Friday, August 19, 2011

Just one conversation can be all it takes

Good evening everyone,

I hope you are all well ... occupied with enough to keep life interesting but not so much to be overwhelmed.

I've been feeling overwhelmed lately. Unfortunately, when I feel that way I grind to a halt. Life is weird like that: when I need to be doing everything, I want to retreat to nothing.

Lucky for me, this afternoon I met someone who brought me back on track.

I was in Tim Horton's. It is a major vice of mine ... and an easy, anonymous retreat where I can sit and read through a book or notes. I was reading meeting notes when ...

"You've got a lot of paper there! Are you taking a course?"

This question came from the young man who had been sitting two tables away, talking on the phone. He was on his way out. It's unusual for a guy of twenty or so to speak to a woman my age, so I really felt that long two seconds of "Is he being sarcastic?" crossing my brain. And I replied: "No, I'm reading through the notes from a meeting I was at this morning. London has a new food charter and we're trying to decide what projects we want to tell people about first."

He stopped at my table. "A food charter?"

"Yes, it's a statement by a lot of organizations in London and even the City that says basically that everyone should be able to get healthy food every day. There's a lot of other stuff too, but that's the really important part."

He was nodding agreement. "You have to have a lot of money to eat healthy."

It was my turn to nod.

"It's like ... when you go to the store and there's something good on for $3.00 but it's not a lot and then the peanut butter is $2.00 and you buy the peanut butter because there's more ... but it's got a lot of oil in it."

"Maybe confectioners sugar too," I added. "The 'just peanuts' stuff costs more."

He was still nodding his head. "Not everyone can afford the healthy stuff."

"No, and companies like to sell stuff that's already made up so people don't have to cook and it always costs more when though there's extra chemicals and stuff in it."

"And it's cheap and fast. They want you to buy that." he added. "But it's not that good for you. The companies make a lot of money on it ... you know, the refined stuff. And when you get older you can get sick because you didn't eat the right stuff."

"Yes," said I. "There are a lot of companies making a lot of money ... and people can't afford the better food - the real stuff you have to make yourself. At the food charter group, we've talked about other things like how if people don't have enough money to buy the good food there need to be changes so that people get better wages at their jobs ..."

"A lot of jobs don't pay much," he put in. This gets really big. There's a lot of things that are mixed up together."

"Yes," I said. "It gets really complicated and I feel confused sometimes."

"But you're working with other people to make this food charter so more people have good food? Then that's good. You all help each other."

A little light went on for me. "Yes, we do. And some of them really know a lot. There are people in this group from groups that work with children, and health organizations, and there's a university teacher, and someone from the food bank and one of the City departments that works with people who have low incomes. And ... yeah, they're good people."

"I'm really glad to meet you. My name's Andrew."

And he reached out and we shook hands as I told him my name.

"I'm really glad you spoke to me," I said. "Thank you."

"I really like to talk to people," Andrew said. "Well, I gotta go. You take care."

And he headed off ... to work or home or maybe a date or a friend's place.

After he left, I just sat for a minute before I packed up all the papers, to head home. I felt pretty good.

Thanks Andrew. You made my day.

Best wishes to all of you reading.

Why's Woman

Monday, August 8, 2011

Chickens again!

Good morning!

I did it! I sent in my written submission for London's public participation meeting about backyard chickens on time so it can get into the committee's agenda. I wouldn't bore you with the 7 pages and 37 endnotes of the full thing! But the short form is:

Chickens can be raised in an urban back yard without disturbing neighbours by noise or odours, and without anyone getting sick.

Raising chickens has a traditional place in household economic and food security that continues today.

Raising chickens in urban yards can be a normal part of city living and an accepted part of a city's urban agriculture spectrum.

Varied societal and economic factors will require more food to be produced within London's urban boundaries, probably beginning within the next ten years. We need to be ready by developing varied models of urban agriculture in London. The people who learn now about caring for chickens will be the people who will teach others how to raise chickens, confidently; also, their purchases of hens for egg-laying supports established breeders of healthy stock within our region.

Other cities in Canada and the United States have done the reports, set the standards, examined and been satisfied about health concerns, and had some experience with chickens raised within their urban boundaries. London could easily get on with amending bylaws to allow people to raise a few chickens in their yards, now.

I look forward to a bylaw that begins: "London wants to lead the way in creative, environmentally sound, economically and socially inclusive styles of urban agriculture. We are open to individual households where raising chickens is part of a household's food plan. As London evolves its urban agriculture spectrum the guidelines in this bylaw/report are a starting point...."

And that's really short. It's just that councillors seem to like paperwork to back up simple stuff.

I've only got half a dozen major projects to get on with ... plus the garden ... and my nice husband who brings me coffee in the morning and makes me tea when I ask him, and proofread the submission (that was really above and beyond! I love you Chris. Thanks.)

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Kitchen Garden Day is August 28/10

Good morning everyone.

I've been surviving the heat - sort of - and not writing much here.

A bit of inspiration has come my way, through a visit to the Kitchen Gardens International website (

Apparently, several years ago, some KGI members realized that the US snack food industry celebrated itself for a whole month every year ... a mind-boggling thing to contemplate given the normal level of advertising there is for junk, er, snack food.

KGI decided to set the last Sunday in August as International Kitchen Gardens Day. It's not a day off work, or an official holiday ... but I figure that KGI has readers worldwide, so designating an international Kitchen Gardens Day is fine by me. :-) There's a lot to eat coming from our gardens around that time, that's for sure!

A lot to be grateful for! A lot to celebrate!

So! Let's celebrate the positive role of organic kitchen gardening in society, health, and cookery!

I've made my own list of ways to celebrate. Please do let me know your own celebration idea ... you could even let KGI know too via its website (

Best regards to all,

Why's Woman

Kitchen Gardens Day - Sunday, August 28, 2011

Celebrate your own kitchen garden ... or balcony garden ... or local farmers' market ... or the farmer you don't know whose fresh food comes to your neighbourhood grocery story.

* work outside in your own kitchen garden and take the time to smell and touch and observe all the good things you have

* eat something right there in your garden - hold the food in your mouth and savour the sweet or spicy or tart sensations

* at mealtime, mention to anyone eating with you just what food came out of your garden - even if it is just the chives in the salad dressing

* if you are dining along - say a little thank you to the food and the garden

* if you have gardening neighbours or friends, invite them over for an outdoor potluck - swap some recipes at your potluck

* take some photos of your garden and put them on your fridge door - or set them aside to put into Christmas cards, when we might need a reminder of our gardens

* ask an older person you know if s/he has a story about a family kitchen garden of her/his childhood ... maybe this could be story number one of a collection.

* if you don't have a garden or need more produce, visit a local farmers' market and buy something you love to eat, or try something completely new to you

* donate to your local food bank or to another local group - asking that the donation go towards its fresh produce funds

* send for a catalogue with good seeds for next year - see the resources page of Community Gardens London for a printable list (

* visit the USC website and find out about its Seeds of Survival program ( and the importance of saving seeds to people's livelihood

* let Kitchen Gardens International know your celebration plan - it's a good reason to visit an interesting website