you read, heard, or saw that inspire you?"[sic]

Interesting question. What does one count as inspiration? I've seen a lot of interesting things lately so let's take a quick aside to check the definition.

Okay so it can't just be something cool that I think would be fun to copy (like the dandelion jelly) or something that is just another in a long line of interesting think-pieces. What was the last thing that actually motivated me to do something new or create something artistic.

I'd have to say Dungeons and Dragons. The weekly games have been a great creative outlet for me. It feels like a mix between improv acting and board games. The fact that I'm the record keeper for one of the two campaigns has also helped me write regularly. It's not the same as making it all up myself because the plot is sort of by committee, but the perspective I put on it through my character's eyes is sometimes really tricky and creative.

If you're interested in reading my campaign notes, they're in the form of a young woman's journal and are available here. There are some adult topics like alcohol, drugs, and sex so if you're offended by that stuff please avoid.

So what's the last thing you read, heard, or saw that inspired you?

Friday 29 May 2015

What Would You Do If You Didn't Have To Work?

I've been following Scott Santens on Twitter for a while now and he's a great educator in the why's and how's of Basic Income. Basic Income has been one of my key political interests ever since I heard of the Mincome project in Alberta, and I've just read an article on Scott that starts of with, “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for life.” What Santens wants to know is this: “If you build a robot to fish, do all men starve, or do all men eat?”

That's a really important question isn't it. These days more and more things are getting automated. We're even going to have self-driving big rigs soon. Not only does this mean cheaper goods, it also means less taxes to pay highway patrol and less fuel burned as the trucks will not need to find a parking lot for the night. All this is awesome and the only reason it isn't getting funded stronger and therefore produced faster is because people are scared. 

Sure they might say they're scared of dying when the trucks crash, but the data shows the trucks are safer than human drivers. I think the naysayers are scared of death, but at the much slower and more painful hand of homelessness and starvation.

Our current system doesn't do enough to support those who cannot support themselves. And even those who can manage, shouldn't have to die early from over work and over stress. There is a better way.

Check out this article on why we should support basic income. It is U.S. focused but it answers most if not all of the common questions and concerns.

What would you do if you didn't have to work for food and shelter? What could you accomplish with a guaranteed, no strings attached, $1000 every month?

Friday 22 May 2015

Dandelions (and How to Turn Them Into Food)

photo of dandelions in a forest

I kept telling myself I'd make dandelion wine, or learn how to cook dandelion greens, or really anything to get some free food from this plentiful weed... and then realizing that not only had spring passed me by, summer was mostly over and I should start looking at getting ready for canning season.

I decided that this year I was not going to (yet again) miss out on dandelion season. I did some web searching and found a few links that looked promising and got to work.

Dandelion Jelly

Phase 1:

I called Bard and invited him over to hang out. He didn't know I'd be putting him to work so he was kinda surprised when I told him we were going to pick dandelion flowers in the park. It's an odd sort of date activity to be sure but we talked and laughed and had a great time looking like lunatics to the neighbours. When we thought we had a little over 4 cups it was getting late so we came back home to chill for a bit before I started the next phase.

Phase 2: (15-20 min)

The next bit was easily accomplished while watching part of Logan's run with my mom. Taking the flower petals in one hand I cut off the base of each flower and discarded it along with any green bits around the petals. I quickly figured out that I had way too many flowers. the petals are compressed in the head and when free of the base, they take up more room. I soon had a full 4 cups of petals and the bag of flowers didn't really look like it had been touched. I didn't really want to make a double or triple batch in case the first time didn't turn out well, so they got discarded along with the trimmings.

Phase 3: (overnight or at least a few hours til cool)

This part is easy, it just takes a bit of time and a heat proof bowl. Boil some water then add 4 cups of boiling hot water to the 4 cups of petals. Cover to keep out dust and let sit at least til cool. Do not speed up with fridge, you want it to steep.

Phase 4: (5 min?)

Ladling dandelion tea into coffee maker basket filter over a measuring cup.Coffee maker basket filter with dandelion petal and pollen residue.First thing to do in the morning is get the petals out of our lovely dandelion tea. I just reached right in and grabbed a small handful at a time and squeezed out as much as I could. After a couple of those it became almost impossible to grab another so it was time to strain the rest.

A coffee filter works really well to strain out the petals and pollen. I had to ladle it in at first and then slowly poured the last of it from the bowl.

It looks really cool... but yeah I definitely don't want to eat the pollen.

Phase 5:(10 min)

Stirring mixture in a pot on the stove.
Here's where the magic starts. In a pot goes the dandelion tea, lemon juice, and pectin. Once it starts boiling, add sugar and stir til it comes back to a boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes more and take it off the heat to ladle it into jars.

Phase 6:(15 min)

I realized before I started that I didn't have a proper water-bath canner but the important part is keeping the jars off the bottom and completely covered in water. I figured I could manage these two things by using our potato pot with a squiggle of scrunched up tinfoil on the bottom. Once boiling, I set the timer for 10 minutes... and promptly realized I had no way to get these boiling hot jars OUT of the pot.  :-/
Squiggle of scrunched up tinfoll in the bottom of a large pot.Jars in pot supported by squiggle and covered in water.Pot with lid on and water covered jars inside starting to boil.
I figured out how to carefully scoop a jar out using two cooking spoons and put it on to of another jar so it wasn't IN the water, and then picked it up with oven mitts and put it on the cutting board. I did that for all of them and then the last one I just scooped out with the spoons like a big potato. Very dumb, very dangerous, do not follow my example. I will be buying proper jar tongs before next time.

Phase 7:

All that's left is for the jars to cool in a draft free place then you can put them in your pantry.
Seven finished jars of golden yellow jelly.

I only had enough room in the pot for five little jars so I had another little jar, and a random jar that didn't get canned. Since we were planning to eat some right away anyway I just refrigerated them. We'll make sure those two get eaten within two weeks, the rest will last in the cupboard for months.

I hope you've enjoyed this little peak into my messy kitchen and I look forward to more culinary explorations.

If you'd like to try your hand at dandelion jelly, I got my recipe from SimplyCanning and she's right about the taste.

It's kinda like honey, and really tasty.

What should I try next time? Let me know in the comments.

Friday 15 May 2015

Weeds, aka Wild Edibles

Not-a-dandelion (Agoseris)

Taking a look through I saw so many familiar faces it makes me homesick. When I was a kid I was curious about the plants like the one I called not-a-dandelion, but I thought that unless it was a "proper" plant that people grew on purpose there would be very few people who knew anything except how to kill it.

I'm happy to be living in an age where whatever you might be wondering about has at least been mentioned somewhere on the internet. Using the example of edible "weeds", I can now quickly find the healthfulness of many many plants without having to dig out 5 different feild guides and encyclopedias.

With Hugslut's no-kill diet(long story that gets it's own post) I've been looking more and more into permiculture and edible wild berries and greens. If I can harvest wild onions or salad greens that happily grow in areas I'm not tilling, why would I go through the effort to plant their cultivated counterparts? It's a waste of time, effort, and money. I will be planting chives in pots near the house however because my girl loves her chives.

Permiculture has it's appeals too. Just set up guilds around fruit & nut trees on the edge of the forest and all that's left is to protect them from choke weed vines. That wouldn't be our main food supply of course and assuming we have a pig, it might make more sense to house the pig under the fruit & nut trees (unless we can somehow combine the two).

Any readers in BC? What's your favourite wild edible perenial?

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Easter to Victoria Day Condensed

It'll be hard to fill you in on all that has happened since Easter, but I'll certainly try. I mean, it's not like I have even bigger news... but I feel like I've been running around in circles.

Pic I took of a Dyad's Saddle mushroom near the river. Just 'cause.

Things that are currently being planned/researched/discussed:
 - When/how I'm going to move into Hugslut's apartment and what that means for my current housemates
- When/how to get married
- When/how/where to have the reception party
- When/how/where move to BC

I've been dreaming of having/running/living on a homestead style farm for over 10 years and luckily for me, my fiancée thinks it's a great idea. Hugslut is a programmer and her job will come with her, so we can set up anywhere that's close enough to a city for internet.

We're planning to buy a chunk of land on the sunshine coast of BC in 3-5 years because Hugslut absolutely HATES cold and snow. This works out great for me because longer growing season means more variety of foods. :-)

I'm a researcher and planner so I've been running numbers and building scenarios and all that lovely stuff. I've just figured out that with the help of a simple hothouse, we can grow not only citrus, but also bananas.

Bananas! In CANADA!  :-D

I've not been to the gym in weeks but I think that has a lot to do with spending alternating nights with Hugslut discussing our future. I have still been walking home from work everyday it's not pouring rain and I've started taking the stairs sometimes. I've also been making sure to spend quality time with the Bard as he's got more free time for the summer.

Dungeons and Dragons is finally back on Sundays now that Loup is back from his trip out east, and I've also been trying to rekindle my social circle by actually talking to friends in person instead of just liking their facebook pics.Speaking of which, Hugslut and I will be visiting a friend's new house this May 24 weekend. Should be lots of fun. :-)

I'm an introvert and a homebody by nature so all this socializing is wearing me down a bit... it's all good though, I mean that's every spring when you live in Ontario. People seem to hibernate in winter and then when the nice weather gets here everyone wants to do everything.

I'll certainly post some farm plans when I've finished one but that's it for now.