Category Archives: Food Security

What to do When You Live In Despair

“I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?”

Book of Hours, I 2 by Rainer Maria Rilke
Translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

What do you do when the world goes crazier than ever? When the leaders who should be paying attention to the science and their own souls screaming for the Earth’s ecosystems health and the people’s suffering turn away from both and embrace even more “business as usual” in spite all evidence and danger ahead?

What do you do when the reports on wars, famines and social collapse emerge from all corners of the world and you know the cause is a combination of climate change, social inequality and greed and could have been solved so easily if people really wanted (all people, not only a few)? When injustices and challenges grow exponentially for every sector in society, hitting the vulnerable the most?

When no matter your efforts they seem infinitesimally small compared with the magnitude of sleep-walking individuals and the amorality of big corporations, the unapologetic greed and abuse of trade agreements and the aloofness of governments?

I turned inward and got sick, both physically and spiritually. I turned to my small family and focused on my work and my caring colleagues…and to poetry and books, to courses that healed and quests that will challenge my soul for good…

I also focused on what I do well: my work as a career counsellor at a non-profit, even when I know in my heart I am not fighting the system but keeping business as usual running as I help individuals to find jobs and settle in Canada, a struggle that runs through my veins as I know all the work needed at other levels and in other sectors.

But by staying here (in mainstream) I have found my call: it is not to be one more permaculturist healing the land and growing crops off the grid. While that is attractive and needed, there is work needed at other levels too: like the work I want to do helping youth and those wanting an “encore career” to go into social entrepreneurship and help healing and building resilience where is most needed: inside big cities, among common people.

Well, the Gig Economy presentation is now done and I’ve been invited to present on this topic again at the Career Education Society conference in November, so that topic is going to put on hold for a while and over the growing season as I switch my hat from career counsellor/life coach to food sovereignty/community resilience facilitator. My dedication to this topic (the Gig Economy) was born by my concerns about the emerging pattern of employers cutting on benefits and re-hiring employees as sub-contractors to avoid the responsibility and liability for accidents, safety, training and so on. This trend also shows the emergence of more contract, on call and part-time work, putting stress on skills update and creating competition among workers.

What I will be doing is publishing a series of articles, posts and ideas to how to deal with this creatively and instead of fighting a monster, making it our friend: what if we can utilize this Gig Economy to heal communities, build community and personal resilience around priorities, time and needs management and instead of competition we bring co-operation through co-ops and small local businesses that support what’s really needed and hire locally?

My next steps: apart from staying at my current job, I am working hard on my own “Gigs” from Life Coaching for Transformation and Food Sovereignty.

For those following this blog in BC, here is a list of my upcoming activities/workshops:

April 28-May 14: I will be co-teaching with other five amazing teacher assistants and under the guidance and leadership of Starhawk (yes, the well-known author of books like the Spiral Dance, Dreaming the Dark, The Earth Path, the Fifth Sacred Thing and City of Refuge, among others), permaculturist and activist.  Where? At my beloved O.U.R. Ecovillage!  For those of you who can make it, I promise this to be a life-changing training on Permaculture Design and Earth Activist training…

The weeks after I come back, I’ll be teaching Food Skills for Families at various location in Surrey, a program from Diabetes Canada targeting vulnerable communities, including immigrants, aboriginals, seniors and people with low income. This program is funded by the Surrey/White Rock Food Action Coalition (whose website I manage)

On June 10 and 17 I will be running two workshops at UBC-Farm:

June 10: The Art of Fermentation: http://ubcfarm.ubc.ca/events/workshop-saeurkraut-and-the-art-of-fermented-foods/

June 17: Gardening in Small Spaces: (using permaculture principles)  http://ubcfarm.ubc.ca/events/workshop-gardening-in-small-spaces/

I am still accepting clients through my social enterprise Ethical Pathways where I offer life and career coaching to those stuck in mainstream and trying to transition into a more sustainable and ethical lifestyle, career and livelihood.

Groups of communities interested in having me to prepare and deliver workshops or presentations in topics ranging from career/life coaching, individual, family and community resilience or food sovereignty, please contact me for a quote and details on logistics, content, etc. I have special fees for non-profits and grassroots or community groups and individuals doing amazing things (or wanting to do amazing things!)

Even if you don’t need the services yourself, please share the services above with those who may need them.

I have three websites, three blogs and I have been thinking hard on whether to keep them all as a differentiated part of me offering different gigs and aspects of what I do or to marge them all into one with different sections…but for now that is not a priority as it takes time I may be doing something else, so bear with me if I post a few things on each and all of them (some of you follow me in all of them)

The best antidote to despair is action“, said someone I can’t recall now…for me, it is also taking time to reflect in the bigger picture, remember where we come from and what we are made of.

Three things bring me closer to the above: nature, poetry and reading about the work of amazing people like Joanna Macy.

I recommend this free online course for those who also rely on something bigger than us for strength and healing: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/journey-of-the-universe

Or reading and listening to poetry from here: https://onbeing.org/blog/widening-circles/

For inspiring books: Joanna Macy’s Widening Circles: A Memoir: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/536523.Widening_Circles

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Upcoming Workshops

Individual, Household and Community Resilience are built one step at a time: from learning to grow some of the herbs and vegetables your family consumes to learning how to preserve and make your own food from scratch, those are all small acts of love and true resilience: sometimes we don’t have the time, energy, support or even motivation to make “big things” happening around us…but it is the small things such as making your own cheese or yogurt, starting seeds, growing your Rosemary and learning how to use it to heal and relax that you build the foundations of a more resilient and sustainable world.

For those of you who may be interested in learning more about growing food, Permaculture, food preservation and food sovereignty, here are some of the workshops still to come:

At Sources (South Surrey) Food Bank and Sources Women’s Place:

Pickling 101 (June 11) at Sources Women’s Place

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Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/462771710598707/

Registrations and Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/pickling-101-tickets-24210988719

 

Canning 101: June 25

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Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1258550070826553/

Registrations and Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/canning-101-tickets-24211069962

 

Cheese Making from Scratch: July 9

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Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/950322805017417/

Registrations and Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/cheese-making-from-scratch-tickets-24210912491

At Homesteaders’ Junction: http://www.homesteadjunction.ca/products/20160521-making-fruit-vinegars

At the UBC-Farm:

Fruit Vinegars from Scratch: April 9

Container Gardening (Permaculture in Containers): April 16

For registration and details:

http://ubcfarm.ubc.ca/community/workshops-short-courses/

Food Sovereignty 101: Having Fun with Easy Cheeses

Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese
~ Luis Buñuel

Curds

Curds

Have a last minute potluck and no idea of what to bring?

Friends coming over unexpected and you haven’t done your groceries?

Want to make a midnight homemade pizza and suddenly realize the cheese is gone?

What about eating healthy and knowing what’s in your cheese?

Well…now you can make a variety of cheeses, at home, with just milk, vinegar or lemon!

There are many ways to make cheese…when I started years ago, my concern was time and the need for all those strange names: rennet, citric acid, cultures…not only they were nowhere to find (now you can buy them from Homesteaders’ Junction if you live around Vancouver, or from Cultures for Health if you are in the US, but a few years ago these were rare things to be looking for), they were also expensive and difficult to ship: cultures usually require some refrigeration…

I have been making my own feta cheese (with culture) for a while now (I make it every other week as that’s the favourite at home), and cultures are great to create that specific taste you are looking for (the taste that differentiates a Parmesan from Feta, Mozzarella or Asiago, for example), but those delicious cheeses require time and specific cultures (as mentioned before) and you may end up investing much more money than what you would if you just buy them from the store.

My other concern was sustainability and resilience: if I want to make cheese and can’t buy cultures, rennet and so on, how do I do it? In ancient times, people didn’t have Amazon, or a home delivery mail system. But they did have cows and goats around…

Thankfully, getting the milk is not that difficult (any milk would do, except the ultra-pasteurized as everything living has been killed there)…so I started to ask around, experiment and…remembering!

My mom and grandma used to make ricotta and “queso fresco” (fresh cheese) at home without any of those strange things: they used milk that was going to go bad and lemon. Some of my Indian friends would also make paneer (an Indian cheese) the same way!

With time and playing with all types of milks, acidic stuff (from lemons to all types of vinegars), salt, herbs plus different amounts of time and heat and different proportions of one or other of those same things, I created a few different cheeses.

And then one day, my partner came with a book I could have written myself! “One Hour Cheese” by Claudia Lucero, founder of “Urban Cheese Craft”: a compendium of many of the cheeses I was already making (and mom and grandma and the Indians), plus some other great ideas!

This coming Saturday, I’ll be facilitating a workshop to learn how to make your own “easy cheese” at home (and it’s already sold out!) but don’t worry: I’ll be facilitating another one in South Surrey Food Bank on July 9 (2016) at 10 AM…(see details at the bottom of this post)

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Cutting the cheese

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Salting the cheese

Here a small treat for you to try:

Queso de Cabra” (Goat Cheese, or Fresh Cheese)

What you need:

Equipment:

  • A non-reactive pot with capacity for a gallon
  • A big spoon
  • A strainer (such as pasta strainer)
  • A butter muslin
  • A cheese thermometer (but don’t fret if you don’t have one)
  • A glass container to put your cheese once is done

Supplies:

  • 1 quart of goat milk (if you don’t have goat milk, just use regular milk, but the taste will be slightly different, you can also make this with the 2 quarts of goal milk, just experiment!)
  • 1 quart of regular milk (not ultra pasteurized!)
  • ¼ to 1/5 cup of vinegar (I like the flavour of apple cider vinegar, but you can try any and see how it goes, each vinegar will provide a different flavour, the apple cedar is the one that leaves the least flavour)
  • salt to taste
  • herbs (dried or fresh)

How to proceed:

  • Open the butter muslin on the top of the strainer and put all this over a big bowl to catch the whey
  • Heat the milk in the pot until it reaches around 200F or when you see it is about to boil (but don’t allow it to boil or it will taste a bit “cooked”
  • While the milk heats up, stir a bit to avoid it to stick to the bottom or form a layer of fat on the surface
  • If you don’t have a thermometer, just check until it is foamy and about to boil and turn it off
  • Add the ¼ cup to max 1/5 cup of vinegar and stir gently with a long spoon
  • You’ll see the separation of the curds happening right now and the whey (that yellowish liquid) differentiating from them
  • Take the pot from the stove and stir slowly for about 1 minute
  • Ladle the curds over the butter muslin, slowly
  • Take the butter muslin by its borders and make a ball, like a package (see picture below), you can press this bowl a bit or hang it for a few minutes so it dries a bit more. (do not leave for hours or you’ll end up with another type of cheese…unless you are looking for a hard cheese instead!)
  • Take the cheese from the butter muslin and mix it in a bowl with salt and herbs of your taste.
  • Once is good, put it into a glass container and press it down: it will take the shape of the container…
  • Tada! you have cheese! You can eat this cheese with crackers, jam, fermented apple butter, small berries, or allow it to dry and age a bit and cut it for a pizza…it should keep OK up to 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator (it doesn’t keep more than a few hours at home!)
Ball of cheese...

Ball of cheese…

What to do with the whey:

  • Freeze it to use later
  • Save it in the fridge for is using within a couple of days
  • Use as base for broths, soups, casseroles, sauces, etc
  • Use it instead of water when making bread
  • Use it instead of water or milk when making smoothies and shakes
  • Add a few table spoons to any fermentation project such as fermented apple butter, sauerkrauts, etc
  • Use it to water your plants (make sure is well drained so no curds stay afloat or you may be attracting pests)

Bonus: Fermented Apple Butter (delicious with this cheese and crackers!):

Fermented Apple Butter

Fermented Apple Butter

Equipment:

  • Oven tray
  • Knife
  • Non reactive bowl and spoon
  • Glass jar with lid

Supplies:

  • Apples, cored and peeled (about 4 if you want two 500ml jars). They can be a bit “old” (actually this is an excellent way to use those old apples that nobody wants anymore)
  • Honey (I use raw honey, organic), about a cup
  • Apple cider vinegar (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (from a lemon!)
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon ground
  • Whey (from the cheese above, about 1-2 tablespoons)
  • Some thyme (optional)

Steps:

  • Cut the apples into chunks and put them in the tray, cover them with half of the honey
  • Bake the apples for a few minutes (until they are tender, don’t overcook, about 30-40 minutes at 350F)
  • Take them from the over and puree them with a fork or masher, let them cool down
  • Add the rest of the honey, the lemon and cinnamon, the vinegar and the whey and mix until it becomes a paste
  • Leave this to rest for about an hour, covered with a cheese cloth
  • Pour the puree into the glass jars, bury some thyme into each and put the lid on
  • Allow if to ferment overnight at room temperature
  • Put inside the fridge the next morning and allow it to “age” for a few days…if you can resist the temptation!
  • Enjoy! (It should last about a month if refrigerated, same as the cheese, it doesn’t last more than a week in my house!)

For more awesome DIY workshops, check Homesteaders’ Junction workshops and teachers: http://www.homesteadjunction.ca/pages/meet-our-teachers

Or stay tuned for the workshops I’ll be presenting at UBC Farm: http://ubcfarm.ubc.ca/community/workshops-short-courses/

Or at Sources (South Surrey) Food Bank and/or Women’s Place: http://www.surreywhiterockfoodactioncoalition.ca/

For Workshops in South Surrey/White Rock, check the Facebook events (tickets will be available for registration soon!):

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