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;
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.
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!
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.
Skookum held a potluck members’ social event to celebrate 2012, the UN International Year of the Co-op. Read the story here.
Bulk seed order from Eternal Seeds
Skookum held 2 home tanning workshops
Bulk purchase of fruit/vegetables and dehydrating work party at the Community Resource Centre
Skookum’s second Tattler lid bulk order
Bulk purchase of Sausagemaker dehydrators
Skookum was at the Fall Fair, pressing cider and raising funds
Second Rancho Vignola Fruit and Nut Bulk Order
Skookum helps the local Farm to School project press apples for James Thomson Elementary School for a second year.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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:
whole items (be it fruits, vegetables, etc.); this reduces access to the moister parts; sliced or shredded food works best and fastest
fibrous food like sliced artichokes or carrots (unless they are sliced really thinly)
high-moisture foods like watermelon and cucumber that take a long time (but they are interesting just the same!)
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!
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.
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