Jumping the Gun

Spring has arrived, at least the calendar tells us so. Here in southern Ontario (Canada), it feels a bit more Spring-like than winterish. Is winterish a word? No, you say? It doesn’t matter, I like it so I shall use it. Signs of Spring are starting to become more obvious. The air smells different – earthy and wonderful, yet there is still a chill in the air when the breeze blows. Yesterday I pointed out to my daughter that the narcissus’ in the front garden have started to laboriously push their way up through the mulch to reach for the sun. We were perhaps a little too excited by this as we clucked like hens loudly about the coming of Spring flowers and warmer temperatures while hovering over the tiny green shoots. I felt as though we may just break out in song and dance! Perhaps we should cut back on watching Glee for a bit. The appearance of these tender green shoots encouraged me to look around a bit more at things we take for granted when the seasons change and life-force starts to become evident in the plant world. Yes, this is the plant nerd coming out in me again. I could inspect plants in minor detail for hours on end and never lose interest. I am utterly fascinated by the tenacity and instinctual intelligence of the botanical world around us.

 

 

 

Spring shoots

 

 

 

Although Spring is definitely my favourite time of the year (and not just because my birthday is in the Spring), there is a phenomena that always irks me each and every Spring. I am about to share with you one of my greatest pet peeves so get ready. It may not seem like much to most of you but to me this is HUGE. After a few nice days in a row, people start to flood outside into their gardens raking like fiends and start working in their gardens. Hey, I am as antsy as the next person about getting out in the soil and getting dirty but slow down!  This, my friends and readers, is my pet peeve. Over-zealous gardeners that are starting too early and possibly doing more harm than good. This won’t ring true world-wide obviously, but here where we enjoy four distinct seasons we need to stop rushing the next one before Mother Nature is ready. We are pouncing on Mother Nature as she is stretching, waking from her long slumber through the winter and demanding that she perform her magic instantly. I would think she would like to enjoy a cup of coffee before she gets down to business, just like you and I would. We need to focus not so much on getting things in order but instead enjoy the order of things that take place. Think about that a moment.

 

 

 

Non-gardeners and gardeners may view nature differently but we often have something in common. The desire to keep nature in its place or to tame it. To use it for our own purposes whether it be for cultivation of food or aesthetics. This has both pros and cons and I think has inspired another post at another time. Instead of rushing things to the next stage, why not watch the splendour that nature offers at this most magical time of the year. Have you ever noticed the formation of a flower bud? How the small, hard green bud slowly alters into a tightly wound group of petals that unfurl until its beauty is on full display. If that weren’t incredible enough, pollinators like bees start to notice this gorgeous display and come in for a landing. This whole process is mystical and hypnotising…I’m surprised I accomplish anything in the Spring!

 

 

 

When we slow down our need to control the elements of nature in our yards we allow nature to do what is intended without our interference and interruption at a critical time in its life cycle. For instance, if I rush outside today and start raking leaves that have blown into my garden over the winter, I will be removing the protective barrier that keeps tiny shoots from being hit with frost or even being damaged by me raking over them. Fresh shoots are immensely strong to push through soil to reach the sky but are also extremely fragile. Being mindful of the growth cycles in your zone and garden is a much more logical way to plan your tasks than rushing out and being a weekend warrior and doing everything at once. Treat nature with respect, supply the correct care and you will be rewarded.

 

 

 

Furious activity is no substitute for understanding.
– H. H. Williams

To begin your gardening year off on the right note inform yourself as to what zone you live in. This is imperative to proper plant selection and care.

Click here for North American plant zone map.

Click here for Canadian plant zone map.

Click here for European plant zone map.

Click here for Australian plant zone map.

Click here for African plant zone map.

 

 

 

Take the time this Spring to inform yourself about correct timing for garden tasks in your zone before jumping the gun. Your garden will thank you. It also gives you time to enjoy the show!

“If you really want to draw close to your garden, you must remember first of
all that you are dealing with a being that lives and dies; like the human body,
with its poor flesh, its illnesses at times repugnant. One must not always see
it dressed up for a ball, manicured and immaculate.”
– Fernand Lequenne,
Botanist

Kindness Inspires Kindness

Photo - rishikajain.com

Photo – rishikajain.com

 

 

Something happened a couple of days ago that got me thinking about how people treat each other. I had taken a detour to the grocery store after a scheduled meeting on Monday morning. I had planned on picking up a couple blocks of butter to make some more ghee. I hadn’t thought of purchasing anything other than butter…until I had made my way to the back corner of the store where the butter is located. Then I made the fatal error of looking around. Sales were abundant and they enticed me. Now, remember, I had only run in for butter so I did not grab a buggy or a hand basket at the store entrance. As I made my way to the checkout I kept spotting sale items that I could use. I ended up juggling a tower of items in my arms plus my giant purse slung over my shoulder while wearing a bulky winter jacket. Not good planning on my part. As I approached the chosen checkout line the man in front of me saw my near-to-toppling tower and came to my rescue. He pushed his purchases forward on the counter and unloaded my arms for me while we both had a laugh about my conundrum. He guessed correctly that I hadn’t figured on picking up much when I originally entered the store. He informed me that he had done the same thing far too often and therefore always stops and gets a buggy since he knows he purchases impulsively. Another laugh was had over this awareness of his purchasing style. I, on the other hand, made it a habit when my kids were very little and my budget was incredibly tight to only purchase what I could carry to avoid overspending. I guess old habits die hard.

 

 

 

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop

 

This experience with another individual that gladly helped me made me appreciate the small windows of kindness that frequently pop up when I least expect them. There was no incentive for this man other than the feeling of helping someone. No reward other than a thank you and a smile was necessary. I frequently hear older people bang on about the rudeness of younger generations. Makes me wonder why those same individuals don’t hold doors for others or say thank you when you help them. It is almost as though they feel it is somehow owed to them. Is this not the real issue? That somehow society feels others owe them in some way, whether they are young or old. The feeling of entitlement has no age limit. Then there are many others that are simply kind and lend a hand when needed or offer a kind word without expecting anything but kindness in return. This brief moment at the checkout counter made me think about how often I would do something similar. I felt good knowing that I automatically step up and offer assistance without a second thought or speak to others or smile frequently. I have noticed that the more I put myself out there, the more I notice others that do the same. Perhaps it is some sort of chain reaction. When someone is kind to us, it feels good. We offer kindness to someone else because of it and what do you know, we feel good yet again! Plus, we made someone else feel warm fuzzies too. Let’s all spread a little kindness wherever we roam to make the world a whole lot nicer for everyone!

 

 

 

 

” Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”  – Princess Diana

Greening It Up for My Blogiversary!

One year ago today I decided to give WordPress a go, encouraged by my friend Crystal over at Change My Body, Change My Life. I am so glad I took her advice. Over the past year I have grown immensely (not in size, but in self-confidence and spiritually) thanks to making myself find words for what I was thinking and experiencing. Thank you to all of you that have read my blog and encouraged me. WordPress bloggers are an incredible group of individuals and I thoroughly enjoy the camaraderie that takes place. I have even made a few new friends to boot! So, once again thank you to all of you that not only visit me here at Live Love Be Green and/or on my Facebook page Live Love Be Green but that also create your own fascinating blogs that capture my imagination and that makes time well-spent reading what you have to say.

 

 

 

So, since it is not only my one year anniversary of blogging but is also St. Patrick’s Day I thought I would try something new and fun with a poll. I am just trying to get the idea of how to create a poll so bear with me if it is lame.

 

 

For our St. Patrick’s Day celebratory dinner I made a vegetarian shepherd’s pie (yum) with a fresh mesclun salad and a mouth-watering pint of Guinness for me. For dessert I lovingly baked a Chocolate Guinness cake with salted caramel drizzle. Holy heaven on a dessert plate! I shall leave you with thoughts of Guinness Cake. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Chocolate Guinness Cake with salted caramel drizzle

Chocolate Guinness Cake with salted caramel drizzle

“May you live a long life Full of gladness and health, With a pocket full of gold As the least of you wealth. May the dreams you hold dearest, Be those which come true, The kindness you spread, Keep returning to you.”  –  Irish blessing

Birds of March Break

Oh, March Break, how I love thee. There is nothing more wonderful than trying to conjure up ideas for keeping children occupied so the phrase “I’m bored” never need be spoken. I live by the comeback my mother used on me and my sisters when we were growing up. It sounded something like this, “If you complain that you are bored I will find you something to do”. It usually involved cleaning something or some equally sigh-worthy chore. I rarely hear the term “I’m bored” anymore. Thank goodness…it is highly irritating. Scratches on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard.

I refuse to sign my kids up for all sorts of expensive ventures to keep them from getting bored. Isn’t part of being a kid learning to play? Is that even a word in most kids vocabulary now? We parents are so freaked out about our kids getting dirty or hurt that we hover over them constantly.  I smile inside when my kids come home covered in mud, grass stains or wet from exploring in the creek nearby. They are washable. Don’t get me wrong, I have boundaries that need to be respected but I also think that children need to know that it’s alright to not have an adult dictate what is fun constantly. We adults tend to sign them up for anything that comes along just so they have something to do. There is, of course, the exception of young children when both parents are working outside of the home. Day camps and other structured activities become a necessity in this case. I have been fortunate enough to have been able to be at home with my children but not without making sacrifices to do so. Let me tell you, being a stay-at-home mom has been the hardest thing I have ever done. From the outside looking in it looks like a breeze but it is quite the opposite.

Hanging out and being silly with their friends is at the top of my list of things I like to see my kids doing. When kids spend time with their friends they gain a sense of belonging outside of their family circle and begin to blossom with self-confidence. The sound of laughter from kids is one of the most enjoyable sounds I can think of. OK, the coffee grinder in the morning is a close second.

One of our local shopping malls has had a free educational activity every day this week for all ages. Yesterday was a demonstration by the Ontario Raptor Conservancy with a show about birds of prey. I was going, kids or no kids. I stated that I was leaving at 11:45 am and whoever wanted to join me must be in the car. Works every time!

The man who was giving the demonstration was excellent. Sir, whoever you are, thank you for an engaging experience that kept not only the little kids sitting on the floor riveted but you had me hanging on your every word as well.

If you know me personally (in the real world), you know that I am terrified of birds. Honestly, I really can’t explain my fear. Walking by a parrot on a perch leaves me holding my breath for far too long and walking sideways – no eye contact! I am intrigued by large birds of prey for some reason though. They are incredible creatures. We were only able to view the first half of the demonstration sadly since daughter’s friend wasn’t feeling well so we headed home. The two birds that I was awestruck by were the Turkey Vulture and the Barn Owl. My photos are seriously lacking and I apologize. I was using my Blackberry since I forgot to bring the better camera. Of course, the man beside me had the super-dee-dooper camera with gigundo lens and kept giving me the sideways look. I hope he managed to get some incredible pictures of these beautiful birds.

Let’s start with the Turkey Vulture. The wingspan was impressive to say the least. I believe the speaker stated the wingspan could be six feet across.

A co-worker (and friend) and I joked during the summer that we must be moving too slow when we looked up and saw Turkey Vultures circling overhead. The term “look alive” was never funnier than at that moment!

To learn more about the Turkey Vulture click on the link here.

Turkey Vulture                       Turkey Vulture                  Turkey Vulture

The other bird of prey that captured my heart was the Barn Owl.

Barn Owls in southern Ontario are now critically endangered due to lack of prefered habitat. There is only one mating pair left in the wild. We need to start allowing naturalization of grasslands to give these beautiful birds a place to thrive again.

For more info on the Barn Owl, see this page.

Barn Owl                           Barn Owl in flight

In my mind, these are the interesting tidbits that together make up a great March Break. I’m sure all of the people there that were spellbound by the demonstration would agree.

These types of performances are a great way to bring attention to the importance of these magnificent birds in nature as well as what the Ontario Raptor Conservancy does.

In case you were wondering, none of the birds present were from the wild. They have all been raised in captivity at the conservancy and are used to being with people.

The conservancy also rehabilitates injured birds and releases them back into the wild.  It was uplifting to hear of a group doing so much to help another species and doing no harm.

Time well spent, I’d say.

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.  When we see
land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and
respect.”   ~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

I Am Enough

This has been a tumultuous year for me. There have been far too many bumps along the road for my liking. For the most part I have managed to keep my chin up and smile even when I feel like crying. To be strong not only for myself but for those around me. This is exhausting, let me tell you. I know it’s okay to let down my guard and cry – I do. I am not without emotion. If anything it’s quite the opposite and I wear my heart and thoughts on my sleeve maybe a little too often. My close friends know instantly when I am struggling internally and call me on it. For these friends I am ever so grateful. We all need great and caring people in our lives. Friends are essential for a feeling of belonging, wellness and joy as well as a sounding board that we can truly trust. One thing though that has become clearer than a full moon on a cloudless night is that we need to be our own best friend first and foremost.

 

“I exist as I am, that is enough, If no other in the world be aware, I sit content, And if each and all be aware, I sit content.”  – Walt Whitman

We have ourself and only ourself at every given second during our lifetime. Yes, people come in and out of our lives. We have families and friends, coworkers and acquaintances but only I am with myself all of the time. I needed to learn to love myself. To be my own best friend. Sometimes reaching within is the best resolution.

 

 

This journey to becoming my best friend hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been painful either. I think if I could capture the essence of learning to befriend myself in one word it would be sublime. When I altered the way I thought about myself, things became either intensely clear or absolutely unneccessary. Learning to befriend oneself isn’t conceited or narcissistic. It’s about finding your self-worth and trusting yourself with your thoughts and actions. I have discovered that the more I trust in who I am, the more I enjoy those around me. I don’t feel like I need to compete for attention or gain recognition. I have become happy just being Me. Growing up and maturing isn’t something that happens overnight, it is a process.  When I was younger I always struggled with self-worth and self-confidence, concerned that people would think I was a snob or conceited if I ever patted myself on the back. I thought I didn’t care what others thought of me but it was all just an act. A decoy for self-preservation, if you will. One thing I learned from this is that when we build walls we can’t see very far. My world was small. I have stumbled upon something magnificent. When you are your own best friend, everything you do becomes an experience and a reason to feel loved. Loved by someone who truly cares about my well-being…me.  Greater, more intense living and appreciating others is easier when you are present.

 

 

“Nothing is a greater impediment to being on good terms with others than being ill at ease with yourself.”
– Honore De Balzac

Food for Thought

It happened again. I was sucked into the world of documentaries. I had heard about Farmaggedon (the documentary) a little while ago and my interest was piqued. However, my enthusiasm for educational and informative viewing material is not shared most days by those that compete for viewing time in my household. It is usually “fluff” viewing or MMA that is being watched in our home which I also love. I enjoy MMA immensely to the resounding gasps of my friends. I guess I don’t seem like the type. What is the “type” of woman who likes MMA anyway? Why must we be a certain type to have interest in MMA, documentaries, musicals, dramas, action flicks? I enjoy all of the above. Does this make me well-rounded? I decree that yes, it does make me a versatile viewer. However, the aforementioned documentary Farmaggedon was what got my attention today and has tumbled around my thoughts to the point that I have something to say on the subject.

 

 

The documentary really got me to thinking, yet again, about the source of our food. Where it comes from, how it’s processed, and the regulations and laws surrounding our food industry. Of course, each country has their own laws regarding the food industry. My main points will be focused on North American food industry practices since the documentary that I have most recently watched is American. There is definitely a difference between the U.S. and Canadian food industry regulations and practices but there are many overlapping practices as well. I do not declare that I am an expert on the food industry, processing, or laws of such. I am seeing this from the standpoint of a human being. We all need to eat. From a stance of an individual that wants to know what is in my food and that the food I choose is safe, healthy and what it is labelled as being.

 

“Why should conservationists have a positive interest in …farming? There are lots of reasons, but the plainest is: Conservationists eat.” – Wendell Berry

If you have not had the opportunity to inform yourself on our food industry, I would highly recommend doing so. Perhaps you may learn a thing or two that you were either unaware of or didn’t really want to acknowledge. The need for awareness is not going to turn you into a die-hard activist (unless you choose to do so). It will merely give you an idea of what you are consuming – good or bad, healthy or not, whatever, that’s your choice. Not knowing what’s going on in the food industry than bashing those trying to make a difference is sheer ignorance and close-mindedness. I for one want to have the option to choose my food, not be dictated to and only given choices that will essentially make me a lab rat.

 

 

I have always had a strong sense of  personal choice from an early age. My sisters will attest to me (the youngest of three girls) brazenly spouting the phrase, “I have the right to…!” That seemed to be my most well-known tagline. I am still that same feisty girl with the desire to declare my free choice in all scenarios. However, I do not feel the need to shout it any more but firmly state my view when necessary. I know where I stand. I won’t be bullied into believing something just because I am told that I have to or believe every advertisement that appears before my eyes. I am smarter than that, thank you very much.

 


“There are two primary choices in life; to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” – Denis Waitley

 

While watching Farmaggedon it really hit home about the state of North American agriculture. I applaud farmers worldwide for what they do. Farmers are definitely some of the hardest working people on the planet. They toil each and every day in all   weather conditions to put food on the table – our tables. We have allowed our farmers to be manipulated and bullied by the likes of the FDA and large corporations that are driven by profit, not supplying healthy food to folks like you and me. The small-scale farmers that want to supply people with wholesome food choices are fighting a huge battle and taking a massive hit while we stand idly by with our hands in our pockets not knowing what to do. It is essential that people start speaking up to create change in governmental practices and laws that are strangulating the only people who really can provide good food to our tables, other than ourselves – the farmer. Factory farming is a practice focused on profit and creates many issues I won’t get into. Factory farming, in my eyes, is not farming. It is mass production of an item. How easily people forget that the chicken living its life in a restricted area sitting in its own waste becomes that piece of fried chicken on your plate. All for the sake of saving a couple of dollars at the grocery store. Shudder.  Simply put, for me factory farming has taken the personal touch out of agriculture. If you happen to be a factory-farmer I apologize if my words offend you but I, like you, am entitled to my opinion. I am not vilifying you per say, but the practices involved in mass production of living beings. Feel free to voice your thoughts. Just please do so respectfully. I am saddened by the thought of so many living beings treated like they are merely a dollar sign. I feel sickish inside. Moving on.

“I don’t understand the notion that modern farming is anything to do with nature. It’s a pretty gross interference with nature.”  – Peter Singer

 

In review of the documentary, I felt it weighed in heavily on the subject of raw milk farming and legislation. Perhaps I was hoping for a broader subject matter since I don’t consume milk personally but it was very eye-opening none-the-less. It comes right down to the fact that as consumers we should have the ability to purchase foods of our choosing. Of course there must be stipulations such as nothing that is endangered, for instance. If one really looks at the source of food from a family run farm as opposed to a large-scale factory operation, I think most of us would choose the former. I prefer produce from my garden over produce from a greenhouse sprayed with several rounds of insecticides and fungicides. It’s common sense, really. It is frightening that it has gotten to the point that small farms are being raided and their livelihood seized by the FDA. Why does the government feel so threatened by these small farms? Is it really in the name of consumer safety? I, for one, highly doubt it. My guess would be that the government is so tied to Big Ag giants that the government is no longer “for the people” but instead for the profit. We are at a point in history where we have all screwed up royally by trusting large corporations to dictate to the masses, myself included.

 

 

Standing up to the Bully (Big Ag/government) where our food is concerned is now at our doorsteps. Being aware makes a difference.  Simple steps like voting with our food budget is a great place to start. Local markets, farmers and small businesses can make a big impact. We are already seeing many large food companies trying to cater to certain markets by diversifying. It’s a small step in the right direction but it is still supporting large-scale operations. Picture yourself as a farmer trying to support your family. You want to supply people with an exceptional product that you give every waking minute to producing. The FDA steps in and claims some bogus law made in the 1930’s and seizes your animals/crops. How would you feel? Who would you turn to? The red tape is so restrictive for many small businesses that even making a profit can be a very difficult task. To sit at a desk in a cubicle somewhere and  sneer at those that want to have access to real food that is grown and produced with passion and care or at the farmer themself  is hypocritical. The next time you eat a burger or a salad or drink a milkshake remember that someone somewhere had to get those items to market so you could stuff your face with them. Changing our thinking process to bring us closer to the food we consume and the reality of food production may just open our eyes and our heart a little bit more.

 

 

 

 

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.  – Harry Truman