Seedy Saturday and entrepreneurial gardeners

Took myself off to Seedy Saturday at the Victoria Convention Centre. I love Seedy Saturday and apparently there are an ever exploding number of Seedy Saturdays that happen all over Canada now.

Even though I don’t own land, a girl can dream, can’t she?

Besides, like a lot of things, dreaming about an incredible garden is often better than reality. Because reality means I’d actually have to haul dirt and weed and water and spend weekends working and if there’s anything I’ve learned in the past five months now that I have a full time job again, it’s that every second of my weekend is precious. No squandering weekend minutes or seconds doing anything I don’t want to do.

I sat in on three talks, and learned so much. The day started with a medicinal plant talk by Jessy Delleman who owns Fireweed Farm and School.  It was interesting to see slides of how she transformed a piece of land in about 4 years and built a business that includes seed selling, workshops, walks, plants, and healing tinctures all focused on native plants.  Her business is focused on native B.C. plants.

I then moved on to Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds talking about ancient grains because he has a new book about that and his rant about Monsanto was fantastic. It was worth sitting in on just to hear that.

I had no idea that he grew about 700 different crops on his farm on Salt Spring. When he began a long time ago, he’d actually started with soy beans and had a lot of hope of getting some funding for those except the powers at be didn’t believe that he could grow those successfully. Of course, he’s been growing them successfully for years.

It was so interesting to listen to him speak about soy and quinoa and amaranth and Ethiopian barley (no, there’s not just one kind) and how when he started growing, he was convinced that amaranth, not quinoa, was going to be the trend that took off. He still thinks amaranth’s day has yet to come. It was interesting to hear the hope he had about how things are really shaking all over B.C. and on Vancouver Island when it comes to local producers and how that’s beginning to impact consumer purchasing. He pointed out that it’s actually how we eat and how that food gets distributed that’s the largest contributor to greenhouse gases.

The last talk I attended was by Chris Hildreth and his company TopSoil Innovative Agriculture along with production manager Scott Mellett. It’s so impressive to see someone with a vision pursue it and figure it out and through action and hard work help make changes in zoning in the City of Victoria so that now, urban agriculture and making that happen here is apparently a lot less daunting.

His initial idea was to grow vegetables for restaurants by utilizing unused rooftops in Victoria. But, it wasn’t just about filling some market need. His vision was all about local and sustainable and making sure the people in the restaurants were an integral part of the plan. He learned the hard way, that his initial vision needed reworking and now they grow produce, mainly greens, by using land that has yet to be developed at Dockside Green. His 10 years of experience in the local restaurant industry meant that instead of like many urban farmers who may be approaching restaurants from the outside in, he was approaching them from the inside out.

His business is totally sustainable in that he works with a small number of nearby restaurants like Canoe Brewpub, Fishhook, Fiamo, Lure and others so that everything is either driven or cycled to the restaurants that are very close to where the produce is grown. The produce gets delivered in reusable boxes, so there’s no packaging or plastics to throw away by the restaurant staff and then the boxes get picked up and the restaurant’s composting gets recycled by another company and delivered back to his garden and the cycle begins anew. In the spring and summer they also sell directly to consumers from their market stall on the same property. I know where I”m going this summer for produce.

It was all so inspiring.

Ross Bay Villa: A historical family and the volunteers who love them

Kathryn McAllister, tour guide.

The children’s bedroom with the quilt and the horse, lovingly restored.

A contemplative view of the tree from the kitchen.

One of many events that happen throughout the year. Taking place today, Sunday, Jan. 21 at 1-3 $15 including tea and Victorian cake.

The pantry

A work party of women hand sewing felted squares for a new wallhanging.

There are few things I like better than to rise early on a weekend, the whole two days stretched before me, and just head out, a vague idea of how the day might come together. Maybe I have figured out the rough plan ahead of time or I have just heard of events that I’ve mentally noted as they have come to me through a reading of a community newspaper or on social media or because I specifically and earlier in the week sought to find out what’s up.

Yesterday was one of those days.  Somewhere in the middle of the week I had come across something called the Ross Bay Villa. What a grand and elegant title for what is actually quite an unassuming little place.  At 2pm every Saturday for $5 you can have a tour of this heritage house across from the Ross Bay Cemetery at 1490 Fairfield Road.

As I entered the property two men were working the front lawn, pouring sand onto the grass and a young woman greeted me. Only one other person, a young guy, a very quiet history buff, was there for the tour.

I learned that Kathryn McAllister is the tour guide’s name and on the Society’s website, I see she was awarded an Emerging Storyteller Award from the Storyteller’s Guild of Canada. She’s a font of local historical knowledge and not surprisingly, she’s a history student at the University of Victoria. Her passion for the old place was bubbling over. Just this summer, she got married under the apple tree out front.

She took us through the rooms describing the Roscoe family and their five children who had made their home there from 1865 to 1879 when Mr. Roscoe took his own life, or at least that’s the best that can be determined. But what really stood out from all of Kathryn’s stories was the magnitude of work that went into saving the old place after it had fallen into disrepair following a series of owners.

Finally, somewhere around 1999, through creativity and elbow grease, volunteers came together to begin to restore the place and even own it through the creation of a society.  What really struck me was just how much commitment to authenticity still seems to exist. From researching wallpapers to having authentic rugs hand sewn in England to stitching by hand the white on white bedspread in the children’s room and the lovingly restored rocking horse.

The quilt on the end of the child’s bed was made with cotton swatches of fabrics authentic to that time, available in the U.S., and the wallpapers were recreated with stencils. The oil cloth flooring in the front hallway was hand painted.  The Ross Bay Villa Society has painstakingly recreated what a middle class family, such as the Roscoe’s, would have lived in at the time.

Throughout the year, they host events such as the one happening today with parlour games. There’s storytelling and special speakers and in July there’s some sort of big community potluck or tea in the front yard to celebrate the house’s original construction more than 150 years ago.

They even have a gift shop in the very finely renovated shed out back. The famous local tea shop, Murchies, has created a tea in the home’s name.  A crafty volunteer creates some fabulous old-fashioned apron smocks for sale, the kind that cover your dress from shoulders to hem. Great for artists and bakers alike. My grandmother used to wear that type.  Cloth tea towels have been silk-screened with the same design of the wall paper in the children’s bedroom which required a volunteer to go into at night with an infrared light to be able to see the design that had been left on the walls in order to copy it accurately before it being silk-screened.

The floors are covered with oil cloth and the wallpaper in the front hallway was made to look like the regal square panels of wood you might find in an old fashioned library.

It’s a true labour of love and you can only imagine what the Roscoe family might feel if they could know how lovingly their original home in Ross Bay has been restored. After her husband’s death, Mrs. Roscoe had to sell off everything, to bring her five young children back to England, making their way  up the Coast and finally to New York before setting sail for the old country.

There’s even a connection between the Roscoe family and the famous children’s illustrator and writer, Beatrix Potter.

Visit the Ross Bay Villa Society website for year-round events.

 

Fermented beverages, lemon macarons and 77KFREEZE

June 2, 2017

Dear Diary,

A friend, Karen, alerted me to a free course at the new Tommy Douglas Library on Kingsway near Edmonds which is a small library but a bright open space. Very inviting indeed.

There was a workshop there on fermented beverages on Monday night. Now I know what you’re thinking. What miniscule little pocket of tree huggers would check THAT out? Well, there were close to 30 people there. And not who I was expecting. A multicultural bunch for sure, more middle-aged than young.

A young twenty-something female, a Ginger, whose name I didn’t catch, and who, as you might guess, liked to use the word “cool!” with fervour, was sharing her considerable knowledge, minus the not very well thought out decision to go around the room first and have people introduce themselves. That left about an hour for her to share the knowledge we’d come for, but when you know better you do better.

She was sharing recipes for Kombucha, Kefir, and Ginger Ale with Ginger Bug. A while ago Karen had shared some Kefir culture with me because I love Kefir (pronounced Kuh FEAR, not KEE fer)  and thought it might be even better to make it myself until I realized that with one person, that’s a lot of Kefir. It wasn’t long before I felt like a slave to the kefir grains, like I was doing that experiment from high school to teach you what a drag it is to have children (or a boiled egg) that you’re responsible for 24/7.

Many people were there to learn how to make Kombucha and other fermented stuff, even Kimchi, for the benefits of the probiotics and the taste. Kombucha is made from black or green tea, non caffeinated. I learned a new word – SCOBY – which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. A SCOBY is critical for Kombucha.

As I sat there I was reminded of a drink called Sima made by the family I stayed with in Finland so many years ago and recollected that, amazingly, I’d kept the recipe. Here it is if you want to try it. Super simple.

SIMA (Recipe from Kuisma’s in Finland)

  • 2-1/2 litres water
  • 2 whole sliced lemons
  • 1/4 kilo brown sugar
  • 1/4 kilo white sugar
  • 1 tsp. yeast
  • raisins.

Boil the water. Add two whole sliced lemons, 1/4 kilo of brown sugar, 1/4 kilo of white sugar. Shake well. Leave sit for an hour. Add 2-1/2 litres of cold water. Add 1 tsp of yeast and shake. Let sit for 12 hours. Put through strainer squishing lemon juice out of lemon pieces. Put into bottles. Put two raisins in every bottle. Leave in fridge. When raisins rise to the top, it’s ready.

You can also check out Cultures for Health for all you need to get started with fermentation.

The young woman was starting her own company where she’ll be selling some of her fermented beverages and she’s part of a new social venture market that’s going to happen every Tuesday, 11-4, on Granville Island called Groundswell.

Artist Barb Webb at her opening at The Gallery at Queen’s Park in New West’s Queen’s Park.

On Wednesday, I took a few photos at The Gallery at Queen’s Park as I usually do once a month at the opening of a new art show. June’s show is Barbara Webb’s acrylic paintings called Nature of Layers. It was nice to have a full house at the gallery. The food was to die for, especially the lemon macarons made by her daughter, and can I just say, her two kids just had the nicest energy. I mean look at them. Don’t you just get the best feeling when you see them. No, they’re not twins.

Spy those lemon macarons? To die for! Made by Barb Webb’s daughter.

 

Went out with Colleen last night to a teeny, weeny Lebanese place called The Jam Jar on Commercial drive. Good energy. Very friendly service. The food was good and there was one dish we had that was super delish called Kafta Skillet. I loved that one.  A lot of people on TripAdvisor raved about the deep fried cauliflower tossed in pomegranate molasses but I wasn’t crazy about it. A small appetizer of it would have been good enough given the strong taste.

Employee behind the cloud making our frozen dessert using liquid nitrogen.

Afterwards, we wandered into the place, almost next door, called 77KFreeze and for $8 you too can wait to get some ice cream made from a liquid nitrogen process. You can choose from a variety of liquid bases (cream, light cream, almond, soy, coconut, etc.) and then you add to that with fresh fruit (or they have their own suggested recipes) and then they put it in those metal cylinders and there’s lots of white clouds arising from their equipment and voila, frozen dessert. Good luck to them. It is a novelty.

Recently went to a place called Sula on Commercial Drive. Indian food. Now that is good. I would highly recommend it.

And now here we are: Full circle. The weekend’s winding back around faster than you can say Kalamazoo or What’s for dinner?

Communications in the 21st Century: You can never have too many skills

jugglingIf you work in Communications then I don’t know if you’re feeling the way I am but it seems as if the number of skills required to do the job well has exploded in the past decade as a result of social media.

In the past you might have needed to be able to think about, and execute, some marketing strategy and communicate in words through writing on the page and through oral presentations. You’d put together endless PowerPoints and work with other people, usually graphic artists, to make sure annual reports or marketing materials came together. You’d focus on branding exercises (maybe hire a consultant for that) and tag lines and work with interface designers (or whatever they call themselves now) to sort out web development stuff.

You might have interacted with the media to try and get some publicity at a time when the term “earned media” didn’t even exist to distinguish “earned media” from the interest you now generate from your social media feeds. It’s helpful to know Photoshop and Adobe InDesign to manipulate images and layout newsletters or marketing materials if you’re on a tight budget and definitely you should know some form of blogging software such as WordPress. For e-mail marketing you should know something like Mailchimp or ConstantContact and let’s not forget every app required to organize yourself and set up meetings and communicate with all those other people you need to communicate with and oh, do you know how to put together an e-book and sell it on Amazon? Don’t,  just you don’t, forget to put that bounce back message on your e-mail when you leave, thoroughly exhausted, on vacation.

It’s as if working in Communications means you better be constantly acquiring skills, which is a good thing that I’m all on board with. Everyone should be doing that as a routine part of self evolution, but honestly, there is a limit to what one person can bring to a job.

I believe that I actually do have many skills and at a high level and I still feel like I don’t have enough. If you work for a larger organization then I’m hoping you’d work with a dedicated social media strategist. But if you don’t, you’re pretty much the whole shebang. And the thing about social media (like most things) is that a little knowledge is actually a very dangerous thing because the less you know about it, the more you don’t realize how little you know about it, and therefore you’re actually clueless about just how complicated it can be to be really good at it.

Now you have to be able to write for so many different mediums. You need to review and edit and source appropriate graphics that enhance, or at least complement, your copy. You need to work with other creative people. You need to coach key people on media messaging. You better have some clue about Hootsuite and take video on your phone and oh, can you edit that on IMovie by tomorrow? You need to write strategy and set up a budget for Facebook and Twitter ads and figure out what audiences to target for sponsored ads and review Google Analytics and understand what the heck to do with the information you’re seeing on there in relation to what’s turning on your audience and whether you’re even reaching the audience you want to reach and can you create a report for that?

You need to ensure a consistent Instagram account aligning images with brand but first you need to decide what social media apps you should even be using based on your internal resources and whether you can even keep on top of those.  You need to be on top of all the most used latest technology and apps in order to keep on top of knowing exactly what you don’t know and wondering where you’ll ever find the time to learn about THAT.

Do we have a Crisis communications plan? Is there a phone tree for that? Could you whip that up by setting up a meeting and have that done in two weeks?

It would be helpful if you knew how to write to pictures so you could write script for video and coach those people who are going to be in the video who have never been in front of a video camera in their lives but they were the best you could come up with because they know what they know and needs to be communicated and Take 356. And cut!!!

Did you order the tent for that special event outside? and oh, if it rains, what then? and are you getting the harried, harried picture?

Honestly, at some point as a Communications’ person, am I going to have to be your personal chef, your hair stylist and your spiritual advisor as well?  Do I really need to be Oprah, Tony Robbins, Ekhart Tolle  Deepak Chopra, Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki wrapped into one?

I need to lie down. Is it nap time yet?

I’d like to know if other Communications people are feeling this way. I’m also wondering if the same sort of skills explosion requirement is happening in every other field.

It’s enough to make me a little depressed and hey, I should make an infographic because there’s nothing I like more (sarcasm) than the terminology that makes fairly straightforward things sound super complicated and infographic definitely fits into that category. So I signed up for a free app, and fooled around, and figured it out and here’s my first attempt.  Just in case you’re experiencing a little case of the blues racing toward a full out depressive episode, my infographic might be just what you need. Depression: Fiction vs. Fact

Online learning knows no boundaries

“The best poetic moments are moments when you’re allowed to reside in the moment without looking to the future,” – Jonathan Bates, University of Warwick.

In the past year I’ve learned, firsthand, the value of online education.

It started out when I took a course in Developmental Psychology for credit through Athabasca University. In spite of my initial resistance to doing an online course, I found it a much more enjoyable way to learn than being stuck in a lecture hall, hearing just one human, blah, blah, blah ad nausea and surrounded by others who, of varying degrees, may or may not want to be in the course.

In the Athabasca online course there were pretests and post tests and challenges and study tips and it was a much more interactive and focused experience than I expected it to be and it resulted, for me, in what seemed like greater retention of the subject matter than is typical for me.

More recently I completed a four week online course about PTSD in U.S. Veterans and how to interact with them and their families. It was called Mental Health Care for Family Members of Post 9/11 Veterans: Practical Approaches to Addressing the Impact of the Invisible Wounds of War on Families.

It was offered through the Massachusetts General Hospital and directed mainly at therapists and mental health professionals. Registering as a student, they let me in and it was free.  There were role-playing therapy exercises that were videotaped that used experienced therapists doing therapy with volunteer actors and volunteer military family members to demonstrate interventions. They highlighted the intergenerational model, how to manage substance abuse and communication methods using the CRAFT model,  as well as educating around the DSM V definition of PTSD including symptoms to ask about and be aware of. The videotaped sessions, and then a roundtable of case exploration at the end was so fantastic in terms of giving insight into key factors to be aware of in working with many of the common problems that arise in this specific population. But would be transferrable to others.

More recently, I saw a course offered through the University of Warwick and a portal called FutureLearn.com about Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Well Being. In this recent course, very well-known personalities, Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellan, along with university professors discuss the impact of literature, poetry specifically, on stress reduction and mindfulness. It’s wonderful to hear and see others, especially an actor of McKellan’s quality, read a poem aloud beside the river Thames in keeping with the lines in the Wordsworth Poem, ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge.’

When I read this poem below, it was my favourite of the bunch. By the late W.H. Davies, a welsh poet.

Leisure

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

The discussion boards on this course on Literature and Mental Health have a ridiculous number of comments, up to 2,500 on a single question.  It’s AMAZING!  The students are dropping in from all over the world via their computer screens. There is no reason to leave your house anymore. And yes, that is a problem!

There has perhaps never been a better time to embrace lifelong learning than in any other time in history, and the fact that it’s free elicits delight indeed!

Have you ever taken an online course? What was your experience? Do you even think about how you can continue to learn into old age and all the ways that’s possible?

Post Secondary 30 years later

AbnormalPsychologytextThose of you who know me off the Interweb know that last July I started taking courses as a part-time student. I enrolled at Vancouver Community College. I tentatively stuck my big toes across a classroom’s threshold to begin to gather prerequisites to eventually apply to a Masters in Counselling Psychology hoping to be accepted at one of BC’s universities somewhere in the vicinity of Fall 2016 or thereabouts.

That first classroom experience was excellent. The instructor was lively and animated. She was a woman who had returned to school herself just years before. My fellow students were an eclectic mix of people with former degrees, McWorkers, recovering addicts, and those, like me, who have overcome their own traumas and dramas and reasons for needing to seek counselling. They were a super lively bunch who ranged in age from mid 20s to late 50s. It was a great class! Had that experience been less than it was, I am not sure I’d be continuing on this journey.

At that same time, I enrolled in the six month Graduate Manuscript Workshop via SFU Writer’s Studio taught by Wayde Compton. I must say that writing and exploring writing, especially nonfiction if it’s related to personal history, fits really well with taking courses in counselling. The trick is to figure out how to keep writing when my focus is so dispersed.

Content of the courses aside, these new endeavours are proving to be most interesting not just because of what I’m learning but what I’m observing about the different campuses. I feel like a mystery student, akin to a mystery shopper, dropping in to VCC and Douglas, returning to SFU’s downtown campus and who knows, maybe I’ll cherry-pick another pre-requisite online from Athabasca. I feel like I should be carrying around a little clipboard taking notes of all the things these post-secondary institutes are either doing really well or need to do better. There’s a lot of each to choose from.

This term, I managed, in spite of 18 people on a wait list, to get into a course I need at Douglas College and going there is a little more personally daunting. The biggest challenge is that everyone, as they should be, is right out of high school. I’m like, Mom’s here! I think back to when I was at SFU, right out of high school, and had I seen someone my age, I would have been confused, maybe even a little hostile. Why is she taking up a spot? I get it kids. I understand.

At VCC, small classes are the norm, 20 people or thereabouts. I really like that. The instructors actually know every student’s name. The counselling courses are very interactive, obviously, and fellow students become practice clients which isn’t ideal in terms of boundaries but the most viable option. You get to know people. You feel a part of something.

At Douglas, there must be at least 35 people in the class and the instructor just finished teaching the same thing to a different section right before. Give the guy a gold star… or maybe some drugs! How do you talk in front of people, repeating the same thing, in the same afternoon-evening for more than 6 hours and not start to sound like a crazy person? He managed to stay incredibly articulate. Kudos to him. Still, the whole instructor at front lecturing seems so 1980. There’s got to be a better way. Luckily, they seemed to have improved the text book, complete with Canadian references no less. I opened to a page and a photo of a guy I was friends with as an undergrad, now a Psychiatry professor, was staring back at me. Shocking in both good and bad ways. I know too much. About him! I don’t want to see him looking back at me from a textbook.

At the same time I’ve begun training to volunteer at the Vancouver Crisis Centre and can I just say there is probably no better training that I’ve experienced in terms of let’s ramp things up here and get into the psyche and psych-ache of BC. I was worried about doing it. How will volunteering there impact my own mental health? That’s yet to be determined. What I’ve learned there in the first two weeks of training has been equivalent to at least an entire semester at any course I’ve ever taken, and more.

It’s been an exciting and intense start to the New Year. I’m guessing my brain is looking a little bit like that childhood toy, Lite-Brite.

“We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.” – Paulo Coelho

Thank you to my friend Elaine for the quote this morning. It seems to fit.