From Loon Lake Road – Affordable meals from the root cellar

Barbara Hendricks' monthly column of community happenings in Loon Lake.

It is time to turn over the first page on the calendar for 2016. I’m still not accustomed to calling the year 2016 and it’s over eight per cent used up.

The longer hours of daylight mark the passing of time and movement of the planet, even here in the valley, where it takes the sun an extra hour to get over the mountain in the morning.  In my estimation it has been a good winter so far but I could have appreciated fewer days of shovelling snow.  But then I would have had to do some other exercise – so perhaps nature is wiser than I am.

Now seasonal changes are happening faster. By the time you read this the groundhog will have or have not seen his shadow and winter will continue until about mid-March as it usually does. Buds on shrubs and trees are thickening and its time to prune fruit trees. As soon as the snow layer gets thinner I will be out checking spots in the garden looking for shoots of snowdrops and crocuses in my impatience for signs of spring.

 

The past month several items in the news have caught my attention and my concern. The first one is the rising costs fresh fruits and vegetables.

Costs always increase over the winter here in central BC and many of us prepare for that by preserving and storing as much of our own home grown and local vegetables and fruit as we can. Fortunately I have the space to have several freezers and a good size cold room and took the time in late summer and fall to stock up and preserve many different foods that we like. That means that when I go into a grocery store now and see some produce that I think is too expensive I can easily say “no thanks I will do without.”

In season I bought the most delicious blueberries at $2/lb – and they are (some of them) cooling themselves in my freezer still. In a store last week I saw a small bag of frozen blueberries, size  about 450 g (1 lb) for over $11. It sure pays to do a bit of thinking ahead and planning for the colder months.

Sometimes I feel I have squirrel genes with the compulsion to gather and store whatever is growing in the garden. However, I know not everyone can do that.

In the past, communities had community freezer houses where townspeople could stock away in season produce and meats even though they could not afford a freezer or have space for a freezer. I think it is time to revisit the idea of such facilities, including community cold storage rooms. It could go a long way to help keep down the cost of eating healthy, local food.

 

Worrying stories about people being attacked by dogs in BC underlines the need for careful training and care for pets and working animals. Dogs are a popular pet and I understand why, but they also have the potential to do harm if improperly handled or something goes horribly wrong with them.

I have lived much of my life around dogs who also had jobs to do – guard dogs, hunting dogs and so forth. In fact, most dogs were originally kept for work and in rural areas they still perform various functions.

The TNRD introduced a dangerous dog bylaw several years ago and have just announced that it has been expanded to cover several more of the rural electoral areas. So far we have no need for such a by law here on Loon Lake Road and there have been rare reports of problems with dangerous dogs.  People have also been very good about stepping up and helping a lost dog get back to its home.

 

The year 2016 has been declared as the International Year of the Pulses.

The what? you might ask. Pulses are the family grouping of peas, beans, lentils and chick peas. They are among my favourite food and are an excellent way to save money.

Just about everyone knows hummus, made from chickpeas, beans in tortillas and chilies, and of course pea soup with or without ham. But there is so much more – all kinds of soups, stews and salads.

I cook up larger amounts and freeze them, then take out what I need to mix into a salad or hot dish. For example, Italian style white bean with tuna make a wonderful quick meal when you don’t feel like a lot of cooking.

Pulses provide a good source of protein, are high in fibre with vitamins and minerals – and are quite inexpensive.  Did you know that Canada is one of the major producers of pulses? Canada produces about 35 per cent of world’s pulses and as of 2011 (last census info) just under $3 billion worth of these little gems were exported to about 130 countries.

The crop is nowhere the size or importance as wheat; however more farmers are turning to growing pulses as part of their rotation cropping. The largest volumes are grown in Saskatchewan but some also grown in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. I always feel good picking up a bag of lentils marked with “product of Canada” knowing I am supporting Canadian farmers and getting a wholesome product.

 

One item I picked up from the latest TNRD meeting notes is a letter from Minister of Transport and Infrastructure on noxious weeds in gravel pits.

He writes to the TNRD: “Management of invasive plants in gravel pits is critical to ensuring that invasive plants are not spread through the accidental use of contaminated gravel.”

You bet it is, Todd Stone, and it is time you did something concrete about it or we will know that the spreading of weeds through contaminated gravel on roads is not accidental but carelessness.

For example, if I saw covers over the gravel stockpiles in the summer when the knapweed seeds are being blown about then I would believe that the Ministry was really serious about preventing the spread of invasive weeds. But when they stockpile gravel next to hectares of weed-filled fields – and no cover – well, seriously?

 

Last summer was a good year for seed production in my garden and I have harvested and sorted out quite a number of plants that do well here in our higher elevation Zone 3 climate.

Seedy Saturday in Cache Creek on Feb. 6 is a good place to go for local seeds and I will have those seeds that I don’t need available for people who are interested.

While I collect seeds, I do not practise a lot of isolation or protection to ensure seeds are not cross pollinated and I am no expert in growing seeds, so no guarantees on these seeds but they usually work for me.

Seedy Saturday is a day-long celebration of gardening and growing your own food, talks on chemical-free pesticides, backyard chickens, starting vegetables from seed and more, seed vendors, demonstrations, a seed swap table and much more. Admission is free and it starts at 9 am in the Cache Creek Community Hall and runs until 3 pm.

Barbara Hendricks