Skookum Gleaners is back!

Our lovely logo, designed by rabideye (AKA Giovanni Spezzacatena)

Back in 2010 and 2011, the newly-formed Skookum took on management and support of the Skookum Gleaners project, which had formerly been known as the Powell River Fruit Tree Project. Member Anne Michaels was the coordinator, and we put together a team to support her and get some picks and other fruit-tree activities going. In the end, it became difficult to give Anne the support she needed, and regretfully the Skookum board decided to shelve the project after the 2011 fruit season.

The good news is that this project is back. David Parkinson has decided to take on management of the picking activities and is also working on coordinating some fruit-processing activities involving Skookum members.

Plans are evolving, but the general idea is to make picking opportunities available to Skookum members, and to plan some group processing activities using one or more church kitchens in the region (to keep costs down for participants). David is hoping to generate some revenue through sales of processed fruit so that the project can become more self-sustaining. But the main idea is as always: to save more food from going to waste; to reduce bear incidents; and to share food-preservation skills and food.

You’ll be hearing more as time goes on, but for now here are some ways that Skookum members can help:

  • By donating picking equipment (ladders, baskets, etc.);
  • By offering up fruit from your trees or from your neighbours’ trees, if it looks as though they won’t be using all of their fruit;
  • By making a vehicle available for picks;
  • By sending us your great ideas and suggestions;
  • By volunteering to help process fruit.

Saving fruit that would otherwise go to waste, processing it for longer-term storage, and distributing it into the community is the kind of project that a cooperative is perfect for. Eventually it would be nice to see this summertime project evolve into a year-round series of opportunities for our members to produce, preserve, and share more food amongst themselves.

Stay tuned for more news and more opportunities to pick fruit and get together with others to preserve the fruit.

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!

Catching (and Wrapping) Up

Happy Holidays and thank you for helping to make local food happen.

It’s been a very busy Fall for Skookum so far this year; and as we head into 2013 it’s ‘whiplash time’ as we look back to see what we accomplished, and forward on how we can do more and better. 2012 was the UN-designated Year of the Cooperative and we are working on airing a 5-program series on cooperatives on CJMP 90.1 FM Community Radio before year end. Keep your ears (and eyes, as we will be promoting it) peeled.

You may remember seeing some pictures on our Facebook page  from our last event of 2012, as several of us helped press apple cider for James Thomson Elementary School’s Farm to School program. We had another successful Abundant Pantry order (next order will be mid-January 2013, check the site in January to order), and we’re just about ready to distribute over 500 lbs of dried fruit/nuts/confectionery from our second Rancho Vignola order that just came in.

Skookum is more than bulk buying, though, and we’d like to increase our workshops and other hands-on projects in 2013. That said, one great reason to have a cooperative is to be able to generate some buying power as a group, and in doing so, also help the community and the cooperative grow and increase self-sufficiency.

Buying seed together.

Last year just after Christmas, I started thinking about and then planning a bulk seed order. A dozen or so members got together and I coordinated an order from our local Eternal Seeds company, who gave us a 20% discount overall if we collectively bought 10 packets of any of their seeds (about 5% was allocated to Skookum and the coordinator). This year, the feedback indicates that we need to order earlier than the February 14th deadline we had last year, by at least a month.

If anyone out there would like to manage the seed order (and the project can be as different as you like), please drop us a line or fill out a short proposal here. Deadline for a proposal or indication of interest in managing this project is EXTENDED to Dec. 30, 2012. The deadline to order should be by Jan 14, 2013.

Below we have a list of our completed projects for 2012, and in addition to these, we have an on-going Abundant Pantry bulk food order every two months. All our past projects are listed on our past projects webpage.

January 2012:

  • Skookum held a potluck members’ social event to celebrate 2012, the UN International Year of the Co-op. Read the story here.

March 2012:

  • Bulk seed order from Eternal Seeds

June/July 2012:

  • Skookum held 2 home tanning workshops

August 2012:

  • Bulk purchase of fruit/vegetables and dehydrating work party at the Community Resource Centre

September 2012

  • Skookum’s second Tattler lid bulk order
  • Bulk purchase of Sausagemaker dehydrators
  • Skookum was at the Fall Fair, pressing cider and raising funds

October 2012

  • Second Rancho Vignola Fruit and Nut Bulk Order

November 2012

  • Skookum helps the local Farm to School project press apples for James Thomson Elementary School for a second year.

The What, Where and Why of Dry

Dried local peaches, nothing added.

As you may have noticed in our recent Facebook posts, Skookum members are drying up a storm this year, preserving the local (and local-ish) harvest of peaches, plums, squash, tomatoes, peppers, apples, pears, berries and more.

David and Brownie cutting up apples to make applesauce that was then dried into fruit leather.

A crack team of 6 members have been buying, picking and sharing in-season produce from Bernie’s Fruit Truck (a.k.a Vitamin Express), and attending dehydrating work parties at the Community Resource Centre (CRC), which houses two food dehydrators. Part of the bounty is always put aside for CRC client use, thus fulfilling our community share. Additionally, Skookum’s newest project is a bulk order of dehydrators, where members of our cooperative got together and saved on shipping/ brokerage fees to have five Excalibur dehydrators delivered, making at least five local families more food secure.

Black Diamond plums, dehydrated and delicious.

What is the buzz on drying food?

      • What can you dehydrate?
      • Does it replace canning, pickling, or freezing?
      • What are the advantages and drawbacks of drying?
      • What can you dehydrate and what do you do with the dried food anyhow?
      • How long does it take to preparea and dry stuff?
      • How much does it cost?
      • How do I get started?

 

Despite being an ancient form of food preservation, dating back to biblical times,  dehydrating is coming into its own in our less-than-arid climate, through simple technology: a dehydrator. At its most basic level, this is a vented box with heat elements, fans and porous shelves upon which to place sliced, diced, shredded or even select whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, meat, fish, etc. The ‘devil is in the details’ though, as uniformity of dehydration and the ability to set accurate drying temperatures and lengths of time are attributes that only the better machines offer.

Why dry?

            • Dehydrating foods provides “living ” or uncooked foods. If done properly, only the water content is extracted, leaving much of the flavour and nutrients behind
            • They are easy to digest, rich in vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, and are highly nutritious
            • Many modern methods of preserving foods through refrigeration, freezing, canning, pasteurizing, and chemical or even natural additives like sugar, salt, pectin, Sodium Bisulfite, etc. reduce the nutrient content in food, or provide unwanted extra calories/sodium
            • Easily stored in air and light-proof containers, dehydrated foods weigh considerably less than fresh or food preserved any other way (useful in camping and backpacking: easy to carry!) and can sit on your shelf for up to 20 years making them excellent for disasters and hard times (think food security here!)
            • It’s cheaper than freezing, in the end: a few hours of drying at a few cents per hour, and you’re done. This frees up freezer/pantry space for other goodies that must be preseved in other ways.
            • See some seasonal food on sale or have a glut of local food? Pick it or buy it and dry it during any season. Dried pineapples and mangoes make great (if non-local) snacks; autumn is a great time to ponder dried chanterelles…
            • And you can mix and match your foods to create dried culinary delights like pear-apricot leather with embedded walnut pieces, a mixed dried vegetable soup mix (with a different vegetable on each tray of your dehydrator), an entire dehydrated spaghetti dinner, stews and chile, even jerkies of all kinds (salmon, chicken, turkey, beef); think of it as gentle ‘cooking’, in slow motion
            • Using dried food is a dream: either use it as is (as in fruit leathers) or mix it with wetter foods or soak to rehydrate dried food in water or broth to create flavourful concoctions with super-concentrated flavour
            • Dehydrators can be used to raise yeasted bread doughs, make yogurt, teas (out of leafy herbs or bits of  fruit), cheese, seeds for planting, and even dry flowers and leaves for crafts – anything that can benefit from a low, sustained, dry heat (this includes me—Swedish sauna, anyone?)

Drawbacks?

        • As in freezing or canning food, there are some upfront costs, namely for the dehydrator (here is a review of  some of the more popular types; they range from about $80 to $2,000+) and for containers in which to store the food (plastic bags, and even glass jars preferably with the air sucked out via a vacuum sealer); add to this the electricity use in the actual dehydration process
        • Time is of the essence: you need to be able to collect or buy food at the peak of freshness and ripeness to get the best results, and it does take some time to peel, pit, check (drop briefly in boiling water to remove some of the waxy coating on things like blueberries or grapes) and slice certain items like pears, peaches or cherries to prepare them for dehydrating. Also, getting the dried food off the racks and in air-tight containers is best done sooner rather than later because the dried food will act as a sponge and collect ambient moisture!
        • Certain foods just don’t dehydrate that well, such as:
          1. whole items (be it fruits, vegetables, etc.); this reduces access to the moister parts; sliced or shredded food works best and fastest
          2. fibrous food like sliced artichokes or carrots (unless they are sliced really thinly)
          3. high-moisture foods like watermelon and cucumber that take a long time (but they are interesting just the same!)
          4. foods with lots of fat/oil in them that can go rancid without other preservatives like salt/sugar, etc.
        • You need to make sure that foods are dried and stored properly, to avoid mold and spoilage, so home-made dehydrators are not recommended in our climate
        • You need to pay attention and respond to your dehydrating foods as needed; factors such as the type and variety of fruit/vegetable you are dehydrating, its ripeness and sugar level (both increase drying time), and ambient humidity, all factor in the final drying times. While you cannot really over-dry things at the recommended low temperatures, you don’t want to be wasting energy either or producing food that is overly dry for no reason; some moisture content is okay, depending on what you are drying.

Want to get started? Contact us (just comment below or use our contact page)  and we’ll see what we can do to get you drying at least some food this year!

Home Tanning Workshop: Part Deux

Home Tanning Workshop Part 2: Saturday July 28, 2012 11:00AM-3:00PM FREE! (Donations to Skookum  always graciously accepted)

Home Tanning Workshop: Part 2

(Click here for the lovely poster 262kB pdf)

With Hana Turtle Granny and Jacqueline Huddleston

For hunters, homesteaders, craftsmen, seamstresses and those with a serious intent to learn the basics of home tanning leathers and furs

This second workshop will focus on the techniques used to “break” the tanned hide. We will also introduce you to working with larger hides, including: deer, goat and sheep. If you missed the first workshop “green” hides (untanned) will be available to practice fleshing, with instruction.

  • What: Part 2 of a 3 workshop series on tanning local hides
  • When: Saturday July 28th 2012
  • Where: 5905 Fraser Street, Powell River BC
  • Time: 11:00AM to 3:00PM
  • Fee: Free of charge*

(*donations to Skookum always graciously accepted)

We recommend: Tan Your Hide, by Phyllis Hobson (IBSN # 0-88266-101-9) if you want to preview some of the techniques we will be using.

Important: Bring your own tanning kit including:

  • 2 old towels
  • Rubber gloves and apron
  • 1 pair of utility scissors
  • 1 skinning or fleshing knife or other tool i.e.
  • Ulu
  • spoon, shell or something with a rounded edge
  • 1 piece of plywood 3/4 ” thick 2 X 2
  • Your tanned rabbit hide from workshop 1 (if you attended this)
  • Participants should also bring lunch and a thermos

To register please email jaxhuddleston@me.com or call 604 483-9902!

Members’ Table Scraps

At the Skookum AGM in April, our crack team of Event Organizers came up with some great ideas to coax out some of our members own thoughts on worthy projects for the cooperative. Each person attending was given a card with the image of a vegetable on it. Then, when the time came, we split up according to the vegetable image. And, with the tables draped with ‘scraps’ of kraft paper and pens, we got to work. Below is a transcription of those ideas collected that evening.

We welcome even more ideas (and the energy to back it up) from those who attended and from the general membership. Just leave a comment below even if you support one or a few of the projects listed here; we’d like to know.

Annual General Meeting Members’ Table Notes (April 27, 2012)

  • Food processing for value-added projects (eg. Sundried tomatoes, blackberry chipotle sauce)
  • Stanley Darland: Sausage-maker
  • Workshop: Kitchen Aid (3hour workshop)
  • Employment for people with disabilities (NACL)
  • Nut-cracking Machine
  • Maple Syrup making
  • Pollination and Cross-pollination workshop
  • What you can do with blackberries
  • Hydraulic ram pump demo
  • Slug-killing by frogs/workshop by Colleen (donation by laughter )
  • Wood-chipper, chainsaw, gas-fired cement mixer
  • Making fruit vinegars (workshop)
  • Specific fruit and vegetable selection for PR region (workshop; prepared seed collection for this)
  • Develop a “Skookum Almanac” with variety of tips, anecdotes, etc. on growing exotic or unusual products
  • Elder stories about farming, food-saving, growing in the area; invite them and others to record—maybe a lunch event; maybe salmon lunch
  • Bulk-buying of plants/trees;
  • Meat-grinder
  • Organic pest-control workshop
  • Apple Cider and Vinegar-making workshop
  • Wild-crafting workshop
  • Active involvement in edible garden Tour
  • Skookum Marketing board: package food, prepare food, clean food and prep for market
  • Market stall for co-op members at the Open Air market(s), where people can drop off produce, a few people will clean and prep and one person will sell it
  • Small-scale member-driven produce sales (via Abundant Pantry or via short-term announcements via email or facebook; i.e. “I have a box of chard” + cost or barter possibilities.
  • Relationship building with PRREDS; project where they pay for soil analysis in the area to find out what would grow well where; make this info public.
  • Relationship with job creation entities (Career Link/ Community Futures, etc.) to develop Food Hub (including long-term cold storage facilities for year-round storage needs)
  • Community cold-freeze; people can buy meat in quantity and rent a small part of a large freezer to keep this
  • Community smoke-house
  • Couple with private company (Reliable Rentals) to ensure they get a certain number of requests for a certain garden-related machine, maybe a renters’ club; benefits include that they would buy and maintain the equipment
  • Tool share- Nola has rototiller for proposed tool library; share use for other equipment;
  • Repair/Repurpose classes
  • Carpentry workshop—how to build stuff (for gals)
  • Explore possibility to partner with VIU for their asset-based community development: contact Alison Taplay
  • Turn the cards (our business cards) into stickers or magnets
  • Silke’s or another retail outlet (?  Not sure what this means—buy Silke’s?- Ed.)
  • Mapping commercial kitchens
  • Blackberry products

Tan Your Hide: A Free Skookum-Sponsored Workshop

 

Click the image above to view the full flyer with full details

Hana Turtle Granny and Jacqueline Huddleston offer you FREE Home Tanning Workshops, with the first in the series on Saturday, June 9, 2012!

For hunters, homesteaders, craftsmen, seamstresses & those with a serious intent to learn the basics of home tanning leathers and furs.

Click here to see the flyer with the full details!

  • Part 1 Introduction and Fleshing (June 9, 2012)
  • Part 2 Breaking/Pulling date to be announced*
  • Part 3 Softening/Finishing date to be announced

*We will schedule the subsequent workshops with those who come to the first one.

Participants will get to take home a rabbit skin in their colour choice (we have white, black, grey and grey/brown with a herringbone-like pattern).
More skins will be available for sale to those interested for $4/hide.
To register email Jacqueline Huddleston: jaxhuddleston@me.com

Please note this is a free event open to the general public which will require vigorous participation. Register early to guarantee your space!

 

November 2011 letter from President Pete Tebbutt

A pair of amanita mushrooms

Hello everyone,

Our days are growing increasingly darker and the weather cycling into cooler temperatures. The world’s systems are straining from our (collective) disregard for the limits of our ecosystem to meet the demands made by our adherence to growth as a model for humanity’s betterment. We all know that the systems we have designed are in need of review at the very least and most likely need to be scrapped entirely. These will have to be replaced with sustainable ones which will keep our planet and communities healthy and happy. These changes are likely to be challenging and disruptive at the very least, however I believe that whatever steps we take now to address these issues and to build resilience will minimize the impacts on our community.

I thank you all for being a part of the solution. Take a look at this, released a few days ago:

UN General Assembly to launch International Year of Co-operatives today

New York, October 31, 2011 — Today is a historic day in the history of the United Nations and the global co-operative movement, as the UN General Assembly officially launches the 2012 International Year of Co-operatives.

In December 2009, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 2012 the International Year of Co-operatives, in recognition of the contribution co-operatives make to the social and economic development of communities around the world. The theme of the International Year is Co-operative Enterprises Build a Better World.

I invite you all, individually and collectively to apply yourselves to discussion at the very least and creation of events that our co-operative can undertake to help lead the way towards a sustainable future. Find ways to share both skills and knowledge which will build resilience within the community and which will help us transition into a sustainable future. We have to do it simply because there is no one else.

The Fall Fair was a success this year. A wonderful turnout where the Skookum cider press was found to be producing fresh cider. It was produced by our volunteers and met all requirements of the health act to boot, while providing the co-op with some income. Thanks to the efforts of those who took time to organize and manage the event.

Progress is being made with The Abundant Pantry bulk buying club. Software is being written as I type which will enable products to be listed to the ordering pages of our site in ways which will enable easy searching and sorting. It’s time consuming, painstaking work and my thanks to Barry Bookout for his voluntary diligence. The wait for this is worthwhile and I’m sure you’ll find the ease of use of the ordering system beneficial. When this work is complete and we’re ready for a trial run I’ll gladly announce the news.

Jacqueline Morales is holding a dehydration workshop watch for the posters). This is one NOT to miss as it is both very affordable and the knowledge she will be sharing is extensive. There will a maximum attendance of twenty people so don’t take too long to decide to go! It will take place in Wildwood on Dec. 10 and Dec. 12 (allowing a day in between for the dehydrators to do their work) and costs $30 for Skookum Co-op members, $45 for non-members. The sign up deadline is Nov. 20.

I have a request for at least one volunteer to help set up a computerized catalogue for our community library located at Kingfisher Books. I am told that the task is to enter book names into an existing database and will not need the expertise of a librarian. Please let me know if you are willing.

The Skookum board has been discussing holding a get-together event in January. Some thoughts have been a potluck supper, a movie night /or a speaker. Perhaps a combination of them. What ideas do you have? Please share your thoughts and comments.

I will be away on an extended trip and will be available via e-mail (peteteb@gmail.com) and the board can be reached at board@skookumfood.ca. Please keep your ideas coming and bring your enthusiasm forward, for the betterment of us all.

Regards,
Pete Tebbutt

Dehydrating Feast!

         Drying Foods Naturally

           Day 1                                                              Day 2

– Why dehydrate?                                         -How to wrapstore

– Using your dehydrator year round           -Divide portions

-Features of a good dehydrator                   -How dry is dry?

-Temperature, time & attention                  -What else can I dehydrate?

-Prep  work                                                    -Reconstituting

-Dry leather, fruit bars & spaghetti            -Tasting the fruit of our labor

-Marinate meatfish overnight             -Sharing more recipes

Fee: Skookum members $30
Non-members $45*

Payable to “Skookum Food Provisioner’s Cooperative”
Purchase at Kingfisher Used Books by
November 20th 2011

*(SFPC Lifetime memberships are $20: to apply, click here)