Aquilegia formosa

cheesemaking January 16, 2010

Filed under: Food,Sustainable — aquilegiaformosa @ 8:28 pm
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I read this post on making farmhouse cheddar over at Suzanne McMinn’s fun and family friendly site, Chickens in the Road earlier this week. Today she posted on waxing the cheese so as to age it. Farmhouse cheese is the fastest hard cheese to make, apparently, and is something I’d love to try to make, especially as I’m becoming hyper aware of all the non-recyclable plastic shrink-wrapped around so much of my food. Suzanne makes hers with store bought milk, so it’s not as difficult to try out as I might once have thought – y’know, back in the days when there were no baby-steps, it was all or nothing and I had to have my own cow, or at least access to local raw milk before I’d look into such a project! In fact, just about a year ago, I was reading about Suzanne learning to make ricotta cheese from milk from her own goat! (of course, she clearly states that your own goat is not required!) This woman is a wealth of information on many old-time skills and crafts. She even wrote a post on how to make your own cheese press. While I know I probably couldn’t make one all by myself (as I don’t have any power tools), I know a few folk who’d kindly help me out 🙂

UPDATED Jan 19th: Suzanne posted about homemade cream cheese for all of those who were intimidated by the making farmhouse cheddar post (the whole cheese press thing is what seemed daunting to me). As well, she reminds us:

“You don’t have to have a cow… Making cheese isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Just because you bought the cream at the store doesn’t mean it’s not homemade cheese. You still have so much more control, both from a health and a taste standpoint, in the end product. You can use less or no salt. You can add your own flavorings using your own home-preserved fruits or herbs.”

Baby steps. Flylady would be proud. So would Bob. 🙂

UPDATED: Jan 30th: El at fast grow the weeds recently posted this about cheesemaking. Lots of good links!


today’s report January 11, 2010

Filed under: Food,Sustainable — aquilegiaformosa @ 9:06 pm
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There’s not too much to report here; today was my first day of classes for the semester. It’s going to be a busy one, I’ve got a 3 day/week practicum, in an elder care facility (called a “Life Enrichment Centre”), plus two days of on-campus classes, and my research assistant job. Also, the kids, the hubs and the sister/roommate to feed, etc.

I’ve been talking about my new adventure, hoping to spark some brainstorming and to give me some new ideas. So far, I’ve talked with my sister about coming up with alternatives to plastic produce bags to keep my lettuce and celery crisp in the vegetable drawer of the fridge. She suggested things like root cellars, or burying root veggies in plastic totes with sand or straw. Not quite what I was going for , but definitely on the right track. Her boyfriend, however, didn’t really get why I’m doing this. I mentioned it was partially about wanting to shop less, and he suggested he could shop for me, which was very thoughtful, and somewhat cute, but also beside the point. I’m thinking I’m going to try experimenting with dampened tea towels.

Today the kids and I popped into the grocery store to pick up some milk and some chicken for dinner. Shrimp and ham were on sale, so I grabbed a package of each. My first thought on looking at the shrimp was that, despite being only $10, a savings of $8, they still cost a lot – they are from Asia!! They are freshwater prawns from Bangladesh! I’m glad this is a journey comprised of teeny, tiny baby steps. If it weren’t, I don’t know that I’d know what or how to feed my family.

At the checkout, the cashier gave me a new cloth bag, which was, she informed me, for spending over $25 today. Chalk up one point for sustainability?! Then we walked across the parking lot to the produce store, and we placed a few veggies into recycled plastic produce bags! That’s right, not only did I remember to take my cloth bags out of the trunk and use them, but I rinsed out, dried, folded, put in the trunk and reused some of those plastic produce bags!

I’m gonna call that a win.


another one about plastic January 10, 2010

Filed under: Sustainable — aquilegiaformosa @ 9:00 am
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Yesterday I wrote about the state of recycling in the city of Surrey and our new inability to put plastic bags in our curbside recycling bins. Also, I wrote about my inability to remember to bring my cloth bags into the store with me when I shop. Today’s theme is similar, except I’m thinking about all the plastic bags we ‘consume’ that aren’t grocery bags. Bread bags. Bags inside boxes of things like crackers and cereal, or pasta. Bagged veggies like cauliflower and lettuce and carrots. Cheese wrapped in plastic. Also, other plastic wrappers that aren’t quite a bag – cellophane around boxed tea bags. Chip bags and the bags coffee comes in. Or are those foil? Can they be recycled? And what about children’s toys? They are placed inside individual plastic shells, which are elasticked or wired to plastic-impregnated cardboard. Is this plastic recyclable? I put it in the bin, but do they chuck it into the garbage at the recycling plant?

My Nana was born on a farm in Manitoba. She grew up during the Depression and the 2nd World War. She went to school, became a nurse, and got the heck outta Dodge. She spent her whole adult life living in the suburbs in BC. She grew gardens and baked her own bread, but she was certainly glad for modern conveniences. When my son was an infant, I tried out some cloth diapers a friend had loaned to me – not old-fashioned cloth nappies with pins, a new-fangled variety that was shaped like a disposable diaper and had elastic at the legs and Velcro closures. One time she was visiting, and I was dealing with the diapers – trying to fold them out of the dryer, with the Velcro clinging to everything, and dealing with a bucket to soak the dirty ones until laundry time. She wondered why I was going to all the trouble. She thought disposables were so much easier, and that I had it so much better off than either my mother or she had had it, because I didn’t have to mess about with cloth diapers if I didn’t want to. I was easily swayed; life as a single mom was hard enough.

Which brings me to my point: we live like over-consuming gluttons in the Global North. We want everything to be shiny and new. We throw out perfectly usable goods because they’re not the latest and greatest. For example, my cell phone is about 5 years old. My mom gave it to me when she bought a new one. It doesn’t even have a camera. According to the laws of over-consumption, it is ridiculous that I still use this thing (and people actually laugh when they see my phone). But it works. And I don’t need a camera on my phone, that’s why I have a camera.

So I’m trying to find pathways to lowering my consumption in general, and specifically my reliance on plastic packaged products. The major culprits (that I see right now – this may change) are plastic bags for veggies and fruits, bread and coffee. I’ve already stopped placing my veggies and fruits in individual plastic bags at the produce store and I wash out the old plastic produce bags to reuse in the crisper drawer. I’d like to eventually move away from using these plastic bags entirely, but I’m not there, yet. Maybe I could wrap my celery in cloth to prevent it from going limp? Any suggestions?

To avoid plastic bread bags, I’m going to have to get into the habit of making my own, or start buying it from a bakery where I can get around using a new plastic bag each time. This means altering my shopping habits, and making a separate trip from the rest of my groceries. Changing my habits is doable, but also difficult – humans are creatures of habit, of course.

As for coffee, I’m just not sure… Hubby suggests buying coffee in bulk from the grocery store. But hubby doesn’t drink coffee, so he doesn’t know that I am a coffee snob; I don’t like the grocery store brand bulk coffee. I remember when I was a kid, my dad would buy his coffee for a specialty shop. This was before the days of a Starbucks on every other corner, it was actually a local business. They’re not around anymore, but maybe I can find another place? Again, more habits of convenience to change, but that’s the point of this blog, right?


this is how I roll, yo January 9, 2010

Filed under: Sustainable — aquilegiaformosa @ 1:15 pm
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y’know, because I’m so ghetto, with loads of street cred. Na, really, I’m white, white, white. Dude, I’m whiter than white – I’m Anglo-Canadian. And us whitey’s, we know how to consume. We buy so much sh!t. Plastic, plastic, everywhere!!

I didn’t mind so much in the past, probably because I didn’t really notice it, because I could throw so much of it into the blue box (curbside recycling bin). Like, all those grocery store plastic bags – into the bin to be carted away every week. But last January, my city changed recycling service providers, and now they don’t take plastic bags. Before, we sorted out our recycling. Newspapers went in a blue bag, cardboard went in a yellow bag, everything else went in the blue box. Now, we have “single stream” recycling – they dump it all out onto a mechanized assembly line and pay people (probably immigrants making minimum wage) to sort it out. And the plastic bags are a hazard – they can get caught in the mechanism, and possibly start fires.

So the city publishes a garbage/recycling calendar every year, and the January page listed all these details. I didn’t read it until July, of course! I couldn’t figure out why they kept taking my blue and yellow bags away! I was pissed 🙂

But now those plastic bags pile up in my house until I take them with me to the grocery store – they’ve got a bin there to recycle them. This makes our plastic consumption a bit more obvious. One of my New Years goals is to never use another plastic bag again, i.e. to remember to get those cloth bags out of the trunk whenever I go into a store.

So, hubby and I went shopping yesterday. My mom gave us gift cards to the mall for our Christmas presents. Hubby was looking for new clothes. We, of course, left the cloth bags in the trunk. Then we went grocery shopping. It’s pizza-movie night around the ol’ homestead. Also, we were out of milk and eggs. (oh, for the days when we’ll live on a real homestead, and we’ll have our own source of eggs and milk!) It was raining. (I mean pouring buckets, like it can in the Pacific Northwest. This is a rainforest, yo!) We ran into the store, not remembering the cloth bags until we got to the til.


This isn’t going to be as easy as I’d hoped.