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Pika’s are more than funny little creatures that live all through the winter – even during harsh temperatures – in the Rocky Mountains in Canada.

These animals are also at threat from rising temperatures due to global climate change.

“The American pika is a small mammal that inhabits fields fringed by suitable vegetation in alpine and subalpine mountain areas extending south from central British Columbia and Alberta into the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico and the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.  The historical range of the species includes California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.

A key characteristic of the American pika is its temperature sensitivity; death can occur after brief exposures to ambient temperatures greater than 77.9 °F,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service petitioned the U.S. government to add the Pika’s to the endangered species list. This would mean that the Pika would be added to the growing list of endangered species.

Tannis Bill, local Calgarian (and my creative Mom), has recently written a book about Pika’s and their lifestyles. Tannis had “often thought that “some day” [she] would find time to write a children’s book as [she] loved reading to [her] classes.” This engaging, interesting, and informative Grade 1-2 children’s book provides an intersting look into the lives of Pika’s. Closeup photos and a interesting story that ties everything together makes the reader feel like a Pika themselves.

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Being part of the pack-down crew at Peats Ridge music festival has a lot more work involved then one would imagine. A lot more than I had imagined.

The idea behind this New Years festival is to be sustainable while providing art, music, and workshops. As they’re website states, “a major part of the Peats Ridge experience is finding out how to live more sustainably, and therefore reduce our impact on the beautiful Glenworth Valley, and the planet as a whole.”

One way in which this is achieved is by composting all the food waste – minus meat – in massive built up compost bins created by yours truly. During the day we separated the paper material like cups, plates, and cutlery from the food waste that were all deposited into the compost bins. The paper material is then shredded (including waste boxes laying around the festival) and is used as a brown layer between the compost. It’s a great way to ensure that a mix of green and browns is evenly distributed to the compost. It’s also an amazing way to divert such a large quantity of food waste that is left around after 5000 people eat at a festival. Go team compost!

Calgary Folk Festival takes the approach of providing plastic plates that require a $5 deposit for use. Each vendor is required to use the plates which are obtained at a kiosk. Ironically, each year youth end up making a killing by walking around the beer gardens offering to “remove” plates from the drunken patrons. Combining both options seems like a more optimal and sustainable approach as you are not creating more demand for paper products. Thus further reducing teh festivals ecological imprint.

“Can you guys come over to the festival vendors bin to help out?” – why not I thought. When we arrived at this massive garbage bin provided for the food vendors it was filled with food. Around the base of the bin there was mounds and mounds of corn. Apparently, a vendor was not as successful as they had figured they would be to hungry festival goers. Instead they determined it was more economical to throw away the corn, 5 KG of pinto beans, a box of ginger, boxes of uncooked Turkish bread, and 4 x 20 KG bags of potatoes.

Did they expect that vendors at the festival would act in such disconnected fashion to the festival? I sat there stunned. Then Chris, my old friend from a permaculture school, and I proceeded to place the corn into milk crates and give it out to the workers around the festival. Liberate the corn one cob at a time!

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This tasty recipe will not only wet your appetite for more but it will make you want to make your own. And that’s what we are about is sharing and expanding the recipe to include all the zesty additions that you have to contribute.

Ingredients

  • Concepts
    • Progressive people – not all have to be environmentalists just willing to commit to something progressive and good. Frugality is a bonus as it makes it easy to convince of actions = reducing cash usage
    • Frugality – always seen as a stingy norm but this misconception is getting a new come back in Australia with three new released Gold plated albums. In all seriousness frugality is the end result of learning how to actually live with less.
    • Creative minds – The more ideas the more you move…
  • Stuff
    • Buckets – to save water of course
    • Jars – bring on the canning
    • Timers
    • Shovels
    • Seeds

Recipe (Preparing the goods)

Taking Stock of What We Have

It seems that over time in this house and I suppose in my life I’ve just been working towards having / building / making more community. Why? Simple really. I just don’t think our world is sustainable without building community, without re-learning old things we used to do (rather than relying on products that others make, emissions needed to make that stuff, and throwing it away in a dumpster for me to find), and because with community we create support.

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After living out on the Permaforest Trust farm for the last two months I find that somethings become really heightened for me. Like when I head into a large community / town / city and notice all the advertising, cars, people, and so much more. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t been out in the wilderness for long periods of time but you get accustomed to hearing birds, seeing trees, and nature being the noise.

Toilet Paper

Picture these two examples…

Recently, I was in a cafe restroom when I noticed that extra toilet rolls were individually wrapped in plastic inside a larger plastic toilet bag wrapping. It made me wonder why they had actually packaged the rolls in this manner…

Another example being the small cellphone that I recently bought, which was placed inside a massive box of which half the box was actually just cardboard framing so that when I opened it my cellphone it was displayed beautifully to me. I seriously wanted to barf!

It is that type of packaging that is helping to contribute to the massive amount of waste that our culture is creating.

“Of the 3 million tons of rubbish generated in Beijing each year, 30 percent, or 830,000 tons, are disposed packaging. 600,000 tons, or 20 percent of the total annual total, is considered to be ‘excessive.’, according to a Xinhua report.

By international standards, packaging that accounts for more than 15 percent of the cost of the product is considered excessive.” GlobalAdvocacy.com: Excessive Packaging Adds to Environmental Woes

Now people probably realize that the waste created by the high population of Beijing is more than other major cities because of their massive population, but that statistics are still really telling about what’s happening to us as consumers. The statistics presented above are relevant simply in a smaller scale, and bigger packaging like cellphones in large boxes makes a person subconciously feel like they are getting a really BIG thing. What makes us need to have that big box when purchasing a cellphone or the double wrap for toilet rolls when we purchase them?

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So before I left SMART Technologies ages ago I had a friend who worked there ask me a lot of questions about being a vegan. He was really receptive and polite in his questions and honestly wanted to know ways in which I obtained protein (a big fear for meat eaters is that people can’t survive on a plant based diet cause you don’t get meat for your body to survive — read: not entirely true)

For Chuck and his family they decided to become vegetarians for a month because of several contributing factors.

“First, if we’re tired and hungry at the end of the day the recipes that come most easily to mind are some kind of meat-and-two-veg thing. Not the healthiest…[and their] oldest son (just turned seven) is a sensitive kid and also a picky eater. He [doesn’t] like the idea of killing animals for food — so much so that he was willing ot experiment with all kinds of different veg cuisine if it meant he didn’t have to eat meat.”

Throughout this experiment the family tried out different veggie cuisine options finding things that the entire family enjoyed. Chuck commented that it wasn’t difficult for his family to find sources of nutrition and protein to eat healthy.

“I think “how will you get your protein?” is about as common and annoying a question for vegetarians as “how will you socialize them?” is for homeschoolers. Short answer: go look at the biggest, most heavily-muscled silverback gorilla in your local zoo –he’s vegan. End of question.”

[My note: As a vegan this is probably the most frustrating question I get too..or the crude jokes about me needing more meat, etc. on my plate.]

It’s an interesting note on our culture that most people do believe that our only protein food sources can be obtained from meat based diets. We have to be careful not to cut out vegetables from our diets as they are the source of anti-oxidants, little cancer fighting weapons, vitamins, and so much more goodness.

After Chuck’s one month trial they decided to find more ethical sources of meat suppliers as a means of bridging the gap between being vegetarians and meat-eaters (dubbed by Chuck as “flexitarian”).

“We don’t eat a lot of meat any more (I can’t remember the last time I bought steak or pork chops) and honestly can’t handle large quantities at one sitting after a month as vegetarians. And even before our experiment, we had started sourcing our meat from ethical sources, particularly one place at Crossroads Market owned by an older German lady and her husband.”

Another really nice approach from this is that Chuck is actually buying his food local! YEAH TO LOCAL! This means that he is also reducing his carbon imprint on food shipping/processing/etc. He is supporting local economies and farmers (the little guys), and ensures that the animals are happy (dubbed “happy meat” by Chuck).

Now you are probably wondering why a vegan would be writing about all this. Well I’ve never been one to be a snotty vegan (meaning that I frown upon others eating meat). I see it more as a challenge to educate others about many issues.

  • Buying local food (not supporting factory farms) = healthier animals, less food miles, supporting smaller farmers
  • Buying organic (healthier and again happier animals) = better for the environment
  • Environmental impacts of the food we eat – it takes 10x more resources (water, energy, etc) to make 1 lb of beef than it does 1 lb of wheat.
  • Vegetarian Meals are goodness = They can be tasty and they make you feel fresh!

So eating vegetarian even just once a week is going to have a huge impact on the environment versus not eating vegetarian at all. Why would I want to critisize people who are doing something to make change like Chuck is clearly showing. Revolutions, change, growth, and movements never happened when people ostracised others for their choices. When we can all embrace each other and work together towards something more sustainable, ethical, and loving as a community that’s when we are going to see things change.PROPS TO YOU CHUCK FOR TAKING THAT RISK MAN! Thanks for sharing bro!

[I’m warning you this is going to be a loooooooooooooooooong post. Lots of stuff happened this weekend that I am trying hard to deal with]

Save Lake CowalAs some of you might know (or not know) this weekend I headed to Lake Cowal to support a 5 year running protest against Barrick Gold (gold mining company from Canada tragically) who has been exploiting the land at Lake Cowal in several ways.

My time at the camp during the three days was beautiful once we finally got there as it was spent with beautiful people from all over Australia and the world! These included a few different family of fun kids, indigenous people, and others from around Australia and the world. Tragically, Maurice, Andrew, & I received a few (read: 20 I believe was the last count) flat tires on our ride out to the site and finally gave up and had to call in backup vehicle support to come get us.

“Our Aboriginal People are being denied access to our sacred ground. Protestors from around the world are here to support our claim for access to our ancient lands. Australian Aboriginal Peoples have the oldest continuing living culture in the world. We Wiradjuri People are also being denied the right of spiritual and religious freedom under s.116 of the Australian Constitution,” Mr Williams said.

“Barrick is desecrating our sacred site and Dreaming Place and denying us access to our traditional lands. The company has moved or destroyed more than 10 000 artefacts including marked trees, damaging the integrity of the area forever.”

“Despite Barrick’s assertion that we are misleading people, what we are doing is our ancient cultural duty to protect our sacred Country for the generations to come. We are also raising awareness of the dangers of cyanide leach gold mining and the mine’s excessive use of precious water in the middle of the worst drought on record. The fullest dams, in the very parched countryside between Condobolin and the mine, are the toxic tailings ponds west of the open cut pit, which extends into the lakebed.”

I went there to help represent the indigenous people of this country (read: each area that is occupied by a different indigenous country in Australia is called a country here..which I love) .

The actions of the day were quite successful in bringing awareness to the fact that this issue is still taking place. I spent my day performing native dances, doing a sit outside the gates, and supporting other protesters who were entering the mines. Oh and at one point I became the food man bringing food around to people that I had stocked up before we left our camp. It would have been nice to see more people out there but I still think we had an impact (have a look at this rad video of the Tranny Minors that performed). I saw some really fuckin brave people out there getting arrested for what they believe in. It was kinda unfortunate I couldn’t have participated more although I feel my actions were useful too.

But really folks did you realize that cyanide is waste product in the processing of gold. It’s tragic that on such a special lake we would want to introduce a poison that will threaten many different species of birds. Especially, when this lake is recognized as a special place recognized as being one of Australia’s Important Wetlands. Alright so what can I do? Write a letter (pre-made and handcrafted right here!) to these folks here and make sure that your investments are contributing to this destruction. Barricks doesn’t care that they have depleted loads of the water on this lake already even during a massive drought or that indigenous people of this area don’t agree with the settlement made.

[Warning: This bit is quite long and more about the traumatic experience that happened to me while there…I’m still trying to deal with it all actually]

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[I highly recommend checking this out at as there is some really amazing seeds that can be purchased that are perfect for the Calgary climate! Plus with these seeds and a bit of saving you can reuse them unlike those crappy ones you buy at the store] 

Seedy Saturday

Mark it on your calendar and don’t miss out!

Date: Saturday, March 24, 2007, from 10 am to 3 pm

Location: Montgomery Community Centre – 5003 16th Ave NW (Hwy 1 and Home Road)

Admission $2.00 – We accept Calgary Dollars

TomatoesCome together with prairie gardeners and seed savers to buy, sell, or trade seeds and gardening know-how. This family event will have displays by local seed savers, prairie seed companies, native plant collectors, conservation groups, community gardeners, organic growers; as well as, a seed exchange table, refreshments, presenters, entertainment, and a kids corner. Come get open-pollinated seeds and talk with local farmers and gardeners. Set yourself up for a terrific gardening season!
   
Let’s keep the skill of growing from seed to seed alive in Calgary. As large commercial seed companies consolidate and only offer more hybrids and patented varieties, we increasingly lose the regionally adapted collections that have developed for our unique prairie climate. Help maintain this irreplaceable genetic diversity by growing non-hybridized, open-pollinated varieties. Discover the superior taste of heirloom varieties of vegetables. Learn to save seeds and share them with your neighbour. As you grow them season after season they will adapt and grow that much healthier!
   
If you don’t do it, who will?
   
Check out http://www.uofc-garden.ca for more deets or contact Lindsay at 244-9606 for more info.
   
This event is hosted by the U of C Campus Community Garden and Calgary Dollars.

My bedThe last few days have been spent at a beautiful permaculture backpackers called the Treehouse. There is a reason that this place has a history of being the best backpackers hostel in all of New Zealand and I think it makes plenty of sense. When you arrive the entire hostel is covered in native forest that has been regenerated from 20 years of permaculture work by the beautiful couple that owns this hostel and land. Essentially, when they first arrived it was old sheep grazing land with a few old natives trees around the land. As they tell their humble story to me about reclaiming the land by letting things grow more wild within the grazing land I look around and find myself taking a deep breath of fresh air. Permaculture is the way to go for sustainable food production folks. I know that now and I know that this is where i’m headed in my life. Full stop. It’s impressive to be here in a place that has turned a cleared native forest from a sheep feeding acreage back into a native forest again.

AND they have planted many native and non-native fruit / nut varieties throughout the forest (permaculture concept to have food placed throughout a forest). Some of the fruit I’ve noticed is gala apples, lime, macaroon nuts (oh yeah baby), pears, bananas, guava, grapes everywhere! I decided this might be a cool place to woof at (and save some cash) and have been spending today removing a dock from a swamp they have near one of the little huts you can sleep in. They put me up in a house bus for the time that I’m staying here which is pretty freakin’ rad cause I have a space to myself finally (no more snoring or people doing other things in the bed below me — ugg — ask me about that story later). But if you ever have the chance PLEASE come here and spend some time. This place is freakin magical and so are the people who own it.

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I spent the last few days (well actually the 23rd and 24th) of last weekend at the Soundsplash Eco Reggae Festival in Raglan a surfer town known to many.I left Turangi on Thursday and not long after leaving the outskirts of the city I had some rad feral hippies scream out of their car window if I wanted a ride (read: the use of feral is common in these parts by hippies and I [they agreed] attribute that to something like how black people call themselves niggers). Plus I’m feral as well and that happens when one doesn’t actually need to shower everyday I suppose. These two womyn have to be the best ride I’ve had so far in New Zealand. They made a detour to the *free* hot springs on the way up to Raglan, which I definitely didn’t object to doing. We all dived into these beautiful waters mixed with cold river water and hot water coming from the volcano and honestly it was the coolest/weirdest feeling I’ve felt in a while. I had no swimming outfit (well it was in the bottom of my bag) so I just used my underwear which made for a good swimming suite. I probably would have gone naked but there were people around so decided against it.

Then off we went to Raglan ot the land of chilled out vibes, surfing bays, beautiful country-side, and some great peeps. The entire weekend was chalked full of some really amazing music including the highlight for me – Mihirangi!

Mihirangi performs acoustic soulful-roots and funky world-r’n’b with a rare performance style. She creates her own band sound – live in front of the audience. Using a loop pedal she layers her vocals into intricate harmonies with beat boxing and vocal bass lines, along with acoustic guitar and tribal rhythms, to accompany her R’n’b infused vocals.” – Mihirangi’s website

I’m telling you this performance was worth missing Blue King Brown (one of the reason’s why I originally headed to Raglan) for. She had a lot of energy, love, and good vibes coming from her performance. I kinda wished that I had an opportunity to chat with her afterward but things were crazy that night and at the very least she put me in a great mood. So thanks for that Mihirangi. And on a rad plug note check out her website El Canado Kids cause she’s coming to a place near you. AND she has good promo deals for those that are willing ot help her out with her gigs (they are all in March folks).

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I decided it was best to rest and take some time out for my leg (which appears to be slowly healing and yet yesterday’s hitchin kinda flared things up a bit but I’ll survive).

Regardless, my time at Rongo Backpackers (Rongo meaning peace in Maori) and the idea behind this is to establish a beautiful artistic community with lots of great ideas including a permaculture farm, more building expansion, and the development of a bigger community. So far they are off to a really great start in this chilled out environment. I think anyone coming off the Heaphy Track would be silly to not stay here for a few days and see what they have to offer honestly.

I managed to spend a bit of time getting to know the woofers and the collective owners of this project (well some at least) and it was worth it. The Rongo backpackers has been focussed on making their hostel as sustainable as they can afford to (read: the more money they make the more they invest in environmental projects to reduce their carbon footprint). Roll the list…

  • They have some pretty amazing things setup such as a huge rain barrel in the backyard that feeds the shower water (possibly the toilets as well). This is the first time that I’ve run across a hostel like this and it makes me pretty happy to have a staggered shower with reused rain water (YAH)!
  • All the water for the showers is heated with solar heating on the roof. I was totally giddy when Paul took me around to show me the heaters. Two different panels were used to heat all the water used by everyone (sizeable hostel really) staying at Rongo. I’ve seen this once before at a sustainable eco-lodge up in northern Alberta called Aurum Lodge (beautiful place to stay too)
  • Composting – This included raw food for the garden and cooked food for local pigs *being a vegan I’d rather see the food go towards something then be chucked out*

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