Show us what you love to do & win film festival tickets!

Click the picture to take the 3-minute survey and you can win tickets for 2 to the Powell River Film Festival (Feb 19-24, 2013)
Click the picture to take the 2-minute survey and you can win tickets for 2 to the Powell River Film Festival (Feb 19-24, 2013)

As a cooperative, we want to know more about you: what your concerns are, what your skills and interests are, and what you feel you can do to help strengthen our cooperative and the larger community. We encourage each member to commit to initiating or participating in projects, joining a committee, serving on the board of directors, and helping with events and tasks as they arise. No pressure, though. Just take the short ‘n snappy survey now (2 minutes of your time) click here BY THURSDAY FEBRUARY 14 (yes, Valentine’s Day) and we will return the love via a random draw of two pairs of tickets for two, to the Powell River Film Festival (Feb 19-24, 2013)!

If you’ve already taken this survey, thank you! You are automatically entered in our random draw!

Consider Cover Crops

co-vercrops

Cover crops — also unglamorously called ‘green manure’ (although the technical definition is different) — are well-known to larger-scale gardeners and farmers, but also worth considering even for the home gardener.

Cover crops are grasses (oats, wheat, clovers, buckwheat, barley, rye, alfalfa) and legumes (peas, hairy vetch, fava beans) that are planted to cover the soil surface. They help to reduce erosion and weed growth in unplanted and overwintering garden beds. Green manure crops (especially the legumes) have the added benefit of enriching the soil.

Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative will have more information and sample packets of cover crop seeds for sale at Seedy Saturday, so drop by our table on March 9, 2013 at the Powell River Recreation Complex.

There are at least eight reasons why you should make cover crops part of your year-round  garden plan, including:

  1. To protect good topsoil from being washed or blown away;
  2. To keep the nutrients in topsoil from being washed out of your soil;
  3. To loosen the soil deeper than you can or would want to dig (thus avoiding the hard work and microbial damage caused by extensive soil disturbance);
  4. To increase organic matter, improve soil structure, drainage, and aeration;
  5. To control weeds (cover crops typically outperform weeds);
  6. To help beneficial insects, birds and micro-organisms overwinter (the plants provide protection and food);
  7. To increase yields and break pest/disease cycles;
  8. To grow your own mulch and compost material (when the plants are tilled into the soil and left to rot for at least 3 weeks).

It would seem that merely letting a garden go fallow would relax it, but the right cover crops provide the aeration and nutrients required when they are cut and tilled in before the seed heads mature (this is important as cover crops will self-seed and become unruly weeds if not managed). If you till in the whole plants, allow at least 3 weeks for them to decompose, as raw biomass ties up soil nutrients to the detriment of newly planted seedlings. Depending on the cover crop used, you can be planting any time between the late winter to late fall, so as you remove spent plants, you can plant cover crops and never miss a beat.

Cover crops provide the primary benefit of preparing your soil for further vegetable cropping. If you choose to allow your cover crops to go to seed so you can harvest the grain, be aware that their root mass can be extensive and difficult to turn over. That said, your own oats, rye or buckwheat straight from your own garden are really a treat and can aid the determined 50-Mile dieter.

The choice of cover crop seeds and when to plant them depends somewhat on what you will be planting once the cover crop is turned under, but the most popular cover crops for our Maritime Pacific Northwest region are:

Maritime Pacific Northwest cover crops: From http://www.soilandhealth.org/03sov/0302hsted/covercropsbook.pdf

Maritime Pacific Northwest cover crops: From http://www.soilandhealth.org/03sov/0302hsted/covercropsbook.pdf

Also, for more info, check this link to  Oregon State University’s article

“Plant cover crops to protect and nourish soil”.

The Oregon State University Master Gardener handbook “Sustainable Gardening” recommends planting the following cover crops in the late summer and fall after harvesting your summer vegetables. Mixtures of legumes and non-legumes are especially effective. Here is an excellent guide to when to plant/turn under different types of cover crops,

And below is a handy guide on how much seed is required per square foot:

from West Coast seeds- see their list of cover crops here: http://www.westcoastseeds.com/product/Vegetable-Seeds/Cover-Crops/
from West Coast seeds- see their list of cover crops here: http://www.westcoastseeds.com/product/Vegetable-Seeds/Cover-Crops/

We’re a-puttin’ on up!

Ant collecting food for tougher times

‘Putting up’ is a colloquial term referring to the process of canning : preserving foods by packing them into glass jars and then heating the jars to kill the organisms that would create spoilage. But along with canning, other food preserving methods such as dehydrating, pickling in salt, vinegar, sugar or alcohol, smoking food to preserve it, lacto-/wild fermentation and (of course) freezing it are all ways to extend the ’50-mile eat local’ goal year-round.

Growing it yourself is one great way to ensure your own food security and the quality of the produce you eat. And as you learn about your own yard’s microclimate (see here for Powell River details) and develop your gardening skills, you will see what grows best for you, and adapt what you eat to what grows well, or at least to set up a bartering system where you can trade your zucchini for your neighbour’s carrots. Exercise, fresh air, sunshine and the joy and satisfaction from growing your own add to the value of turning ‘sod to salad’.

Aug 5-Sept 23, 2012: The 50-day Powell River 50 Mile Eat Local Challenge! It all starts with the Edible Garden Tour on Sun. Aug. 5 Click on the snail for more info…

Once again, this year, the 4th Annual Edible Garden Tour (Sunday, August 5; get the guide here) allows you to visit a dozen or so local food gardens to see how others are doing it. Don’t miss this opportunity!

But what about food you can’t easily grow or source locally? Well, that’s when Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative’s The Abundant Pantry project (TAP) comes in. Every two months (the next deadline is September 9, 2012) our hard-working TAP coordinator Wendy Pelton collects Skookum members’ orders of bulk food and two or three days later, she (with some help from members) divides and provide us with our bundles of food we ordered.

French Green Lentils soaking

The benefits of buying in bulk are many, including:

  • Increasing your own (and your local community’s) food security in case of any disruption or lack of certain foods throughout the year. For example, the many drought-striken areas in the US will reduce availability and increase costs at the supermarket— like the ant at the top, think ahead!
  • Buying in bulk can dramatically reduce your costs: the more you buy, the more you save! This means that that you can often buy Organic and better quality food for the same price (or less than) you would pay in stores for conventionally-grown food. Plus, with our co-op structure, you can split orders, and get to meet other members, setting up a network of foodie friends to split orders in the future as well. As Pete Tebbutt recently put it:

“Some of the items I purchased I balked at, at first…..why do I need 12 bottles of Tamari?, for instance.  Well, who knew one could turn Tamari into balsamic vinegar or maple syrup into chocolate, which I did by trading with other members.”

  • With the recent focus on reducing packaging and trash as promoted by our friends at Let’s Talk Trash, buying a larger amount of dry staple foods like salt, flour, sugar, grains and legumes at one time will reduce your use of unnecessary packaging like plastic bags and tubs, tin cans, glass and cardboard boxes. Remember that even if the packaging is recycled, there are serious environmental impacts in the production, transportation and recycling these materials. Find out more on reducing your plastic use here.
  • Having a store of bulk staples foods means your family will eat healthier by avoiding the temptation of buying pre-cooked frozen or processed foods from the supermarket because of sheer convenience. If you have a bucket of dried beans right there in your home, you will use them. We all know how bad that extra salt, sugar/corn syrup, extra fat and preservatives hidden away in processed foods are for us; it feels good to actually take action and get into the habit of eating better
  • Having a store of food also reduces your trips to the supermarkets, which is good for the environment and for your own fuel consumption (and the cost of this in various ways including time, gas, vehicle wear-and-tear, etc.)
  • Buying via our Abundant Pantry project is easy, there is a wide and ever-growing array of foods available (including some local providers of soap and rabbits, and more) and a very small portion of each order goes to help Skookum fund other projects. It’s a win-win-win situation, so try it out! Follow the image (and habits) of Skooky the Squirrel. click here.
Click above to get the acorn rolling…

Skookum September! (A snapshot of what we’re up to)

Just before the harvest: Skookum’s Experimental Oat Patch.
Oats ready for transport
Makeshift oat drying area.

It has been a pretty busy September for Skookum, and it’s not letting up. The BPA-free canning lid order is complete, and a dozen or so members have some of the tools we need to get canning! If anyone has extra canning rings, please consider donating them, as the new lids don’t come with these metal rings. Skookum collected an extra $25 from members donating to the cider press fund.

Stay tuned for the new Cider Press Rules to be published on this blog any day now, detailing the fees, conditions, and tips on members’ use of our cider press.

We are still collecting prizes for the Skookum 50-Mile Eat Local Challenge Haiku contest (read the amazing entries (and submit one yourself!) at: http://pr50.wordpress.com/haiku) Please contact Giovanni Spezzacatena at  Giovanni@skookumfood.ca if you want to donate a gift! Thanks!

Three of our Board members (Sharon, David, and Giovanni) managed to get together — despite the rainy weather we’ve been having — to pick our oats from the borrowed patch of land in Wildwood. We used scissors and a scythe to collect what we could, and we’re drying them for a few weeks in another borrowed space. Then, we’ll figure out what’s next. We figure we will use the harvest as seed for next year’s larger plot. If you have a patch of land available (especially in town), let us know! (skookum@skookumfood.ca or call us at 604.485.7940.)

But there’s more! This Sunday, Nicole Narbonne and Will Langlands will host a Skookum members-only Tomato-Can-A-Thon work party!

We are also planning some exciting activities for Co-op week (Oct. 17-23), which will involve community access to the cider press!

And even more! We’re hoping to make a bulk purchase of nuts from Rancho Vignola!

Calling all Skookum members!
Does this early fall weather have you squirreling away food for winter?
If so, you might want to get in on a once a year opportunity to bulk order fruit and nut products from Rancho Vignola.
Each September, the BC-based, family-run Rancho Vignola offers bulk purchases of dried fruit and nuts at wholesale prices.
We thought we’d put this out to the membership, and see if there was interest in doing an order. If we put our orders together, it should be easy to exceed the $500 minimum order limit.
But … there is a catch, we have to act FAST. All orders HAVE TO be submitted to Rancho by September 27, no exceptions. And what that means for us is that all orders have to be submitted to me ABSOLUTELY NO LATER THAN NOON ON SEPTEMBER 26.
Interested? Read on… Here’s how it will work:
HOW TO ORDER:
View the attached Product Description form and Wholesale Price List from Rancho Vignola. Select the items you want (by case or 5lb bag only), and let me know via email (nolapoirier@gmail.com) the items you would like to order. Please write the name just like it appears on the order form (or email me a filled out form), so there is no confusion. I will reply with a confirmation email.
Important! When working out your costs, you need to add 15% to each price.
  • 5% of this will go to Skookum,
  • 5% to the community (this is part of Skookum’s mandate),
  • 5% to me (Nola), as an incentive to members and Board members to coordinate efforts like this.
For example: A 5lb bag of raw, organic almonds (second item on the list) is $51.50 on the price list. So your cost is:
$51.50 +  15%, which is: $51.50 + ($51.50 X 0.15) = $51.50 + 7.73 = $59.23
But, Rancho Vignola will ship our order to Powell River for Free! So you don’t need to worry about an added shipping charge. Remember to get your order in to me on, or ideally before, noon on Sept 26.
If we don’t get to the $500 minimum, we won’t be able to do an order. I’ll let you know if this is the case, ASAP.
HOW TO PAY:
Our order must be prepaid, so please drop payment off at Kingfisher Books at 4468 Marine Ave. no later than noon on September 26. Please pay with cheques or cash (no credit card payments, sorry). Make cheques out to Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative or just SFPC). Ensure your name is together with the payment (i.e., in an envelope or paperclip).
Don’t forget to add 15% to the listed price of each item.
Any questions about the process? – send them my way: nolapoirier@gmail.com
Any questions about the products that aren’t answered on the product description attached? Contact Rancho Vignola @ info@ranchovignola.com (note they don’t answer their phone).
PRICE LIST (again, add 15% to these prices) (158 KB): CLICK HERE

ITEM DESCRIPTIONS: CLICK HERE (740 KB)
Nola Poirier
604 487 0807

From a small patch in Wildwood…

Cross-posted at SlowCoast.

Oats in the furrow, ready to be covered

One of the main purposes for the Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative is to get us thinking more about sharing solutions, as opposed to the current model, which often has us all off on our own trying to solve the same problems by learning the same skills and using the same resources. If we expect that we’re all going to need to become much handier at producing, preserving, and sharing food, then it makes sense for us to work better together: to share tools, ideas, space, time, and labour.

Our fast-paced and hyper-individualized culture has steered us away from collaborative projects; it’s become possible for almost everyone to do for themselves one way or another, thanks to abundant cheap goods. And we seem to have lost some of the appetite for group projects that characterized earlier generations, with their many service clubs, church groups,all the other pieces of a thriving community. To be fair, not everyone has punched their cards and checked out of the common effort, but we’re all going to have to get a lot smarter about how we work together to get the things we need.

Skookum was founded on the assumption that we all will need to become better equipped to understand how our food gets to our tables —that the work of getting the food to the table is going to become more widespread and more local. Although sometimes it seems that our efforts in this direction are puny and never enough, the only thing worse than not doing enough is doing nothing at all. (Or maybe doing something poorly.)

While we run around trying to get the gleaning project ready for prime time, while we prepare for our first general meeting of our members, we are trying to get a few little projects up off the ground. Something that particularly interested a couple of us was the idea of producing some of the grains we eat as part of our diet. A number of people hereabouts have been experimenting with Red Fife wheat and kamut, as well as other more exotic grains such as quinoa and amaranth. (And as my fellow Slow-Coaster Tom reports, buckwheat is another grain that people are growing here, if only as a cover crop.)

One grain I eat a lot of is oats, since I have a big bowl of oatmeal for breakfast most days. And, conveniently, Dan Jason at Salt Spring Seeds sells a variety of hull-less oats suitable for our coastal growing conditions. Sharon Deane, another director of the cooperative and an avid food gardener, was interested in working together to grow a pilot patch of oats, if only to see how well they grow, how much they yield, and what the process is for getting from field to cereal bowl.

And so, scrambling right up to the last minute, we managed to find a little patch of shared soil up in Wildwood where we can plant and tend our experimental crop for 2010, in the hopes that we will learn enough to expand the project for next year. This past Saturday we took our five packets of Salt Spring Oats, suitable for sowing approximately five hundred square feet of ground, and spent some time turning the soil, scraping furrows, planting and covering the oats. We’ll continue to visit our little grain patch —I’ll continue to blog about the progress up there — until the end of the season, at which time we hope to have enough oats to share around, roll into flakes, and make into a delicious bowl of local breakfast. (With local fruit, milk, and honey…)

Eventually it would be wonderful to see more people getting together for the purpose of sharing land and labour to grow ever-larger patches of grains, beans, and other storage crops. There is a project running our of Vancouver, Urban Grains, which shortens the distance between grain consumers and farmers by getting city folks to sign up for a share of the grain produced from a farm in Agassiz. This is a classic Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme, and these are starting to catch on all over the place, as regular people decide that they want to become more involved in the production of the food they eat. Passive consumption of foods coming from an opaque and mysterious system of production is looking more and more like a strange aberration, only possible during a time of extremely cheap fossil fuels and a style of imaginary economics that assigns no negative value to environmental destruction and social inequities so long as they are kept well out of sight.

For the three-and-a-half years that I have been living in Powell River, I have seen more people getting more involved with growing their own food and resuscitating the traditional skills of canning, preserving, and storing food. There is a real appetite here for self-reliance at the level of the individual and of the community. It’s one of the very positive and heartening aspects of living here. We need to start taking that energy and focusing it on shared projects which will spread skills, knowledge, and (especially) food amongst as many members of the community as possible. I’d love to see our cooperative work its way up to the point where our members can sign up at the beginning of the growing season for shared grains, beans, oil, vinegar, fruit, winter storage vegetables, and all the other aspects of a food-secure household.

So, even though this humble little patch of oats may not produce any great amount of food, what it will do is get us started on one project among many to bring people together to share land and crops. We will start to learn about the economics and the practical details of small-scale grain production. And we hope that people will be attracted to the idea of experimenting with self-reliance in staple crops.

Stay tuned for updates as the season progresses!

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