The Green Mile(s)

Posted in Uncategorized on April 22, 2012 by brittanywindle

Smith, A., & MacKinnon, J, B. (2007). The 100 Mile Diet: a year of local eating. Vintage House, Toronto

“Eat Local, Think Global”

This is a quote that I’ve been hearing more and more as of late. The 100-mile diet makes you take a look at your dietary lifestyle and where all our food really comes from. I’ve known about this diet for awhile now and I’m sorry to say that the bulk of my diet does not fall within the 100 mile range. I’d be flying faaaaar down South if I were to play within those boundaries. Bananas and coconut don’t just grow on trees here in Canada and I’m renowned for eating heaps of bananas – sometimes 8 a day! It’s too bad Kamloops doesn’t sell fair-trade bananas but I have some friends that are lobbying for it. Another favourite of mine is almonds – almond trees can grow in these areas but it’s definitely not something you’re likely to find. However, apples, peaches, and other tree fruits do grow here and they are delicious! Just another reason to love the summer time. It is so refreshing to be able to go out and pick some cherries off a tree and stuff your face until your lips are stained red. But how nice it would be to go outside and grab a coconut strait of the tree, pry it open and drink its milk and tear into its flesh. Once again my dream to drop out of school and skuttle down to South America is playing in my mind. Perhaps something to manifest in the near future?

I really enjoyed reading the 100-mile diet because it makes you examine your eating habits and how the majority of people’s food choices are unsustainable – how will we continue to transport food when the oil industry crashes? How long could a nation last without its regular shipments of food? It’s something that could start civil wars and many other atrocities. This is why I think it’s imperative that people grow their own food, making the best of the space they have because not everyone has a lot of land space to grow food. But there are many creative ideas out there – I’ve seen people using old gutters and nailing them slightly diagonal along a fence. They filled them with dirt and planted herbs and lettuce and other little things like that. I have also seen people using shoe racks that you hang on the back of doors – they filled each little pocket with dirt and planted something in each one! There’s so many nifty ways to grow your own food and there’s nothing like biting into a fresh garden tomato!

I worked on an organic vegetable farm last summer and it’s incredible the feeling you get when you’re basically giving something life that will give you life in return. It’s the ultimate balance of giving and receiving. Not to mention the connection between you and the Earth and also you and your food. I think it’s really important to have a connection with food. Although I don’t eat meat, I love it when people hunt for their own food. It’s great, it’s how it should be. Many people go to the grocery store and buy meat wrapped in plastic – where’s the connection there? True, the same can be said for vegetables but the majority of people are buying meats that come from factory farms. There’s some twisted energies that come along with processed meats. Speaking of processed, people are eating more and more processed foods. Meanwhile, obesity rates are rising, cancer is becoming more prevalent, and all these diseases and disorders are springing up. Hmmm, I wonder why? It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? I believe it all stems back to your diet and if someone isn’t getting the proper nutrients that their body needs and deserves, then their body will become a toxic environment, just beckoning something suspicious to come their way. I know far too well about toxic environments in your body. I don’t drink for 2 years and then go on a little bender and all of a sudden I have pneumonia? Surprise, surprise. I was starving myself of nutrients and eating refined sugars and my body becomes a breeding ground for bacteria – suspicious indeed!! Well, I can no longer doubt the power of a good, wholesome diet.

If you’re eating within 100 miles, chances are you’re eating fresh, whole foods. Better yet, if you’re growing it yourself it’s sustainable, affordable, and feels great to be eating something you gave life to! The tricky thing with this whole idea is the winter. A friend of mine abides by this diet and she says that her main ingredients in the wintertime are carrots and potatoes. But then she talks about those first weeks of the farmers markets and how her and her children can’t even wait until they get home to nibble on their goods. It makes them appreciate it so much more than the average person. People take food so much for granted. I’m even guilty of it and I believe the 100-mile diet can really connect a person more with their food and improve their lifestyle and by doing so, help promote sustainability!

A Life of Love and a Love of Life With Lavender

Posted in Uncategorized on April 13, 2012 by brittanywindle

Lavender, oh lavender – where art thou lavender? Yes, I could get into a lengthy description of the Mediterranean origins of this plant, and the fact that it enjoys a sunny, arid climate. But I think the real question here is where are you not? Not geographically speaking in this sense, but more closely connected to its presence in the life of yours truly. This is the story of my love affair with lavender, or Lavendula officinalis as it is known in the scientific world. When I step back and look at my life, as I was urged to do with this daunting task, I came to realize just how omnipresent lavender is in my day-to-day life.

I don’t know how or when it began but I know this is a relationship that will be long-lived. Maybe it was my mother’s beautiful garden, a large chunk of it devoted to a lush patch of this wondrous plant. Half of her garden was teeming with lavender, any slight wind rustling the purple branches and bringing the scent along with it. Even to this day, although she has quit growing vegetables, my mother’s garden is flourishing with lavender. Once they are in your garden they will multiply like crazy, although it is extremely hard to grow from seed. As I learnt from my Mum, most of the time lavender is planted with cuttings from other plants. Once it has matured, it is extremely drought resistant, making Kamloops a very suitable place to make its home! My mum also gave me the helpful hint of squeezing limejuice over the soil where lavender is growing, which makes it more alkaline. I think it’s safe to say that she spurred my attachment to lavender and for that I give her thanks. But she was certainly not the only one who rocked the boat.

Perhaps it had something to do with my first love – lavender oil, which is extracted from the flowers of the plant, has a very potent smell. He would put this on and the essence of lavender mixed beautifully with his familiar musky smell. Sporadic times he would walk through my door, with that heavenly smell trailing close behind. How I loved to bury my nose deep into his armpits, breathing in the relaxing smell of lavender and his scent that stirred something inside of me. The lavender gave him a gentle edge, as I would kiss my way down his strong neck and over to his broad shoulders. The contrast of this ruggedly handsome man donning a plant as lovely and soft as lavender was that extra little detail about him that made me adore him. And still my days with lavender continue to evolve in beautiful ways.

Lavender has shared some very special memories with me. Those countless times I’ve spent and have yet to spend dancing in the woods, with the moon and stars high above my head. The whole journey accompanied only by a small bout of sanity and the wonderful smell of lavender. I can only imagine what the palace of Queen Elizabeth and her predecessors smelled like – the British Royal family took a very fond liking to this amazing plant and demanded various items; from lavender-stuffed pillows to fresh cuttings displayed in every room, showering the air with its fragrance. It is because of them that English lavender came to be. Since the royal family demanded it so much people just started growing it in their own gardens and it became very popular once people realized its appealing nature. The history of lavender has many interesting details that show how it spread throughout the world.

I cannot fail to mention my travels with lavender. There are few things I never leave home without – floss, a tuque or two (depending on the time of year), and the essential oil of lavender. It has quite the potent smell but it is probably thanks to this that my travel partners were able to bare the smell of me, even after days on end of not showering. As I delved a little deeper into the uses of lavender, I came to realize that I probably avoided an infection or two on my journeys. Little did I know of the antiseptic and antifungal properties that lavender holds. As I reflected upon trekking through the back 40’s, surrounded by the seemingly endless forest, and all the scrapes I acquired along the way… a whole new sense of appreciation for lavender overtook me. Did I unknowingly manage to avert some suspicious fungal infection that may have caused me some serious harm? It is a possibility, one that I don’t care to dwell on thinking of what could have been.

So now that lavender has a reputation as an antiseptic, it brings to mind an interesting piece in its history that I stumbled upon. During the time of the Plague that killed millions of people, 4 thieves ransacked the city of London and they scraped by without catching the Plague. They seemed to avoid the disease by using a concoction that consisted of lavender, thyme, sage, and rosemary, which they had steeped in vinegar. It’s interesting to note that all the herbs belong to the mint family, or the Lamiaceae family from a taxonomic view.

Being asked to tell my story with lavender has shown me just how intertwined it has been in my life and how it has accompanied me in my growth, especially during the past few years. Usually when you are reminiscing about your own growth and spiritual evolution, people or animals that were with you come to mind. The idea that lavender has been with me in this journey through life puts a whole new perspective on what I have come to recognize as positive influences. It makes my passion burn brighter for summer and for that day in June when those deep purple flowers finally bloom and bring with them that soothing smell. Until then, I am counting down the days until I can graze my hands over the lavender spikelets, bring my hands up to my nose and lovingly draw in the divine smell that means so much to me. What a pleasure for my senses that this fragrance beholds! And what a treat it is to enjoy lavender during the late months of summer.

Being a perennial plant, lavender ‘dies’ every year in the winter to grow again in the summer. It experiences this incredible rebirth, something that I have been lucky enough to undergo recently. To die during one’s own lifetime, and to leave their old life behind, moving onto a more meaningful pathway is a wild experience. Perennial plants do this every year, and rebirth seems necessary to grow in life, especially from a plant’s perspective. This simple plant fits into my life so naturally. If it were to disappear suddenly, there would be a hole that would not be easy to fill. Lavender lives in my life, adding to the beauty that I am grateful to experience every day. Because of this I know this will be a life-long romance.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 13, 2012 by brittanywindle

Pollan, Michael. 2001. Chapter 3: Desire: Intoxication; Plant: Marijuana (CANNABIS SATIVA x INDICA). pg. 111-179 in The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World. Random House, New York.

Ohhhhh marijuana, what troubles arise from you! What completely unnecessary troubles that has turned the “War on Drugs” into a lame excuse of how the government allocates their resources. This is part of what Pollan discusses on his chapter that is devoted to the marijuana plant, or cannabis sativa. I enjoyed reading this chapter because Pollan openly talks about his use of this plant that has been used for thousands of years, and even describes his experience of growing the plant. It’s nice to see that someone in the public’s eye will openly talk about this issue and even engage people through the use of his writing. It’s a touchy subject for many people, and people have their own strict sides that they are on. It’s funny how people who have not even tried marijuana, form opinions on it. Some people who haven’t tried it think it’s great and others think it’s the devil’s lettuce. The devil’s in meeeeee, the devil’s in youuuuuu….. It’s not like I’m saying we should all go out and drop 4 hits of acid and snort 8 rails of coke for us to decide whether or not it’s good or bad. What strikes me as odd is the reputation that marijuana has gained as a promoter of violence, such as the whole “Reefer Madness” propaganda.

Not to mention all the hype in the media that refers to marijuana as a ‘gateway drug’. I don’t get how there’s even an argument there because if there was any factual evidence behind it, then I’m sure alcohol or even tobacco could be classified as such and these things are legal! Legal and much more lethal. How many deaths do tobacco and alcohol cause each year? I’m sure this would sadly outweigh the deaths caused by marijuana, which I have never even heard of one occurring solely due to the use of marijuana.

Pollan’s chapter talks a lot about the effects that our desire’s have and how we, as humans, have a desire to alter our consciousness. Every human civilization has had a plant that did this in one way or another. But this was always done ceremoniously, until much more recent times, where drug use has teetered out of control. Not in regards to cannabis use but in the forms of other drugs. Pharmaceutical companies make vast amounts of money every day in western civilizations. Nowadays there is a pill for everything and doctors are so quick to write a prescription for any sort of ailment, whether it’s required or not. Can you say commission much? Why do you think bacteria are evolving at such a rapid pace? People are overusing antibiotics and running to the doctor at any sign of a slight cold. When in reality, our immune systems are perfectly capable of fighting off minor infections! Of course, this also takes me on another rant about our diets and western diets are seriously lacking in nutrients. We are obese but soooo malnourished. How is that possible? Processed foods and refined sugars for one. No wonder all these diseases are popping up. It all stems back to our diets and if we don’t give our body the nutrients it needs, and therefore the respect and love it deserves, then how are we expected to function properly?

These are my thoughts that arose from this chapter. It’s funny to see how one thing can lead to something else entirely and I thank Pollan for taking my mind in different directions. 4/20 is 3 days away………

Diverse Deserts

Posted in Uncategorized on April 13, 2012 by brittanywindle

Nabhan, G.P. 1990. Desert Plants as Calories, Cures, and Characters; & The Creosote Bush is Our Drugstore. pg. 2-19 in Gathering the Desert. Univ. Of Arizona Press.

The desert holds many surprises that are unknown to myself but upon reading this article, I discovered that deserts have many species. And even more surprising is that many of these species are edible. Nabhan’s article opened up a whole new world of possibility in my eyes. People generally tend to think that deserts are barren wastelands that are basically inhabitable. That’s what I thought prior to reading Nabhan’s article. But people have survived and are still surviving in deserts, making the best of what resources there are to be had.

The Opata Indians have a vast bank of traditional ecological knowledge of the area they habitat. This comes from centuries of living on the land, in union with the plant and animal species. They know what plants to help with anything from cuts to colds and they know when and where to look for those plants. I think it’s amazing, how they are so connected to their land, something that the vast majority of the global population lacks. And it isn’t something that can be obtained easily. It’s not something you can read from a book. It’s something that comes from time and experience. This knowledge of the land has been passed down through the generations and is constantly being added to. It is something that I feel like I need to do, in some area of the world. Escape into the woods and connect with the land. Become a recluse in South America, run wild through the woods and live in the trees, hunting and gathering to survive.

Whenever I read an article like this, about a group of Indigenous people, it always stirs up my desire to flee from society and not look back. It’s phenomenal how much life there is in every part of the world and how it’s possible to inhabit an area without and contact or supplies from other areas of the world. The Indigenous people that Nabhan talks about in his article are perfect examples of this. It’s incredible how they have discovered the uses of so many plants, without the use of modern science with microscopes and laboratories to test the chemical properties. This is what truly astounds me and makes me appreciate just how precious and valuable traditional ecological knowledge is and how easy it is to be lost. This is why we must respect this form of knowledge and work in tandem with it, something that modern science is just starting to realize.

“Even if you don’t gather the desert, let it gather a feeling in you. Even if you don’t swallow it as medicine, meditate upon it: the desert can cure.” This quote made me pause and think of the huge meaning behind it. But I think it can be applied to any part of nature, not just the desert. I believe that a connection to the land and nature can cure many diseases and ailments, most of which stem from the mind. And once you form that connection, there is no going back. Once you have that feeling, you will always remember it and always return to it. This is how nature can cure.

Apples in the Atmosphere

Posted in Uncategorized on April 13, 2012 by brittanywindle

Pollan, Michael. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World. 1st ed. 1. New York: Random House, 2000. 1-58. Print.

 

The Apple. It’s tantalizing flesh and arousing scent makes me yearn for a piece of it’s succulent fruit! So simple and yet so delicious. The apple comes in various forms. Generally, I’m a Granny Smith fan, the bright green drawing my senses towards it. Lately though, I’ve been favouring these organic Gala apples that I stumbled upon in the downtown Coopers. They are small, yet firm and when you sink your teeth into them it comes with a satisfying crunch that keeps me going back for more. Some days it is all I go in there for. That large bag of apples that I strap onto the back of my bike and madly pedal home, giddy with the thought of eating one right away. My fridge feels bare when I don’t have apples in them to grab on whim.

Pollan’s book opened up the door of the Apple’s important history that I did not even know existed. I can just picture Johnny Appleseed floating down the Ohio River, lying in the sun with mounds of seeds piled under sacks to protect them from the sun. Oh how I long to turn back time and be his companion on his journeys. We sound very much alike – preferring to be in the great outdoors, not abiding by anyone’s schedule but our own and just going with the flow. Not to mention our love of apples!

An apple a day keeps the doctor away they say. But they can also keep the dentist away too! They help your teeth fight tooth decay and contain lots of Vitamin C and fibre to help with those blessed events. There are endless amounts of dishes you can use them in – from salads to crumbles, they are just so tasty. No wonder Eve took the forbidden fruit! How could you resist something such as an apple?

Another great thing about apples, is that they grow here in our backyards! It’s crazy that we get them shipped from California or even further South when Kamloops has perfect growing conditions for this amazing fruit. Back in the day, Kamloops was bursting with orchards – peaches, pears, plums, and you name it – apples. I was renting a house on the North Shore a couple years ago and there were a couple fruit trees in the backyard. There was a cherry tree that blessed me the the most incredible cherries I have ever had the privilege of eating. And then there was an apple tree. My land lord told me they were no good and that I shouldn’t eat them. But as they began to ripen more and more each day and their sweet smell filled the air on those hot summer days, I simply could not resist. I felt much like Eve in the Garden of Eden. I had to do it. I climbed into the tree, grabbing onto one limb, and then the one higher, strategically placing my feet to make my way up the best route. I climbed as high as I could, to the bright green and red apple that I had set my eyes upon before I began my ascent. I reached my fingers out to it and gingerly snapped it off the tree. I turned it around in my hand, looking for any sign that it was filled with worms or something of the sort. I saw none so I brought it to my nose and inhaled its scent. I lowered it to my lips and opened my mouth and took my first bite of the apple, not entirely sure what to expect. And at that first bite, I knew there would be many more from this tree. It provided me with a bounty of delicious apples. They were fantastic! Sweet and crunchy and soooo appealing. How did my landlord not know about this little grocery store? That apple tree made me a very happy person and I filled my belly with many tasty apples that summer. Having fruit trees is the best thing and it is my dream to attain in life. It seems like a simple thing to dream for but it is really all I need to make me happy. I want to have fruit trees, some nut trees, and a garden.

I enjoyed Pollan’s chapter about the apple because I think he appreciates the little things, such as apples. He values the importance of something that so many people take for granted. Where would America be without the apple?  One apple tree can feed many mouths and indeed it did – as apple trees grew, so did America.

Would you like corn with that?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2012 by brittanywindle

The story of corn is a fascinating one and Michael Pollan breaks it down beautifully, with its origins and how it spread its way up to North America, and how we use this plant today. And boy do we use it! And use it, and use it, and use it. Corn is in basically everything. Check the label on any processed food item and you’re bound to find some sort of corn by-product. It’s insane! How did we figure out how to manipulate this plant in so many ways? It was interesting to read that corn might not exist today without the help of humans…”without humans to plant it every spring, corn would have disappeared from the earth in a matter of a few years” (p. 26).

I really enjoyed this reading because I am an avid food label reader, so I know what I put into my body and I definitely do not consume the amount of corn and it’s by-products than your average North American. I am very grateful to have the knowledge I do on food items and this reading only added to my knowledge. It touches on a lot of things that Food Inc. talks about but in his book but it still amazes me to read stuff like this. How are people so ignorant of something so important as the food system? It’s out of control and to me, it’s highly suspicious and very untrustworthy. Corn products are just another thing to go along with artificial foods and modified foods and ingredients you can’t even pronounce! And of course corn syrup, the sugar used from corn is in so many things. Thank baby Jesus I know this stuff now and not years down the road. But the food system is a whole other rant unto itself.

I like how Pollan describes corn as successful. Because when you really sit back and look at how far corn has come, it’s pretty amazing. But it’s also kind of scary. The major corn crops that are grown for mass production are monocultures. Soooo what if a disease comes that we can’t handle with our technology and it ends up completely wiping out the entire corn population!? Well I think we’d pretty much be SOL. It’s so interwoven into the food system that it could cause it to collapse! There goes many McDonalds items. So what you ask? People will just have to start making their own meals at home. Isn’t that a good thing? Well yeah but it’s way more complicated then that. For all those meat lovers out there, where do you think your meat comes from? Clearly the majority of people do not but organic, grass-fed beef or there wouldn’t be the sickening amount of factory farms that exist today. And guess what! All those animals on the factory farms get fed grains!! CORN=GRAIN!! Ohh the humanity!! From my previous bank of knowledge that I like to throw out at people, it takes 7 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef. That is phenomenal. So yeah, we could be dealing with this ‘world hunger’ issue but Americans must have their meat. Most people don’t even think about where their meat comes from. They just go to the supermarket and look for the most appealing slab of raw meat wrapped in plastic. Now to me, that is twisted. The connection between you and your food isn’t there, it doesn’t exist. That’s why I really respect people that go out and hunt their own meat. It’s all about that connection between you and your food. The energy that comes with an animal from a factory farm is twisted.

Then there’s the environmental issues involved around corn production. It causes a lot of land degradation, especially if it isn’t rotated with another crop which results in nitrogen depletion. Monocultures are decreasing species diversity and like Pollan describes in Chapter 2, pushing other species out of the way to make more and more room for corn production.

Overall, Pollan does a good job revealing corn’s little secrets to his readers. The gross impact it is having on our food system and especially our waistlines is something that can’t be ignored. Obesity rates are growing in tandem with corn production and its resulting products. But on a brighter side (in my opinion), perhaps this is the solution to the population issue. This could work in various ways. For instance, processed foods are not healthy. They do not give your body the nutrients it needs and deserves. This is resulting in many diseases that I believe are a direct result from an unhealthy diet. Next is the water crisis. Water isn’t as renewable as we would like t think. It takes a huuuuuge amount of water to produce corn. So if we wait until we dry up the water tables and can’t produce any more corn…well there goes the staple of American diets! Also, if a disease does wipe out the corn crops then there really will be a world hunger crisis. People will have to fight for their food, or just grow their own. Imagine that. But there’s a whole other issue. Governments are also trying to regulate people growing their own vegetables. They are trying to make it illegal. It’s sickening. In the end it all comes down to a government issue. It’s all about control and a lack of knowledge.

pomme de terrible!!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 26, 2012 by brittanywindle

Pollan, Michael. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World. 1st ed. 1. New York: Random House, 2001. 181-238. Print.

The potato. It’s been a staple of diets for centuries, most notably in Ireland where they experienced the Great Potato Famine in 1845. Even today, it is so entrenched in our society and appears on many dinner tables across North America.

Many people think of Europe when they think of the potato but it actually is not native to that area. Pollan’s chapter on the potato is very interesting. He gives a run down on its history, beginning in South America where they grew many different varieties across the mountain sides. I found it interesting that the British were not accepting of the potato at first because of its association with the Irish. Eventually, it slowly weaseled its way into their culture and gave the British another source of food.

Reading this chapter and listening to Percy Schmeiser’s lecture increased my feelings of distaste towards genetically modified foods. The whole idea of ‘control’ behind corporations, such as Monsanto, is completely unnerving. Percy talks about how these corporations use the tools of intimidation and fear to get farmers under their wing. GMOs are now embedded into farm life and it’s a very good chance that it’s there for good. Genetically modified foods goes against nature in every way possible, as Pollan points out, it disregards the fact that “everything affects everything else”. They contaminate the fields of farmers that don’t even want to grow GMOs. And then the companies try to sue them for growing their patented life forms…it doesn’t make any sense.

Percy opened my eyes to a lot about GMOs that I had never thought of before. Companies, like Monsanto take away a farmers rights to save their seeds from year to year. Well they knew what they were doing when they put a ‘terminator’ gene into their seeds, which makes the plant seeds sterile. And the contracts they have to sign when they purchase seeds is preposterous! The fact that they cannot sue Monsanto for any reason… and agents can come onto the farm up 3 years after purchasing seeds… it is all extremely suspicious to me.

One of my major concerns is food labelling. Why is it not part of the food policy to label GMOs as such? We have a right to know what we’re eating so why have we, as North Americans, allowed this to happen? Why did we even allow GMOs in the first place? Farmers were promised higher yields, more nutritional value, and the cherry on top: less use of chemicals. This lured farmers into buying GM seeds and now that the cat is out of the bag, it won’t go back. So I accept the fact that GMOs are out there but we need to know where they are!

Pollan doesn’t directly say he’s for or against GMOs but the fact that he could not bring himself to eat the ones he grew himself tells me where his beliefs lie. What I could not believe is that the NewLeaf potatoes aren’t actually considered a food item, they are actually a pesticide according to the Environmental Protection Administration.
Wait, what? A pesticide? And we’re eating this? People are ordering a pesticide when they order fries to go along with that Big Mac? I don’t know about anyone else but I am not comfortable with eating something that is not considered as actual food. I was actually surprised to read that McDonalds quit using the NewLeaf potato but McDonalds is a whole other rant unto itself.

Completely messing up the genes of species will have consequences. We can already see it with the superweeds that have arose out of all this GMO mess. Farmers are now using way more toxic chemicals than ever before and GMOs aren’t as nutritional as they were promised to be! GMOs have been found to cause infertility and immune disorders to name but a few.

All this leaves me questioning, what next? If you can put patents on living things, who’s to say what this will lead to. Genetically Modified humans? The big man owning ‘smaller’ men? Control, control, control. It’s all about control. “The more thorough our control of nature is, the sooner natural selection will overthrow it.”