Homestead Junction

Book Review: The River Cottage Cookbook December 22, 2015 08:44

By guest reviewer, Carmen Ostrander.

The River Cottage Cookbook

Calling this a cookbook is misleading, even though it’s brimming with almost 100 fantastic recipes.

Like any good homesteader I'm constantly fantasizing about edging my way closer to the edges of the grid in the hope of one day falling off it altogether. It is clear there will be no shortage of jobs to be done when I get there. That thought alone at times overwhelms. Where to start? So much to learn. If I headed for the hills tomorrow and had to take one thing with me, this would be it.

I haven’t seen the show the book is based on. I’m sure it’s wonderful, given the enthusiasm, evocative language and images through which the premise of "Maximize pleasure and minimize rubbish” is communicated. The tone throughout is rousing and engaging, though thankfully pulls up short of evangelical.

Author Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is here to help, "Help you enjoy your life more" based on the philosophy that quality of life can be readily enhanced by increasing your awareness and connection with what you put in your mouth, and where it comes from. There’s lot’s of information on how to make better choices, and encouragement to have a go at growing, raising or making it yourself if you’re up for it.

It’s full of sensible, practical information that some might call ‘life hacks’, but the more whimsical among us might call wisdom of the ages. Did you know you can use balls of human hair to deter foxes?

Hugh has drawn on his impressive network (community) of foodies and farmers to inspire you, and translated their know-how in to plain no-fuss recipes and tips. Any cookbook that measures wine in “sloshes” is my kind of cookbook. Sauté up a couple pounds of zucchini as directed and from there, whip up a range of dishes from soufflé to soup. Or get out and forage, not just because it’s "something for nothing”, but because “it's something for everyone… sharing an unsung communion, ingesting a little of the wilderness spirit".

The River Cottage Cookbook is divided in to sections: Garden, Livestock, Fish and Hedgerow (foraging). The livestock (meat) section might push up against your limits with tips on squirrel hunting, head cheese making and chicken neck wringing, supported by the matter of fact photography of Simon Wheeler. There’s something rustic and radical about seeing a dinner table strewn with wine glasses and bones. A half devoured a rib cage and spine roast, resting in a pan. The pea & lettuce soup looks good too…

It's a cookbook, manifesto, resource and ultimately a source of inspiration, that respectfully acknowledges wherever you might be on the homesteader continuum. It moves fluidly from the supermarket shelf to farm and back encouraging you to do what you can, when you can, while acknowledging the increasingly political nature of food consumption and production.

Our Friends at Briarpatch Community Garden November 18, 2015 09:40

Briar Patch Community Garden
This week, we wanted to give a little shout out to our friends at Briarpatch Community Garden, located right around the corner from us on Princess and Cordova in the DTES. Briarpatch is a little community garden that grows communally and makes space for people living in the neighbourhood. This fall they completed their first full growing season and already they've made a huge impact within the neighbourhood, which I've come to recognize first-hand. Whenever I walk to the gardens to meet with their coordinators (or sometimes they share their hose with us or offer their space for workshops), folks walking along the sidewalks stop to tell me how great the gardens are, and how much they appreciate them. I wish I could take credit for the grateful feedback, but really that credit is for Briarpatch's coordinators Rebecca and Ashleen, and all the many volunteers responsible for maintaining the garden.

Briarpatch has already grown tons of food and hosts many community gatherings and dinners. From seed planting parties to pizza parties (they've got their own cob oven), Briarpatch is connecting neighbourhood kids, adults and seniors to healthy food and nature growing right here in the city.

Briar Patch Pizza PartyBriarpatch's pizza party seems like a really good time!

From Rebecca, Briarpatch's garden coordinator:

This summer, the corner of Princess and Cordova was filled with bright yellow sunflowers, sweet cherry tomatoes, children playing, the smell of delicious pizzas, people laughing, brilliant dahlias and colorful carrots. Two years ago, with the help of many neighbours, we were able to transform an abandoned lot overtook by blackberries into a beautiful space for growing vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers. The Briarpatch Garden truly took off this year, growing a bountiful harvest of strawberries, carrots, beets, beans, peas, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, squash and even grapes! At the heart of the Downtown Eastside, this once abandoned lot has become a gathering spot. We hosted over 12 community parties this past summer. Mission Possible’s potter in residence Shelimar, designed and built a cob oven in our garden, allowing us to have homemade, oven baked pizzas all summer long! As the garden grew, it gathered people in as a place of peace; a place of beauty and connection to nature that is difficult to find in a concrete city. We believe in the power of beauty, nature and connection to the earth to bring healing and restoration to a neighborhood and to individuals. We want to create a peaceful space where people are able to engage in nature and connect to community.

The garden is managed by a community group called Servants Vancouver; however it was built, planted, maintained and looked after by countless volunteers. We wouldn’t have been able to survive without the help of other community organizations. We have been incredibly blessed to partner with Homesteader's Emporium this past summer. While we were able to offer an outdoor space for workshops, Homesteader's has supported us by sharing the knowledge, as well an incredible amount of donated supplies. One of my favourite things about the DTES is the strong sense of community. This is not only true of the neighbors, but also the organizations. It has been so neat for us to partner with an organization that equips people with tools and knowledge and to see their generous spirit equipping us as well. I look forward to continuing to partner with Homesteader's Emporium to spread knowledge and nature throughout the DTES.

 Briarpatch Garden Times

Considering all the ways Briarpatch Community Garden affects our surrounding community, we try our best to find ways to support the work they do. In many ways, we at Homesteader's have a lot of access to resources and very knowledgeable and skilled people. When possible, we offer workshops at Briar Patch that also benefit the garden. For example, we recently had an outdoor mushroom cultivation workshop where participants built an edible mushroom bed for Briarpatch, and a few weeks ago we asked Lynsey from City Farmer to facilitate a composting workshop that would also help Briarpatch with their compost system. 

Homesteader's Workshops at Briarpatch(Top: Lynsey's composting workshop; bottom left: king stropharia mushroom patch; bottom right: aspiring mushroom cultivators working together to install some mushroom beds and logs for the Briarpatch Garden)

Even as a small business with limited resources, we believe in sharing when we have the opportunity. As the winter season approached this year, and folks put their gardens to bed, Homesteader's found ourselves with an excess of gardening supplies. From soaker hoses to hanging baskets, we decided to ask Briarpatch if they thought our overstock would be useful to them - and they said yes. So this past weekend, Rebecca came by and picked up $1500 worth of garden supplies they'll be able to use for a long time coming. 

  Garden Coordinator RebeccaBriarpatch's garden coordinator Rebecca receiving our donation last weekend

 Briarpatch is little community garden doing really solid work in a pretty unique and vulnerable neighbourhood. As we push toward living in a more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable world, we want to do our best to recognize and support the people who are taking the steps to make this more and more possible everyday. So thank you Briarpatch for all the awesome work you do! We hope you enjoy your new goodies!!