Saturday, December 22, 2012

Food; Sharing it and Stocking Up On It

On a forum I follow, someone brought up a good question. "If you knew the economy was going to collapse in six months, how would you prepare?"
It's a good question, and one that's relevant no matter what country you live. We have a global economy, and what happens in the U.S affects us here in Canada. What happens to Japan's economy will affect Canada. So, as much as I hate the news, I do try and keep one ear on it; if only to find out in which direction the world is falling into the crapper.
But this question started a lot of conversation. We talked about global weather patterns, imports and exports, who grows what, and the loss of industry. I've talked here before about the loss of Canada's textile industry and how much wheat we export while the price of our bread goes up. I've also talked  before about how the weather impacts the price of our groceries. We've all seen it, so the economy collapsing isn't that far "out there".

Many talked about squirreling money away at home, cashing in whatever savings bonds they had, buying silver coin, cutting up credit cards or in some cases, getting credit cards. Some folks talked about the underground economy, and that saw a lot of interest. I've talked about it here before, and it's something that I see a lot of. Folks that are no longer reporting that they're looking for work, they've found a way to "work under the table" and yet still support their family. On one hand, I see the sense in that. What's the point in handing over gobs of money to the government for your retirement if by the time we're retirement age, there's nothing left? On the other hand, if you ever find yourself in a position that the government money is keeping your kids from hunger, and you haven't been paying into it... so it's a double edged sword I think. I know some folks that would advocate putting enough money aside that if you were laid off for a year, you could still live comfortably. But I also know how many of us live from check to check, and it's not possible to put money aside in that case. So for many of us, it's a delicate dance.

I suggest buying an extra box of cereal, or an extra can of tuna or two, perhaps an extra can of frozen juice or maybe an extra package of chicken quarters if you can. Add your extra to your grocery list. Yes, it's more fun to use that extra $8 to treat yourself to lunch, but if you use that extra $8 to buy a big jar of peanut butter instead, it might make the difference between your kids skipping lunch or eating one day. Yes, I personally know people that have been in the position of not eating their own lunch so their kids can eat. It happens more than you think. I'm a big fan of being more self-reliant though, and if you've been reading this blog for more than a month I'm sure you know that. I think it's important to support our financially challenged, empower them to have access to better quality food, teach them what they need to know to make their lives better and allow them to take control and have some pride back.
It's all about control and independence.
Those that can help, however, should. If you can spare a can of tuna, or peanut butter for a food bank, no matter what the season, consider sharing it. So many families, on both sides of the border, live with malnutrition simply because they don't have access to the kind of food they need. Yes, a can of soup can make a big difference.

I volunteered at a food bank many years ago, and it used to drive me crazy how many out of date cans of soup there were. The food bank had to throw these out because they weren't allowed to pass them on. But, I also saw folks that had gardens bring in  bins full of vegetables and fruit. It gave me hope, and the inspiration to do the same when I could.
So I encourage all of you this week to do something positive, for both yourselves, and for your neighbors.
Go out to lunch less, put some food aside for a wintery or $ crunched day. Share what food you do have with those who don't have enough themselves.
You'll be glad you did.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Creative and Colourful

For those of us blanketed in snow and grey mists, color is important. Colour, depth, life....it's missing right now for many of us. I think that's one reason why my Christmas trees are always a riot of colour. So one idea I've been exploring is sketchbook journals. One paints whatever, or draws whatever moves them, and apparently then one writes one's thoughts or observations over top of the dried paint. See the example at the left? That's a great example. I have no idea who did that one, I found it on the web.
I used to paint quite a bit when I was younger. I did it because I enjoyed colour, and watercolors and the transparency of it all. Then I got into acrylics and a Native style, and I pursued that for some time. And then life went weird and it got left along the way somehow, like my sense of impulsiveness and fun. But the Universe has pointed me  back in that direction over and over again these past couple of months, and I have been giving this the barest of acknowledgments. Tonight I ignore it no longer.
I have decided  that I will pick up the brush and the pen again.
How does this tie into homesteading? Oh, very easily.
I can paint nature, the birds in our yard, the feeder they eat from, the trees I
co-habitate with, homesteading ideas and concepts....the possibilities trip over themselves.
I can also use this watercolor journal/sketchbook to prompt new ideas in beadwork. I have been bitching lately that for a time, we weren't making anything new. Whose fault was that? Mine! I remember the snippet of a dream I had not long ago in which I clearly heard a voice say to me "if you want something new to create, dream it"
And so, I will!
Not that I need another reason to, but here's a good reason to plunge into this...
"...this safe haven of personal expression can become for you, if you let it, a source of relaxation. A ready breathing space in a busy way of life. Learn to do relaxation and breathing exercises before and after you draw not only so that you tap into the more intuitive side of your brain but that so that the discipline of drawing and the artistic pathway becomes a source of great personal pleasure. Your journal should never be a chore but something you look forward to as a little breather in the busy pace of life."

What do you do to be creative?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Almost Deleted and The History of Knitting In Canada At Least

You know, for a while there, I lost sight of why I blog. I didn't think anyone gave a good whoop about whether or not I blogged, but then someone very dear to me reminded me that if I was enjoying it, that's what mattered. So because I enjoy it, I'll carry on.
So, I can't chat too much about gardening and homesteading and living off the land too much in the winter. Around here, it's the season for knitting and crocheting. I don't crochet, although Betty and my mother keep trying to get me to pick up the hook. Once again over the next few months, I'll be knitting for the homeless. We have a soup kitchen in town, and I've been told they'll take all the scarves, mitts, socks and hats I can knit. So you'll be hearing a lot about all sorts of knitterly things over the coming weeks. One thing in particular has caught my attention, the history of knitting here in Canada. We have a few American friends that tease us about living with polar bears, all in good fun of course, but we tend to have a lot of winter in our corner of the north, so I figured there has to be a pretty extensive history of it, right? So I've begun to dig into it. Today I found an archived version of "Canada Knits:Craft and Comfort in A Northern Land", by Shirley Scott. It's fascinating stuff, believe me! Oh, here's some for you to read!

"Despite their excellent needlework skills native Canadians did not knit before Europe an contact. They worked with skins, grasses, and other animal and vege- table fibres; weaving, sewing, embroidering and ornamenting their clothing and
household objects with intricate skill. In fact, one of the reasons why the first intrusive Europeans were not more positively repelled was the native people's interest in the trade goods that the Europeans brought. Their fine metal sewing needles easily replaced the more awkward bone needles and were among the earliest and most prized trade goods.
Native Canadians did, however, have some skill in woolcraft. They made use of the wool of wild animals that was shed in spring and found caught up on twigs or blowing loose across the land. Inuit women today, for example, tuck bits of qtvtuq, the underdown of the musk ox, into their sealskin boots for added
warmth. We may safely assume that such an opportunity for warmer feet would
not have been neglected in past centuries. We know too that the hair of
domesticated dogs was used by Pacific Coast Indian tribes to make clothing and that these people also had spinning skills. Anthropologists tell us that the
Salish people, who have a rich textile tradition, were skillful blenders of dog hair, duck down, and vegetable fibres, which they twisted and spun into
yarns and wove into blankets. Some spinning whorls and blanket pins have
been found that are two thousand years old. The adeptness of native women at needlework, their skill in shaping garments, their love of ornamentation and
their eye for design meant that when they were finally introduced to knitting they seized upon it and became some of the most dedicated practitioners of the art. Knitting skills were passed on to many native people at the same time as religion and the other fundamentals of European culture . The missionaries saw the teaching of knitting as a means of avoiding idleness and of building
character rather than as a form of artistic expression. Nevertheless, the tools that they gave to native people were valuable indeed.
Canada ' s first kni t t e r s did not s t ay. The first Europeans to establish a
settlement in Canada were the Norse, who came from Scandinavia via Iceland
and landed at l'Anse aux Meadows on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland. They did not leave any actual knitting behind them. However, we do know that they worked with wool.
Excavators at the s i t e of l'Anse aux Meadows have uncovered a small number of artefacts that offer a glimpse of the woolcraft of these Norse colonists. A spindle whorl of soapstone, a small needle-hone of quartzite, and an elongated bone needle were found. All of these objects are indisputably Norse and were not known to the local native Canadians of the period. They were part of
a woman's tool kit. Socks and mittens were probably knit using the single-ne edle nalbtndnlng technique, a form of knitting that predates the two-needle method. The yarn used at l'Anse aux Meadows was probably wool, although the Norse occupants did not practice agriculture here as they did in their other colonies where sheep and cattle farming dominated the economy.
The settlement at l'Anse aux Meadows was short lived. Perhaps, as Birgitta Wallace suggests in The Norse Atlantic Saga, it was merely a stopover point for trading voyages. The journey south may have seemed too long, the season too short, and the goods no more exotic than those easily obtained from Europe. For whatever reason, the outpost was abandoned. and with it disappeared
the opportunity of leaving knitting knowledge behind.

The e a r l i e s t known knitted piece found in Canada did not come from
settlers at all but from seasonal workers who probably brought it with
them. It is a fragment of a knitted cap found at the late sixteenth century
Basque whaling site at Red Bay. Labrador. The Basque people harvested our
rich coastal waters for many years before the French and the English
established themselves here. but the Basques were economic opportunists, not empire builders. They were happy to return home when their work was done. Their most lasting legacy is the place names that remain on the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador, not the art of knitting.
What an interesting glimpse back...to me at least! What did you think?