Goin’ Squirrely

Did someone say “nuts”?

Skookum is all about projects that serve our cooperative, and that benefit the co-op as well as the wider community, too. It’s members helping members to grow, pick, prepare, preserve, store, and share in the bounty of food.

The accent these early autumn days is on ‘store’ and ‘preserve’. With a mega-load bulk purchase of Tattler BPA-free reusable lids (drop by our table at the Fall Fair Sept 22-23, 2012 to buy a sample pack or extra rubber rings; help out with our apple cider pressing event there or donate apples to this Skookum fundraiser: Click here) and Excalibur dehydrators in, several small Skookum work parties where members processed, canned and dehydrated fruits and vegetables, and yet another Abundant Pantry bulk food purchase period under our belts, it’s time for the once-per-year order of this season’s freshest dried fruit, nuts, seeds, plus delicious and decadent confectionery from Rancho Vignola.


  • Rancho Vignola makes their product list available only once per year, when the nuts and fruit are at their freshest;
                          • The final deadline for our order to go in is September 27, BUT the final deadline for members to get their order and payment to us will be 12:00 noon on Monday September 24;
                          • They will ship to us in November or thereabouts;
                          • We need to make a minimum order of $500; Shipping is free
                          • Skookum will be adding 11.11% to each member’s order, so that of each dollar spent, 5¢ goes to the coordinator, 2.5¢ to Skookum, and another 2.5¢ to the benefit of the community.

What you need to do:

  • Take a look at Rancho Vignola’s price list click here.
  • If you have questions, please contact David as soon as possible at skookum@skookumfood.ca;
  • Otherwise:
    •  print out the attached price list
    • mark the products you wish to order, and
    • calculate the total price. Don’t forget to add 11.11% at the very end (i.e., not for each item individually, but on the final total; If you prefer, you may simply email David with the list of products you want and a final tally. He’ll verify the total amount and get back to you);
  • Get the order form and payment (cash or cheque only) to Kingfisher Books at 4468 Marine Ave. in Powell River no later than 12:00 noon on Monday September 24No money means no order!
  • We have a a splits page (click here), as we do for The Abundant Pantry Bulk-Buying Club. [For example, a member might want to order almonds but might not want the whole ten pound case (which has a better price than smaller units)]. If someone else wants to split that amount, then one of them can order it and then the two members can arrange to split it between them later.
  • To be clear: The coordinator WILL NOT MANAGE YOUR SPLITS; all splits will be between members, with one member ordering and paying for the entire item to be split.
  • Any questions? Please get in touch with David ASAP at skookum@skookumfood.ca

As always, members are encouraged to propose and run projects! Interested in running your own Skookum  project? Submit a quick proposal here.

Just the facts.

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!

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

Last Call for Cooperative Seed Order


This is the last call for joining in our Skookum Bulk Seed Project for 2012. More information can be found in a post I put out on January 15th.

I Heart Seeds

IMPORTANT: FEB. 14 at noon is the cut-off for Skookum’s Seed order for 2012!

  • Please note that we have 29 types of seeds available at 25% discount if we manage to get 10 packets of any particular variety. These are seeds you will likely NOT find at Seedy Saturday (except from seed vendors at full price).
  • We need to cooperatively order at least 10 packets of any single kind of seed to proceed with the ordering of that seed variety. If we have fewer than 10 orders of any variety, we will not get the 25% discount from our local supplier (Eternalseed.ca),and we will not order that variety.
  • I know that many of you have already made plans to buy seeds using your usual method, but it would help a lot if you considered buying even a few seed varieties through this service Skookum is offering, as an order of fewer than 10 packets will not go through, thus affecting others’ orders.
  • See which seeds have been ordered by clicking here. If you can possibly contribute to this project by topping up the seed varieties that are close to 10 packets right now (maybe an investment of $3-$5), this would be helpful (plus you do get the seeds after all, at a 25% discount over retail)
  • Want to order some seeds? Look at the varieties and descriptions on offer here.  Email Giovanni(at)rabideye(dot)com with the variety name and number of packets you want, and I will get back to you.

Announcing Skookum’s Bulk Seed-Buying Project


Buying seed together, locally.

We’re happy to introduce a new project open to Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative members only. It’s a bulk seed-buying club that will start off small with a selection of some 30 seed types from a local provider, Eternal Seed. As you know, the more seed one buys, the cheaper the cost, but seeds don’t keep too well past a couple of years… so stocking up is not a great option. If we buy together, it’s better in many ways:

  •  It’s less expensive to buy seeds this way (if you still have too many seeds, you can donate/barter them at Seedy Saturday, or share with neighbours/friends);
  • With a percentage of the cost of buying seed through this project,  you get to support Skookum, the community, and a coordinator for the project;
  • We can support a local certified organic seed company, Eternal Seed.

If we manage to order 10 packs (or more) of any of the varieties listed here, we get a substantial discount from Eternal Seed. Then we tack on a small percentage to support Skookum projects (5%)the community fund (5%) plus another 15% for the project coordinator. Your seed packet will then cost on average 25% less than buying one packet via a normal retail outlet.

How it works

(Remember, this is MEMBERS ONLY. Not a member, but would like to join Skookum? Click here).

Skookum will not be held liable for the quality of seed or results from use of the seed, although Eternal Seed does have its own guarantee that can be found on their web site; download their catalogue as a pdf file here (please use Internet Explorer for best results). All seed descriptions below are from the Eternal Seed catalogue.

  1. I chose about 30 types of seeds from the Eternal Seed  catalogue (see here) ; In picking the seeds, I tended toward earlier, cooler temperature varieties, as well as a mix of good storage crops in a few cases.
  2. 10 packs of each of the c.30 seed varieties are offered to Skookum members only to purchase (note that you will be able to buy more than just one pack of any one seed variety as well) — first come first served;
  3. The varieties of seeds that do not reach that “10 packet minimum order” threshold by the deadline of February 14 (Valentine’s Day!) 2012, will be dropped;
  4. Click here to see the list of seeds on offer (with prices, descriptions, etc), and instructions on how to order.