Great episode of BBC World Service’s People Fixing The World podcast about the Precious Plastic movement. It’s been interesting watching founder Dave Hakkens create this international open source community, then step back recently to allow others to take the reins. When I think of open source, I think more of computer code than management styles, but there would be no way for Hakkens to have created this open community and then tried to control it from above. He is letting it evolve beyond him.
Precious Plastic is now under the umbrella of One Army, which includes their new initiative to fix fast fashion waste called, sensibly, Fixing Fashion. Their website is full of information on how to mend, care for, and repurpose your clothing, with the aim to have us think of old clothes as a resource and not waste, just as Precious Plastic did.
I have been mending my clothes again of late, so this comes at the perfect time to help me advance my skills. I have a 1970s sewing machine, but have been patching by hand: holes in jeans, the elbow of a hoodie, sewing up ripped seams on t-shirts. I’m using the thread I have on hand, and am not worrying about it all looking nice or matching. I can darn socks because my mother has always knit them and I watched her keep them wearable forever by mending holes toes and heels.
My only tip to pass on is to patch or mend before a hole emerges, when the fibres are just starting to look thin, then you are reinforcing what is already there and that is much easier. This requires examining your clothes regularly as you launder them, so having fewer clothes helps.
In two generations my family went from having a closet that was just a couple of hooks behind the door to a big walk-in room. Who do we think we are, and what would the ancestors think of who we have become?
20 years ago tonight I was spending my last evening at 257 Pacific Avenue in the High Park area of Toronto. I had quit my job of seven years at the Daily Bread Food Bank and was heading to PEI with my partner (now husband), Steven. We had been together for 18 months. Soon into our relationship we talked about moving out of Toronto, probably somewhere in rural Ontario, but we changed course after a trip to PEI in August, 2000.
Being the only child of older parents (both turned 79 in 2001, my father on that April 30th), I felt a great pull to return to PEI and help them. My father was in the beginning stages of what turned into dementia, and my mother was taking on more and more responsibility, but finding it a challenge, though she was and is remarkable for her age. I was 34 and had been away from PEI for 17 years, but it was time to go home. Steven was game, so that was that.
We gave away tons of stuff before we moved, much of it to a centre in the east end of Toronto who helped people transition from homeless shelters to apartments. Friends took bits and pieces, then the movers came on April 29 and gathered up what was left. I arranged with the woman who was taking over the apartment for her to move her stuff in on April 30, as long as we could sleep there (on the floor, we were so youngish!) that night in the bedroom with our two cats, Emma and Digby.
I left the apartment in the afternoon while the new gal moved her stuff in, and went to say goodbye to friends. When I returned, the cats were freaked out by being locked in the bedroom, so we had a tense, meowy evening. I tried to get some sleep as I was going to drive us straight through to PEI (Steven has never driven). Steven was out with some pals for a goodbye dinner and he got back rather late.
After a little bit of uncomfortable dozing, we got up on May 1 at 4 a.m., shoved the cats into a carrier in the back of my red VW Golf, pointed the car east, and drove away. If you haven’t driven 1,700 km in one day with 2 yowling cats, you are missing the trip of a lifetime. By the time we reached Quebec City in the afternoon, the cats had collapsed into eternal despair and mercifully slept for a bit.
We arrived in Foxley River around 12:30 a.m. May 2, and collapsed at our family cottage where we would live that summer. My mother had left supper in the fridge, but for possibly the first and last time in my life, I was too tired to eat. Our neighbour called us at 8 a.m. the next morning to ask if we had seen their dog, and so it began on PEI, just as if I had never left.
One of our chickens, Rosie, just swallowed a dead mouse whole. Apparently this is normal, but as its my first time seeing this, it also feels like the end times are nigh. Rosie had a terrible encounter with a rooster before she arrived here in January, so she looks like a Frankenchicken, with a patch around her head that is just bare skin. She’s an oddball, runs everywhere and annoys the other hens, but is very affectionate, except when doing pest control, and then she’s a killer. Whatever Rosie wants, Rosie gets, or else!
Spring is here, and everyone is feeling fine. Agnetha survived the night and seems mightily improved, keeping up with the five other hens and soaking up the sun. She ate well, seemed alert, and although her crop looks rather enlarged in the photo below, it is much reduced and not full of the disgusting smelly liquid that gives sour crop its name.
A plaintive meow as I was taking that photo alerted me to the fact that Sally, our tabby, was on the roof of our outbuilding. She walked back and forth, cleaned her paws, looking over the side pretending she didn’t know how she would ever make it back to earth. When she had had enough dramatics, she hopped onto the pine tree branch that hangs over the roof (and needs to be removed), and was soon scrambling down the tree trunk. Not bad for a 14-year-old moggy.
I’m nursing my oldest hen, Agnetha, who seems to have sour crop, a yeast infection in the pouch where food is stored at the start of a hen’s digestive system. There seems to be ten million different methods on the internet for dealing with this condition, so colour me confused. I love being able to find information online, but, boy oh boy, there can be a lot to wade through.
Agnetha is a bit better today, but she is far from 100%, and this can be fatal. I live in St. Brigid’s parish, and Bridie has many patronages, including poultry keepers, so I have sent her my wish that she hold Aggie’s wing as her human tries to figure out what best to do. Bridie kept me safe when I was a milkmaid* and used to drive by her church on my way to and from the farm, so I expect she’ll do her best for Aggie.
I can’t help but think of the generations of women and men before me who would know exactly what to do, even people I knew well who kept hens but who are long gone. My mother doesn’t remember what they did for sour crop as she last kept hens about 78 years ago. For certain a sick hen back then didn’t spend the night in a dog crate in the laundry room being tempted with treats; it would likely more likely have had a date with the stew pot.
* I know, I know, I was officially a dairy farm worker, but who can resist having a job title that is mentioned in The Twelve Days of Christmas!?
I have had to wash my “barn” jacket after I put an egg in the pocket and then managed to squish it before I got it into the basket. I know better, but it was going to be there just for a second. A handful of slimy egg and broken shell is an unpleasant discovery, and it was -12C at the time, so it started to freeze on my hand. Yuck.
I told my mother what I had done, and said my first thought was what her grandmother, Eva, would have said if she had witnessed my folly. My mother said I would have been scolded, for an egg in February was a rare thing. Eggs were preserved in a solution called water glass in the fall, and were only used for baking over the winter. I don’t remember people preserving eggs, as by the time I was born in the mid-60s, most people had electricity and refrigerators, and mostly bought their eggs from a store.
I once visited a Second World War exhibition at a museum in Ipswich, England, and they had a section on food on the home front. Unfortunately, the egg preservation experiment hadn’t worked properly and we arrived just after they made that discovery, and the smell of rotten eggs was certainly evocative of another time.
I asked my mother if gathering the eggs was one of her chores as a child, and she said it wasn’t. The hens were Eva’s domain and she probably didn’t trust my mother to not drop the basket. Stuffing eggs in your pocket would have been bad form.
My mother said her chores were looking after her own bedroom, keeping her little brother out of trouble, and sometimes doing the dishes. On the day when The Family Herald arrived, Eva would read all afternoon so that when my mother came home from school, the dishes from the noon meal (called dinner, never lunch – lunch was a meal before bedtime!) would still be on the table waiting for her to wash them.
And how did you wash dishes in rural PEI in the 1920s? In an enamel dishpan at the kitchen table. You took the dishpan off a nail in the pantry, took it to the woodstove, and decanted hot water from the tank on the side of the stove. You would swish a bar of homemade soap in the water to make suds, wash and dry the dishes, and put most of the dishes back on the table for the next meal. The dirty dishwater would be poured down the sink in the pantry in winter, or perhaps out the back door onto a plant at other times. Nothing wasted, ever. Water was pumped by hand from a hand-dug well, so it was precious.
Those water conservation methods have passed down to me through my mother. I don’t use a dishpan every day, but have used a dishpan during very dry summers and poured the dishwater on flower beds. I will throw water from washing floors on the front porch to clean it off, or onto a flowerbed. I don’t have a dishwasher, so when running water to do dishes, I usually collect the cold water that comes first in a watering can for plants, a kettle, or in a jug.
And I moved from using liquid dish detergent back to swishing a bar of soap in the water a few years ago. I don’t see much difference, except for the lack of bubbles, which I have read come from chemicals added to make you feel like the cleaning part of the soap is working. I use a vegetable glycerine soap from Bulk Barn that has no wrapping and almost no scent, and my dishes seem clean enough. I sometimes add slivers of soap from the shower or sink to the glycerine soap in soap shaker I have.
One of the many things I’ve learned as a Kiva volunteer is that refugee camps aren’t just for short-term temporary lodging. People live their whole lives in refugee camps, go to school, run businesses, get married, have babies. There are an estimated 26 million refugees around the world, and half of them are children.
I edited a Kiva loan today for a man in Kenya named Mugaza. He’s of Somali descent and has lived in at least two Kenyan refugee camps. He is now living with his family in Kakuma camp, operating a grocery store and employing eight people.
UNHCR says the population of Kakuma camp is just over 188,000, meaning there are more people in that one camp than all of PEI. They have schools, medical facilities, and around 2,500 businesses. There are even football teams playing in regional leagues.
I can’t stop thinking about Mugaza, so I went back and made a loan to him. If you want to learn more about Kiva and how to make your first loan, here’s an invite from me.
I was surprised to see the precipitation observations I report every day as a CoCoRaHS volunteer being taken as gospel by Environment Canada, as per this info box in an article about the latest snowstorm in The Guardian:
Later I read that CoCoRaHS volunteers are “Environment Canada-trained” (we aren’t, or at least I’m not) in this CBC PEI article:
It seems the source for all this officialness is an Environment Canada daily weather summary for PEI, and there’s my 12cm in Foxley River once again:
Environment Canada does not operate CoCoRaHS, though they are able to access the data, which is free and open to all. They do say at the bottom of the report that it “may contain preliminary or unofficial information”, and that would be me, the Foxley River unofficial official.
I know that at least a couple of the PEI CoCoRaHS volunteers are highly trained, one a former military meteorologist and another a NAV Canada air traffic controller. I suspect the rest of us are just weather nerds with a little time on our hands.
The CoCoRaHS volunteer training is self-directed, a handbook, articles and videos all available on their website. To be a volunteer, you have to commit to submitting observations every day, ideally at the same time each morning, and you need to purchase a rain gauge from them. If you are going to measure snow, you need a ruler and a snow board to take the measurements from. That’s it.
I have a couple of diaries my great-grandfather Ernest Hardy used as the keeper of the Little Channel Lighthouse. He had to record the time extinguished and lit the light each day, and he also recorded the weather. He was sort of unofficially-official, too, like me.
Just placed my annual order with Hope Seeds, a small operation in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia that sells heirloom and open-pollinated seeds grown in Atlantic Canada. I’ve been buying from them for over a decade and like that I can buy small quantities. They will also often throw in a package of seed leftover from previous years for me to try, which is a pretty sweet bonus.
I had given up on growing garlic a few years ago as I never managed to get my act together to plant it in the fall, and spring-sown garlic just doesn’t do well in my yard. I was organized enough to place an order late last summer and chose a rocambole variety called Phillips. The bonus packet Hope Seeds chose to send with that garlic might well have been a coincidence, but I like to think someone just couldn’t resist the temptation to send this combo to me. Small really is better.