potato sovereignty?

We just had our first garden harvest, and oh boy – *SO MANY* potatoes!

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helper dog Cyrus

I had braced myself that perhaps the plants would only produce a couple of potatoes each, and that would still be great. Alas, the bracing was unnecessary because on average, our plants yielded 6 – 8 potatoes. Our highest producing plant gave us *21* potatoes. What?!

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this all came from *one* plant

I cannot tell you (as a first-time gardener) how completely satisfying and exciting it was to pull each plant, loosen the soil, and root around for potatoes. The entire yard took about four or five hours to pull by myself (as Jesse was shingling our roof), and the novelty truly didn’t wear off the entire time.
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In the end, we have three large totes filled with potatoes, packing in a bit of dirt to help them keep (we don’t have a root cellar), and I don’t have a scale but it’s definitely triple digits for poundage.

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We will be seeing how long they last us, as our pie in the sky goal was to be completely self reliant for potatoes until summer 2018. Time will tell!  Safe to say, our use of the no-till gardening method was a major success. No lawn, almost no weeding (we weeded basically once the whole season), and lots of fresh, happy produce. ❤

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where does your food come from?

One of the many winding paths that our zero waste exploration has led us down is the question of our food. Where are we getting it? How far does it travel to reach us? Is it coming from ethical farms and practices? And how can we be better in touch with and connected to our food source?

When we moved into our house together just over a year ago, we knew that one of the big reasons to buy property was that we wanted to garden. Our ideas started out vague, but quickly took shape into visions of berry bushes that provide both privacy and food, ripping out the old garage and lawn and transforming all that wasted space into garden, and starting with a few crops and doing lots of them so that we could learn in this process.

Neither Jesse, nor I have any real garden experience… I had a blip of a week when I was eighteen where I planted a tiny little garden, spent the day weeding it, and then abandoned it to nature as soon as new weeds began to sprout. Needless to say, we’re both in better stages of life to care for a yard full of responsibility now. In fact, we *want* the responsibility. There’s a sort of visceral satisfaction that comes from providing for your basic needs in a direct way, and gardening is infinitely more attractive to me than it was ten years ago.

Last summer, we began by tearing down the rotten, slanting garage that filled half of our backyard (related, we also discovered how difficult salvaging wood can be in demo situations). Jesse did a bunch of reading on no-till gardening and wanted to give it a shot, rather than having to rip up all the lawn in our backyard. So going into winter, we covered all the grass with cardboard, and started to daydream about what plants we wanted come spring.

We started off the adventure by having a yard consultation with our friend (and inspiring ecologist) Elizabeth Bekolay. Once we had her suggestions in mind, we headed out to Dieter Martin Greenhouse for the fun part – picking all of our plants!

We ended up opting for a goji berry bush, several haskap bushes, saskatoon berry bushes, rhubarb, a raspberry bush, peppermint plants, potatoes, and sunchokes gifted to us by Jordan and Elizabeth. We also have a bunch of tomato and pepper plants in pots on the deck, and our trying our hand at growing squash from seeds that Jesse has been saving from when we eat squash.

Once we had our plants, the hard work started. We began by pulling off all the cardboard from winter, and laying a layer of manure over the dead grass. No-till meant we didn’t need to rip all the grass out – just re-cover it, and keep it from getting any sunlight.

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Once the carboard was re-applied on top of the manure, we cut out holes for the potatoes, and dug down!

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Once all the potatoes were snug in their holes, we spread a good layer of mulch – in this case woodchips and pieces – to keep the moisture in, and add an extra layer to keep the grass from getting any light.

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We followed a similar method with the berry bushes; cardboard over the soil, dig holes, backfill with some manure and compost, plant bush, cover with mulch (in this case, straw). Now that it’s been a month since we planted, we are *thrilled* with the results. It keeps the moisture in, the weeds down, and our plants are all chugging along happily so far!

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Just last week our first potatoes sprouted… one day there were two sprouts, then seven, then ten… it’s a relief to know we didn’t screw them up! So far, this has been a satisfying start to our gardening, and we really can’t wait to learn more as we go. ❤

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a conversation with Conjecture Time

The other day I sat down with my friend Chris over at the Conjecture Time podcast, and we had a really interesting chat. We touched on a lot of things, but a good deal of the conversation revolved around WasteNot and some of the philosophical underpinnings of the Zero Waste worldview. You might enjoy taking a listen! Things really get rolling around the 20 minute mark 🙂

Conjecture Time Podcast – Jesse Sleepwreck

from waste not to food forest

Well! It’s been awhile! Things have really gotten moving around the old Waste Not YXE, and it’s been extraordinarily exciting to behold! Cass’s and my friend Melissa approached us a few months back with the idea of starting a Facebook group and starting to put out some challenges to the community… and holy heck, the response has been so inspiring!

With all of these wonderful things happening, perhaps some of you have noticed that I’ve been a little bit absent from the picture. Cass and Melissa and Eliza and Christine have been rockin’ it on the FB group and the challenges, and I’m super proud and grateful to see that happening. While in the meantime I’ve gotten involved in an entirely different project that I think everyone who follows Waste Not YXE will also be excited about.

One of the big things that the waste not lifestyle has gotten me thinking about is how we as a culture and a society can start to overcome the commodification of… well everything, really. Our lives revolve around money to a *huge* degree, and ironically I think we’re deeply impoverished as a result. We’re disconnected from the natural world, and we’re running off our collective feet to try to balance a debt equation that is literally unsolvable (more on that here).

So. What do we do? Not making garbage has been a life altering first step for me personally, but  deep seated change is still needed in the entire system if human society is going to continue into the future indefinitely. It’s an enormous proposition, but as they say a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. So… I’ve been looking at the food system as a good place to start on implementing large scale change.

To that end, a group of us has formed with the intention of planting a food forest in Saskatoon.

Food forest layers

“What the heck is a food forest?”

I’m glad you asked! Let me explain!

Agroforestry is essentially an innovative (but actually ancient) form of agriculture that seeks to mimic the “closed loop system” of a natural forest, thereby decreasing the need for maintenance whilst simultaneously increasing yields. Traditional agriculture breaks up the soil, plants a crop (usually annual), fertilizes, fights weeds and pests and disease, and harvests when the crop is ripe. Whereas a food forest plants multiple layers of primarily perennial crops in such a way that each species supports the others, soil health is enhanced rather than depleted, wildlife habitat is created rather than destroyed, etc. etc. etc. I could seriously go on for hours. There’s really too much goodness to get into in this short blog post, but you can find out more here.

My friend Mark and I were chatting about the idea over beers back in November, and he took a page from Cassandra’s decisiveness book and emailed city council about the idea the next morning. They were open to hearing a proposal, and somehow, miraculously, a whole host of competent, passionate, dedicated, experienced people have come out of the wood to help bring the idea to fruition (smirk, sorry). Long story short, our intention is to acquire some city land and plant a bunch of fruit trees, berry bushes, tubers, herbs, etc. These would then all be available for free to the community throughout the growing season. It’s going to be an enormous amount of work, but I have absolute confidence in our group to make it happen. I really can’t tell you how good it feels to be working on a project that is so grounded in the Land, and that has the potential to go on to benefit generations and generations of people.

SO! We’re in the process of researching possible sites, and negotiating with the city. You can keep apprised of the happenings on our Facebook group, or get more involved by sending a message to saskatoonfoodforest@gmail.com.

Onward!

Coconut Oil Chocolate, Tooth Powder, Yogurt and Good, Good Times

 

Workshop #1 was awesome!  Thanks to everyone who came out to Yerrama Yoga studio for our very first Waste Not yxe workshop.  I am still feeling the sense of community and support… like a warm hug from a bunch of like-minded friends.  A lot of great ideas were shared, connections made, and delicious snacks were devoured.    Luckily, Cassandra’s delicious cashew cheese recipe can be found on a previous Waste Not yxe blog post, and you can attend one of her workshops to learn how to make Sourdough bread and crackers!   I will definitely be attending your next workshop Cass!

There were a few requests for some of my recipe’s so I’ve included some below.

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Coconut Oil Chocolate

This is a recipe I have adapted from Coconut Mama.  Why make your own chocolate?  Well other than the obvious deliciousness, it’s a healthier alternative (coconut oil boosts your metabolism!) and the packaging of conventional bars can be avoided!

  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 2/3 cup Coconut Oil
  • 2/3 Cup Cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • Pinch of any spice you want, optional (try cayenne, cardamom, cinnamon or peppermint!)

Instructions: The trick is to keep the temperature low, stir a lot before pouring, and do it all quite quickly. On my stove I set the burner temperature to 3 out of 10.  Start by gently melting honey in a small pot. Once it has melted, add the coconut oil.  Once that has melted stir in the vanilla, salt, and optional spice.  Then stir in the Cocoa.  Stir vigorously before pouring into a mold or ice cube tray.  If you find you have to pour slowly for accuracy, stir half way through this process.  Place in the fridge for 2-4 hours, or in the freezer to speed up the process.  These are best served cold.

Notes:  If you want to buy candy molds I suggest choosing ones made out of silicone rather than plastic.  They will last much much longer.  Alternatively, you could use an ice cube tray or something similar!

Make your own Yogurt

You can use regular or organic milk from the grocery store, or you can use fresh farm milk if you are so lucky to have some.

You will need 2 tablespoons of plain probiotic yogurt (I prefer organic brands), 1 litre of milk and a sterilized container such as a mason jar, or the beloved Adam’s Peanut Butter jar.  Be aware, if your jar is retaining a vinegar or peanut butter smell it will transfer to your yogurt.  To rid your jars of these smells run them through the dishwasher or simply place them in gently boiling water for a minute.

Step 1: Gently heat (stove setting 3 out of 10) milk in a pot and very slowly bring to a gentle boil.  Stir occasionally.  It will start to foam.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Step 2: Once the milk has reached room temperature, transfer milk to a clean sterilized jar, stir in 2 tablespoons of yogurt, and secure the lid on the jar firmly.

Step 3: Prepare oven.  Heat the oven to 170 and then turn it off.  Turn on the oven light – the heat from the light is enough for the incubation process.

Step 4:  Place the jar, on it’s side, in the oven and close the door.  The yogurt should be ready in about 8 hours, but sometimes it takes up to 12 hours.  Be sure to refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before using.

Notes: Making yogurt is easy and rewarding!  I can’t remember the last time I purchased yogurt.  I will often make yogurt in the evening and take it out in the morning.  Or, if I happen to do a lot of baking throughout the day, I will leave the jar on top of the stove for the day and the heat from the oven being on throughout the day is enough for the incubation process.  You can keep using the last 2 tablespoons of yogurt every time, which will eliminate the need to buy yogurt all together.

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Tooth Powder Recipe

I adapted my tooth powder recipe from Mommypotomus.  There are a lot of reasons for making your own tooth powder.  One reason is that toothpaste tubes are not recyclable.  There are many health reasons as well and you can read about them at Mommypotomus.

I’ve tried a few recipes for toothpaste using coconut oil, baking powder, etc. and they were alright, but I never really felt like it was enough.  So far, this recipe is the ultimate best for us!  My partner Reuben even approves, which means it must be good.  This tooth powder leaves our teeth feeling ultra clean and healthy.

  • 4 tablespoons bentonite clay (I found bentonite clay at Mom’s Bulk Foods in Saskatoon)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons finely ground sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 20 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 2½ teaspoons stevia powder
  • ¾ teaspoons activated charcoal  (Can be found as a supplement in the vitamin section – I opened up about 3 capsules)

Mix all of the ingredients and store in a small jar.  You can dip your damp (but not dripping) toothbrush into the powder, then brush!  Alternatively, you can have a little spoon to sprinkle the powder onto your toothbrush.  It’s weird at first because it’s black! However the charcoal is actually whitening for your teeth so it won’t stain, I promise!

Enjoy!

 

waste not challenge #2!

Challenge number one (tracking household waste) was a hit! Congrats to Brette, who was the winner of our Green Tree Beauty product package!

Onward and upward to Challenge Number Two (brought to us by the lovely Eliza Doyle):

Reduce/Eliminate Single-Use Items.

The most common items that are single-use in our daily lives are:
1. Coffee Cups
2. Plastic Water Bottles
3. Plastic Bags (grocery bags, produce bags, etc.)
4. Takeout Containers
5. Plastic Straws

CHALLENGE NUMBER TWO includes choosing any or all of the above single-use items and work towards eliminating it from your life!

It’s fun and easy to find solutions. Travel mugs, reusable water bottles, cloth bags, reusable straws, reusable containers, or to simply refuse the single-use item all together (for example, ask for no straw at a restaurant). By replacing these 5 single-use items with reusable items, this will drastically reduce the impact of waste in your day to day life!

PRIZE: Upcycled shopping kit provided by Saskatoon local designer Shirley Nygren!! This locally made reusable shopping kit includes 6 produce bags, 6 various sized bulk bin bags, 1 extra large bread bag and 1 washable marker. Rock out your shopping in style with this watermelon print shopping kit! Value $80.

TO ENTER: Go to our shiny Facebook group, POST a picture of you replacing any of these single use items with reusable ones, and then SHARE the original post on your own timeline. The winner will be randomly selected on the morning of February 28th, and CHALLENGE NUMBER THREE will be revealed!

waste not sourdough workshops!

After spending the last year slowly becoming obsessed with making my own sourdough bread at home, I decided I wanted to start sharing the recipe with anyone else who would like to learn. I’ve always felt like teaching is a way to really cement the things I know, as well as pointing out the areas that I could use some refinement/additional knowledge. As far as sourdough bread goes, I have a great sense for the general processes, and the feel that I’m going for, but could definitely use a bit more information on the chemical processes taking place.

Nevertheless, I’ve run two free workshops so far – one in November, and one in January – and both were a lot of fun! I’m so in love with this recipe, which is almost magic in my mind. Flour, water, a bit of salt. That’s it. Plus time, technique, and fermentation.

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some happy bakers, at home with their first completed loaves ^_^

The sourdough recipe I use is my own modified and tweaked version of Zero Waste Chef’s recipe (found HERE), which itself is taken from Chad Robertson’s Tartine Country Loaf recipe (found HERE). If you click through to glance at either recipe, you may find yourself quickly overwhelmed by the many steps, terms, and processes – and believe me, it took me a few weeks of making bread consistently before I started to feel even remotely less stressed by the length of the recipe. I really wished I had been able to have someone just show me how to do the recipe, and so that’s more or less the goal of my workshops!

I make this recipe zero waste by bringing my own containers to Bulk Barn (which they now accept at their Willowgrove location!!!!!!!), and filling with whatever I need. I also often use Two Stones Mill, which had been out of operation for a while but is now back in service. Excellent spelt, red fife, etc!

Both workshops I’ve limited to 6 people, as I don’t have a mightily large kitchen or anything. Both filled pretty much immediately, with a mix of people I know really well, and those I don’t. An unexpected benefit of hosting the workshop was getting to meet and hang out with people, since the recipe takes a lot of time (and features a lot of down time, perfect for chatting and crafting).

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Koa, excited to learn about sourdough (and play with puppies)

Participants met on the Friday night before bake day to assemble their ingredients, create their leaven, and set their grains up soaking. Everyone was responsible for bringing their own ingredients, and I made a sourdough starter (which I like to call sourdough babies) for each person. The night before baking is all about prep, so it’s a good time to teach other aspects of sourdough, like how to feed your starter, etc. It can be a little bit overwhelming, but it’s a tough recipe to teach over a single weekend, since the starter is a bit of a cyclical process.

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little sourdough starter babies all ready to go!

Everyone came back to my place Saturday morning, which is the bake day where most of the magic happens. We start by combining the prepped ingredients.

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Saturday morning – combining the leaven and the soaked grains!

The next 3 – 5 hours are spent facilitating bulk fermentation, which is essentially 3 – 5 hours of down time. Great for crafting, chatting, and asking questions!

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hanging out, waiting on the fermentation to do its thing!

The recipe requires that you gently turn and stretch the dough as it ferments, so every 45 minutes or so you “fondle” it. The rest is relax time.

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bulk fermentation – seriously a beautiful thing

At the end of fermentation, we shape the dough into two boules which are then ready to head home to proof in participants’ fridges.

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dough relaxing, before being shaped into boules
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me demoing how to shape the dough!

At the end, everyone went home with two boules, which can be baked in the oven after proofing in the fridge or on the counter top. The results are AMAZING.

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Taylor’s sourdough, fresh out of her oven at home

 

My goal is to run these workshops once every 2 – 3 months, so stay tuned on Facebook if you’re in the Saskatoon area and want to learn from a self-professed amateur!

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crumb shot from one of my recent sourdough loaves ❤