Weekend Viewing - The Back Breaking Leaf

Friday, February 24, 2012

When my dad's family first came to Canada shortly after WWII, they settled on a farm in Norfolk County, just north of Lake Erie in southern Ontario. The land they bought was linked to a tobacco quota, which licensed them to grow tobacco and get a fair price for it. Tobacco grew well on the sandy soil and was a major part of the economic foundation of the whole county for most of the past century.

I'm not supported, nor ever was, by tobacco farming (my dad's family moved into vegetables when he was a teenager), but a lot of people I went to school with were, or else worked in "harvest" pushing the beginning of the high-school year back a few weeks.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about how we use our farmland for the things that get the highest price, which is often not food. It continually puts farmers in a tough position when they have to make a choice for their land to support their families.

The boom days of Ontario tobacco are long gone and lots of farmers have been forced to make some hard decisions. I know of a local farm, Round Plains Plantation, that has since moved into growing sweet potatoes, which they sell at our farmer's market, as well as at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. It is nice to be able to actually eat something from land that is finally producing food.

Norfolk County doesn't have the storied food culture that other counties in Ontario have-I can't help but think that tobacco (and most recently, ginseng) have slowed it down-but I'm beginning to see signs of it catching up.

If you're on an Apple device, you can download the NFB's app here.

Drum Roll Please...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The results from our Self-Sufficient giveaway are in!

It was inspiring to see so much excitement and enthusiasm towards growing food, raising animals, collecting rain water, composting, preserving, conserving energy, shopping locally and becoming more self sufficient.

Since the accounting firm we were going to use to select a winner was busy tallying Oscar votes, we used our backup, a free online random number generator (omitting our own comments and duplicates).

The winner is Courtney!

 CourtneyFeb 16, 2012 07:07 AM
I'm going to have a booth at the local farmer's market this summer to be able to share my own products (I've recently gotten into canning and preserving) as well as buy locally every week from the market. I've also been looking for property to purchase so that I can do more at home with what I have.

If you didn't win this time around, don't worry, we are going to have another giveaway in March.

Weekend Viewing - Victorian Kitchen Garden

Monday, February 20, 2012

Seeing as it's a long weekend here in Ontario, I thought I'd share some viewing to inspire you to start planning for the year ahead.

Our friends from Hamilton's Love it a Lot turned us on to the BBC's Victorian Kitchen Garden series a year or so back and it's a very interesting watch. It follows the recreation of a walled kitchen garden that would have been fully staffed in its day to serve a manor house and all of its food needs.

A lot of the methods are ingenious, such as using a south-facing brick wall to create a warmer environment for some of the more tender fruits. Other contraptions, like the glass tube above, were purely aesthetic. The master of the house would only want straight cucumbers to serve his guests, so each individual fruit would have its own guide.

The show illustrates a period at a very interesting time of agricultural history. It was the end of a period where everything was organic, and the "wonderful" chemicals began appearing with great promise. A time when low-impact ingenuity was necessary for success before the brute force of oil and internal combustion engines changed the scale of our world.

The show isn't available in Canada, so I'm forced to share a YouTube playlist I've put together. All the episodes I could find, I've assembled here, with a few missing pieces. Just click on the "play all" button or pick an episode. Enjoy!

A Self-Sufficient Giveaway

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's been a couple years since I found The Self-Sufficient Life and How To Live It at the library. I maxed out the renewals I was allowed and then quickly put it on my Christmas list. Since then, our homesteading book collection has grown and we have tried our best to recommend titles to you. The most recent (I guess you could call it a review) was for Self Sufficiency for the 21st Century.

DK Canada, the publishing company behind both of those titles liked our reviews and recently sent us some more books to look over, and we've decided to share the bounty.

The Self Sufficient Life is our absolute favourite, and the Concise Guide to Self Sufficiency is essentially that book condensed into a nice little volume. Don't get me wrong, it's not leaving everything out. It's still 250 pages. What it has left out is some of the more ambitious content to focus on what you simply need to get yourself and whatever small piece of land you have working for you.

From planning your garden, to sowing seeds, maintaining, harvesting and storage, it's all covered. And when you're done for the year, it'll even help you get brewing. It also includes a section on raising animals, from chickens and ducks to pigs. The only animal missing is the cow. A home dairy is something we look forward to once we have the land.

But it's not just about food. It also has sections on clearing land, generating electricity, and even all the handy knots you need to know to help out.

So what do you have to do to get a free book? Simply leave a comment below telling us the one new thing you plan to try this year to help make yourself a little more self-sufficient. Please include your email address and if your worried about spam, sub (at) for @.

The winner will be chosen at random (so don't stress too much about your comment!) when the contest closes on Tuesday, February 21 at midnight, EST. We'll reveal the lucky winner the next day, Wednesday, and promptly drop the book into the mail.

What are we going to do this year? We're planning on actually making that real, buried-in-the-ground root cellar we wanted to dig last year.

Good luck!

A New Dress

Monday, February 6, 2012

A while ago Jesse wrote a post about trying to start sharing some of the other, non-food related things we're up to. Most of those other things are still under the idea of making things at home, and other DIY projects, so they seem at home on Crackers.

One of the projects I'm involved in is a group of Hamilton ladies who call ourselves the Beehive Craft Collective. The group was formed around a love for the handmade, DIY, and sustainable.

Last week I wrote a post for the Beehive Blog sharing a dress that I made.

Just like getting out of the supermarket for food, we feel so good when we can create something for ourselves, kids or our home without having to buy much other than the raw materials to make it.

Check it out!