1000 Community Stories

In my apartment there are two Rubbermaid bins. Often they are tucked away under a table or bathroom counter. Every once and a while a visitor will notice them and ask why they have holes drilled into their sides. After I respond, the reactions vary from disgust and sometimes edging away from the bin to excitement and asking to have a look inside. In my 5 years of vermicomposting I’ve gotten used to the range of reactions that those bins can generate.

Not everyone is comfortable with worms or composting, and in our overly sanitized and convenient world it isn’t surprising. Why not send your kitchen waste to the curb and then drive to a big box store to buy pre-made compost? Well, first of all it costs money. Tax dollars to pick up, ship and process all that food waste and then your money to buy the compost. Second, food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, including the shipping and processing if you live in a place that has curbside composting and methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times as potent as carbon dioxide, when food waste forced to undergo anaerobic composting (without air since it is sealed up in a trash bag and often buried).

Living in an apartment or condo without a backyard limits composting options. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t join the composting community. If you are flush with money and have a space for a new appliance, there is the Red Dragon electric indoor composter.  The main issue with this product is energy use, which is 60 kwhr per month or 720 kwhr per year.  If you live in a place where the energy mix Is mostly renewables (like BC) and are willing to take the financial hit, this might be a great option.  It is really fast and takes a very wide range of organic waste.

The other main option for indoor composting is vermicomposting or composting with worms, which is cheaper and more space efficient. Once set up the worms are pretty low maintenance, they need to be fed once a week and a couple of times a year the compost (or worm poo) needs to be harvested. They don’t smell, they don’t try to escape and they don’t attract pests, unless you do something really wrong. Once I got the hang of knowing how much, often and what to feed them they’ve not smelled like anything other than great compost (not rotting food). The only time they tried to escape the bin was during a heat wave one summer when the temperature felt like +40 with humidex, which had made me escape the city already. And by rinsing or freezing all food before giving it to the worm, fruit flies and other pests haven’t been an issue. If you are interested in getting into vermicomposting, there are a lot of great resources and if you know someone already doing it, odds are you can pick up some free worms from them.

January 23, 2016

Bringing Compost Inside

In my apartment there are two Rubbermaid bins. Often they are tucked away under a table or bathroom counter. Every once and a while a visitor will notice them and ask why they have holes drilled into their sides. After I respond, the reactions vary from disgust and sometimes edging away from the bin to excitement and asking to have a look inside. In my 5 years of vermicomposting I’ve gotten used to the range of reactions that those bins can generate.

Not everyone is comfortable with worms or composting, and in our overly sanitized and convenient world it isn’t surprising. Why not send your kitchen waste to the curb and then drive to a big box store to buy pre-made compost? Well, first of all it costs money. Tax dollars to pick up, ship and process all that food waste and then your money to buy the compost. Second, food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, including the shipping and processing if you live in a place that has curbside composting and methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times as potent as carbon dioxide, when food waste forced to undergo anaerobic composting (without air since it is sealed up in a trash bag and often buried).

Living in an apartment or condo without a backyard limits composting options. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t join the composting community. If you are flush with money and have a space for a new appliance, there is the Red Dragon electric indoor composter.  The main issue with this product is energy use, which is 60 kwhr per month or 720 kwhr per year.  If you live in a place where the energy mix Is mostly renewables (like BC) and are willing to take the financial hit, this might be a great option.  It is really fast and takes a very wide range of organic waste.

The other main option for indoor composting is vermicomposting or composting with worms, which is cheaper and more space efficient. Once set up the worms are pretty low maintenance, they need to be fed once a week and a couple of times a year the compost (or worm poo) needs to be harvested. They don’t smell, they don’t try to escape and they don’t attract pests, unless you do something really wrong. Once I got the hang of knowing how much, often and what to feed them they’ve not smelled like anything other than great compost (not rotting food). The only time they tried to escape the bin was during a heat wave one summer when the temperature felt like +40 with humidex, which had made me escape the city already. And by rinsing or freezing all food before giving it to the worm, fruit flies and other pests haven’t been an issue. If you are interested in getting into vermicomposting, there are a lot of great resources and if you know someone already doing it, odds are you can pick up some free worms from them.…

January 16, 2016

Octopi Falls 4-3 in Bronze Medal Match

On a crisp, clear Wednesday night at Thunderbird Stadium, a substitute-sparse Octopi Vancouver squad went down 4-3 against a very chippy The Scoring Machine “team” – other accepted synonyms for “team” in this description might include “gang” or “hooligans” or “Postmodern Peles” (the last one is my personal favourite).

The Octopi squad began the game with vigour and urgency, hitting goal posts, crossbars and narrowly missing the corners of the Scoring Machine’s net. About 10 minutes into the first half, John Horn, making a great run down the left side in the third-person, crossed the ball squarely on to the foot of dashing right-winger, Jessica Pautsch, who expertly looped it into the top corner, away from the sprawling – and quite talented as well as handsome – keeper.

1-0 Octopi.

The first half wrapped up with Pautsch on a break-away – if there were actual referees (perhaps Kinesiology students from SFU or UBC, you know, to tackle youth unemployment and student debt in BC while simultaneously providing meaningful experiential learning opportunities for the future leaders of our healthy and happy community) I’m sure that the play would have been allowed to carry on – but the non-game-specific whistle blew and Jessica wasn’t allowed to snipe her second goal of the match.

Still 1-0 Octopi.

The second half saw Octopi drop into a 3-2-1 defensive formation, which was a dumb idea, as The Scoring Machine earned a quick tally following a strong run down the left-side by one of their nicer players. In between their first and second goal, The Scoring Machine’s centre defender, Long Sleeved Black Shirt, absolutely throttled Octopi’s star striker, Erin Loxam – again, if UrbanRec employed referees the gentleman might’ve been asked to leave the game at this point.

1-1 draw.

After a blazing goal kick by The Scoring Machine’s handsome goalkeeper, All-Urban-Rec defender, Matt Kieltyka, whiffed on the ball and one of the opposing team’s players sprinted in for an unopposed goal.

2-1 The Scoring Machine.

Following some intense pressure by Sustainable Stewart Burgess and Prautsch, a The Scoring Machine pass, deflected by Prautsch, found its way to Horn’s foot – the striker made no mistake, burying the shot in the back corner. As Horn said to Kieltyka later, “karma was on our side, man – they caught a break, and so did we, because the universe wants us to win.”

2-2 Octopi (yes, we were winning).

On the heels of their second goal, some great passing between Kurt Heinrich, Kieltyka and Roger Hosking finally got the ball to under-appreciated/utilized star striker, Loxam, who promptly netted her 27th goal of the season with impressive aplomb.

3-2 Octopi.

This is where things got weird.

First, there were the antics from a bald and bearded talker from The Scoring Machine side – in no more than three minutes he took an illegal shot on goal from the post-score-kickoff, attempted to throw the ball into the net (it was a legit throw-in, but still weird), yelled at the Octopi team for diving and whining, proceeded to dive and whine himself, knocked down Burgess and Hosking at least twice, and started a goal-mouth scrambled that resulted in The Scoring Machine’s third goal. Following this experience John Horn, talking in the third-person, loudly referred to the gentleman as “The Postmodern Pele” – #amazing.

3-3 The Scoring Machine (they had the momentum and, thanks to their ample substitutes, the legs).

Only moments later, Heinrich made a stomping run down the right side and sent a perfect cross to Horn, who was waiting at the far post. Horn, in the third-person, chested the ball down and sent a cracking half-volley at the goal, which was expertly stopped by The Scoring Machine’s keeper.

The chippy play continued with Long Sleeved Black Shirt sweep-kicking the ankles of star striker Loxam – again, if there were referees in the game this player/goon would (a) not have even been in the game at this time and (b) would have been put in his place by an official, instead of an Octopi player, making a call – when Loxam said “you fouled me” the player/goon responded “no I didn’t, you slipped; now stop whining and get up.” #notaclassact #payforrefs

With little time left, Postmodern Pele got involved in another goal-mouth scramble and, somehow, the ball crossed the touch line in spite of a great effort from League MVP David Willinsky.

4-3 The Scoring Machine.

The Octopi Vancouver squad wrapped up the season with an impressive 5-4-2 record and a fourth place finish in their first season together. Other teams in the Urban Rec league best keep on the lookout for this up-and-coming soccer football powerhouse. And the Urban Rec organizers/management best be on the lookout for a strongly worded letter and pending petition that addresses their knowing …

January 13, 2016

O.U.R. Eco Village

Ben, my husband, is spending the summer working at an intentional community on Vancouver Island, called O.U.R. Ecovillage. We visited O.U.R. for the first time in September, during one of their regular open houses.  We joined the residents for a public event about food security and by the time we left that day, we were hooked.  The way those kind and interesting people are defining community is where it’s at.

I grew up in the country and am ever grateful to my parents for deciding to move our family to Vancouver when I was 13.  I remember listening to the adults talk at the time about our big move to Lotus Land.  I had no idea what that meant but was scared and sad.  I was nervous about starting high school in a big city and scared about doing it with no friends.  I was totally intimidated by the huge school, the rich kids, and the diversity.  I had no idea what the hell was happening on the first day of school and I felt supremely uncool, but man, was I happy to be there.

All this to say that I never ever thought I would move back to the country.  Since visiting O.U.R., and then reflecting upon my experience of “the country”, I’ve realized that my memories are a long way from the kind of rural community I long for now.  Last summer, as I was pulling a carton of eggs from the fridge at Costco, I told my young daughter: this is where eggs come from.  As I listened to my own words, I had to stop for a minute.  An industrial fridge in a sterile warehouse is where eggs come from? Ouch.  When we visited O.U.R. shortly after my Costco moment, I pointed out a Jersey cow to Sydney and realized that it was the first time she was seeing a cow that wasn’t in a book.  And that Jersey cow was so beautiful, I wondered about the last time I’d seen a real live happy cow. Too long.

I’ve been thinking about the absurdity of the way we live for about five years.  Rushing to and from work, living in nuclear families in big expensive spaces, seeing friends and family when schedules permit and eating alone most of the time.  Since I’ve become a mother, the stakes of our decisions are higher.  I want my daughter to grow up amongst our loved ones.  I want her to understand where her food comes from and for her to care about her role in our environment.  And I want her to know our friends and extended family as well as she will know her immediate family.  In the same way, I want to know my friends and their children more than occasional visits permit.  I want all of our children to feel that they are surrounded by love, care and security.

That’s not our experience at present.  We have lived in our current home for six years and sure, we know our neighbours but we don’t hang out.  I would for sure knock on their doors if I needed to borrow something or if I was in danger, but that’s pretty much the depth of our relationships.  So over the last year, Ben and I have moved our philosophical chats about our reality and into practical conversations about our future. We know that we want to live differently than we are now.  Now we need to figure out how to make that happen.

Ben is in construction and is doing such cool work around green building, off-grid housing, and alternative energy that his path naturally leads to O.U.R. Ecovillage.  He’s managing a team of interns this summer and they’re all in for four months of building, learning and sharing.  We’re excited and incredibly grateful to the folks at O.U.R. for creating a space for this kind of community-building.  It’s a magical place, so be sure to check it out if you’re headed for the Cowichan Valley

Speaking of Lotus Land, I’ve just seen the Wanderlust trailer and it looks like my kind of film.  If you’ve seen it, please leave a comment and let me know what I’m in for.  Thanks!…