A Better Me, A Better Community:

Today, I’m home sick.

At first, I was concerned that after the weekend off, a day on the couch would put me terribly behind. I was hugely relieved to find that my laptop works with remarkable similarity to the desktop in my office (surprise!). So here I am, pajama-clad, and messy-haired. Why? Because somehow this Fruit Share business has worked it’s way deep into my psyche and I can’t stop thinking about it. 

Also, because I’ve decided it’s time to make a change in my life. A promise to do better for myself and follow the advice that I give. There is no doubt in my mind that I am home today because my body is trying to tell me to take better care of it. I don’t want to feel sick because my system is trying to work out the garbage I put in it. So much so, that it decided that it wanted no more to do with all the chemically-sugary-fair that I treated it to over the weekend. 

My body has been trying to tell me for years what it doesn’t like. It doesn’t want all the sugary drinks that I think are refreshing. It hates the heavy, yeasty bread that sits preserved on shelves and on top of my fridge. It really doesn’t want the dirty oils that flash-fry the processed treats that make my mouth water. It does not need full-fat, extra cheese on top of the pizza. I know all of these things, and yet I can’t convince my brain of it. 

I’ve been a vegetarian for going on five years. I made this decision, amazingly, as a New Year’s Resolution in the middle of one of the coldest prairie winters that I remember. At the time I was spending countless hours working out in the gym. Counting calories, grams of protein, fiber, and fat. I had a personal trainer who was sculpting my muscles into that of some kind of She-Hulk. I ran, I cycled, I pumped, I sweat. The change came as an addition to these healthy life-style hobbies, but also as a final push to do something that I had thought about my whole life. My reasons are many and it’s a choice that I’ve stuck to since, despite the sometimes difficult ramifications. (Turning down holiday turkey can come off as kind of cruel to the person who just spent a dozen hours perfecting it). 

It the aftermath of a very difficult period of time in my life, I find myself looking to get back to that lifestyle. My approach has changed a bit. I’m no longer going to train like i’m headed to the Olympics, although I did love feeling that strong. I want to ride my bike in the sunshine and use my muscles digging in the garden and navigating the push-mower. I’m not going to count each calorie, but I’m going to be tough about what actually goes on my plate. I’ve been touting the importance of eating fresh and local, and that’s what I aim to do. On the brink of turning 28, I’m going to start to actually listen to my body. It may know more than I give it credit for.

So, my plan, for whoever is interested in the goals of a late-twenties, vegetarian, local-produce-pusher. I’m moving into the very center of downtown starting July 1st. I will be within walking distance to both the garden I coordinate and the office where I work. I will use my legs and other connected muscles to get there on a daily basis. I will break-up with the foods my body hates and vow to only buy locally produced grains, fruits, and veggies (with addition to locally raised meat for my carnivorous husband). I will eat only food that has been grown and shipped from within Manitoba, Brandon-area when available. I will pay it forward and put what I have to spend back into the community. I will watch my mood, energy, spending, and waistline. Maybe I’ll surprise myself, and the ripples of this decision will spread further in the pond than I think possible. 

Have suggestions? Comments? Want to help cheer me along? (That always feels good!)

Find me at fruitsharebrandon@gmail.com- @bdnfruitshare on Twitter- and www.fruitshare.ca on the World Wide Web.
Also, on the couch for the remainder of the afternoon with a cup of tea and a nice, soft pillow. 

Waste Not, Want Not

Today, June 5th, is World Environment Day (WED). An event that is being celebrated across the globe, open to anyone and everyone looking to help make a difference. WED began in 1972 and was first set in motion at the opening of the Stockholm UN Conference. It is one of the main vehicles that the United Nations uses to stimulate worldwide awareness of environmental issues. This year, their main focus is their “Think, Eat, and Save” campaign, urging individuals to use less and waste less food. According to their research, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year, enough to easily feed the starving population of Sub-Saharan Africa. Their plea is that we consider more closely how we use and discard food, making a commitment to reducing our foodprints.

At our current state, with over 7 billion people spread out over the earth, it is evident that we cannot continue to misuse valuable, natural resources. At the moment, global food production takes up 25% of habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption. (Seems a little greedy to me!) One cannot help but be alarmed to find that 80% of deforestation is directly due to food production, as is 30% of the greenhouse gases threatening our climate. Doesn’t it make sense that we start purposefully selecting food with less environmental impact? Especially when you learn that 1 in 7 people in the world go to bed hungry every night and that 20,000 children under the age of five die daily from hunger. That’s with an estimated 1/3 of global food production finding it’s way to the garbage instead of the dinner table. 

Need any other reasons to become involved and consider the message that WED is sending out? Here’s a couple! It gives power to individuals to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development.  It celebrates achievements made towards protecting the environment and highlights the strength of collective decision. It also strives to encourage everyone to do more with less and to work as a whole in an effort to force food production processes to become more efficient. The regenerative capacity of our planet has been exceeded and it’s important that in looking to the future we find ways to provide for the millions and billions of people who will come after us. 

Improving our lives as a result of improving the environment is called Euthenics, and it is something that everyone can have a hand in. Buying locally and buying organic are ways to help protect the environment from added harmful substances such as pesticides and fuel emissions. Buying less, spending less, and wasting less. I will do my part by not only making a commitment to wasting less food in my own home, but making sure that less of our local produce is lost. It is to our advantage that WED is looking at the same goals that Fruit Share Brandon is, giving a boost to our mission. Providing for those without, making smart choices about how we treat our environment, and working to reduce the loss of fresh food through waste. 

Want to learn more and get involved? Visit http://www.unep.org/wed/ for more information on World Environment Day and www.fruitshare.ca to register and help in your own community. 

Tonight, I make jam.

It will not be the first time that I take on this task and hopefully not the last. However, this jam has to be the most delicious of my attempts, because it’s going to be shared with others. Potentially many others! That to me indicates that this has to be the best jam I’ve ever made- period. (Ok, going to ease up on myself a bit….best rhubarb jam ever made. Period.)

There are a few instances where the making of jam stands out very clearly in my mind. The first is my Mother making jam in our kitchen while I was still very young. I remember accompanying her as she visited a friend, who lent us a very strange looking contraption for the making of our spread- jelly- to be specific in this situation. I can’t quite put all the pieces together in my mind, but it was a type of sieve, removing peel and seeds as the hot jelly oozed through the mesh. My mother had raided our chokecherry tree in hopes of making the tart little berries into something a bit more palatable. I remember wondering what Certo was and what wax had to do with the making of something to eat. I was close at hand while she made this jelly, watching as the fruit mixed with generous doses of sugar, boiling happily on the stove. I can clearly recall the beautiful, opaque color that filled the perfect row of jars that lined our fridge. I  don’t remember the taste, but I’m sure it was a welcome relief to the always shocking taste of a raw chokecherry.

I also remember making jam with my Grandmother, strawberry this time. My grandparents could always be counted on for at least one annual pilgrimage to a local strawberry U-pick farm. Strawberries on ice cream. Strawberries in pie. Strawberries to be stirred over the stove endlessly, waiting for them to thicken. My grandmother had found tiny little jars to fill with jam to give to my brothers and I. My love for anything delicate and dainty, I treasured these little pots of preserves. I had no interest in eating it on crackers or toast, a small spoon directly from jar to mouth worked best. For many years, and to this day, strawberry jam has remained my favorite. I can’t help but attribute it to the fact that I got the real deal, made with love and aching stirring arms.

The third sticky memory that immediately comes to mind involves my two brothers and both of their girlfriends. A couple of summers ago we all found ourselves squeezed into an apartment kitchen, our eyes all trained on the boiling pot. The sweet scent of sugary pin-cherries filling the space and steaming up the windows. It amused me and warmed my heart to watch both of my brothers take their turns in stirring, clearly interested in the process. Extra hands helping carefully put jars into a boiling pot of water and take them out again, prepping for the final step. Again, the beautiful light color of pink, the perfect cherry blush. A group effort, a shared success.

Tonight I go it alone, unless my husband becomes curious about my culinary craftiness.  Should you care to taste the sweet rewards of my fruity devotion, come down to the Brandon Global Market this week, where samples will be available. Warning: I may just hug you if you tell me it’s the best ever. Period. 

Today my thinking
Is feeling fluffy.
Like soft little clouds,
All light and puffy.

My thoughts are consumed
By sunshine and sky.
Wish I was a bird
And knew how to fly.

Above and around
The tops of the trees.
Resting my wings while
I play on the breeze.

When swooping down fast
To catch my next meal.
I speed towards earth,
I plummet with zeal.

I’ll sing my best notes,
And not miss a key.
While building my home,
A nest in your tree.

I’d dance in the rain,
I’d eat all your bugs.
I’d ask you for nothing,
Not even your hugs.

If only I could,
Fly up with the birds.
Make my dream real just
by saying the words. 

Today has been a very good day. 

Perhaps it is due, in part, to finding myself taking more risks as of late. Not jumping motorcycles over buses or breathing fireballs risks, but choices and actions that require bravery. This may not be terribly impressive to someone who boasts natural courage, but I grew up being very shy. I was the child in the back of the room trying my best to cover my entire face with my bangs, speaking too quietly to hear. With tummy-aches and sweaty palms at school concerts and ballet performances. I remember in Kindergarten being so nervous before the Christmas concert that my Rudolph nose wouldn’t stay stuck because of my sweating. My small, Cancerian self was prone, more often than not, to withdraw to a place where I could watch others carefully. I always envied Franklin the turtle, his little world tucked away inside of his cozy, green shell. Over time, however, I found that my shell was not particularly cozy. It became inevitable that things would have to change and while working my way up through adulthood, I’ve managed to shed most of my extreme shyness. Not to say that certain circumstances don’t still make me want to crawl under a rock and go to my zen place (it’s really nice there), but I’m getting better. 

Growing up, children are taught that the hardest things in life are the best things and that success has to be earned. Good advice, but pretty broad in the spectrum of life lesson guidelines. No one ever warned me that it would be scary going after the things I wanted. That I would have to give up some things in favor of others. That not everything would work out and that it was going to suck, a lot. I suppose I wouldn’t have wanted to hear it anyways, and to tell the truth, I’m glad. If I had known how hard I would have to work, just to get to the beginning, I may not have started. 

Sometimes you spend a long time waiting for things to work out, carefully arranging all the small pieces to fit together. Sometimes you don’t even realize that you’re building something bigger. For example, this Spring I took a chance. Living in the second and third floors of a big house without yard space for myself, I knew that without some action I would miss out on any kind of gardening for the year. I knew that a friend in the city was somehow involved with community gardens, and although it’s completely against my normal instincts, I reached out to ask how to get involved. My first meeting turned into me enthusiastically agreeing to be the acting garden Coordinator, a shock and a dream come true! Since becoming involved, I have found a picture taken of the gardens when they were first started. At the time I had remarked on it’s beauty and I remember being amazed by what had been constructed from nothing. I saw this picture, this garden, for the first time five years ago! Does that mean that somewhere in my subconscious I’ve been secretly planning and keeping an eye out for just how to make it a part of my life? Is it coincidence that it is the same friend who first told me about Fruit Share? A huge portion of my life at the moment is all due to one choice, to be brave. 

It amazes me to look back and find how each piece of my personal history relates to where I am and what I’m proudest of now. With each decision that I’ve made to do something out of the ordinary- move to Kuwait or volunteer in Central America- I’ve faced opposition. People telling me not to, warning me that it’s not what’s best for me. I’m glad that I was brave enough not to listen. That I was courageous enough to know what was best for me in both the short term and the long run. I think it’s time to quit second-guessing myself for good, to make the commitment to doing what I know will make me happiest and most successful in the long run. It makes me very happy to find myself where I am now with the opportunity to help make a difference in our community. I can’t help but feel that this is one more piece being carefully laid at the beginning of something bigger. Something that I can grow and build on from where I’m at now. If it means the success of Fruit Share and the betterment of this city, I promise to be brave. I will ask for donations, I will hold workshops, I will make calls to important people on the phone (that one I still struggle with). I encourage you, readers and supporters, to be brave as well. Do what you know is best for your community and lend a hand any way you know how. One way is by helping Fruit Share by being either a volunteer or fruit owner- please register at www.fruitshare.ca and follow us on twitter @bdnfruitshare.

The Outdoor Dilemma

In my professional career, I have spent my time focused on two main areas. Children and nature. As an early years educator and environmental enthusiast, I have always searched out ways to connect the two. Planting a new tree with a class of Kindergarten students. Helping elementary schools in remote Mayan villages plant community, organic gardens. Taking classes on nature walks and field trips to local greenhouses and parks. Each time I involve children with nature, their enjoyment, wonder, and imaginations are clearly engaged. I have found that it doesn’t take a lot to convince a child to become excited about the outdoors, to get dirty in the name of nature. 

My personal experiences have shown me that children not only want, but need to spend time outdoors. However, studies show that children in North America only spend an average of 4-7 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day. In fact, the term Nature Deficit Disorder has been coined to describe just how little time children spend in the great outdoors. In the last two decades, it would seem that children have moved indoors, changing the way that they play. Scientists fear that through this loss of regular contact we may find ourselves with future populations of biophobic adults. Individuals who have very little interest in preserving nature and it’s diversity. A somewhat disturbing idea when thinking about our next generation of stewards for the Earth. 

So why is it important that we encourage our children to get outside? A myriad of reasons that seem almost common sense to those with a personal love of nature. With child obesity rates doubling in the last twenty years, we need to encourage children to get their daily exercise in a natural way.  While playing outside, children develop muscle strength, coordination, flexibility, as well as fine and gross motor development.  They use their whole body to explore their environments, which helps to increase their perceptual abilities.  Smelling flowers or feeling the grass underfoot provides much more input than what a computer or television can offer, which limit the use of young senses.  Children who spend their time outside develop stronger immune systems, the increased levels of Vitamin D helping their bodies grow strong and ward off illness. 

Not only is being outdoors better for their bodies, but fresh air is good for their brains. With a generation of stressed-out kids (soaring new levels of pediatric prescriptions for anti-depressants), nature has the ability to reduce anxiety and improve the mood. Studies have shown that children who suffer from ADHD are much better able to concentrate after contact with nature. Even in adults, stress levels decrease significantly with the sight of green space (the more the better!). Outdoor play has been shown to enhance imaginative and creative play as well as promote problem solving and leadership skills. It fosters language and collaborative skills and gives children opportunities to meet and make new friends. It allows for the development of independence and autonomy, and teaches children to learn how to better assess risk. Students who attend schools with environmental education are proven to have better test scores and show more developed reasoning skills. 

A love of nature is an important supporting factor in helping children develop environmental ethics.  So how do we get children outside, especially when parents are overwhelmed with their number one concern, safety? Parents need to act as models for their children, taking them to explore parks, creeks, ponds, and trails.  Teaching children to be “watchful” as opposed to “careful” can go a long way in educating them how to recognize and deal with danger as opposed to being scared of it. The best way to make local neighborhoods safer is to be active in your own community, walking or cycling the area often. Get to know your neighbors too, they will help keep an eye on your children and watch out for them when you may not be around. Another idea is to buddy up with another family, taking turns in bringing the children to green spaces and playgrounds. Making your backyard fun and friendly with small natural spaces for your children to take ownership of will also help encourage kids to choose outdoors instead of in. This spring, as you plant your beds, consider giving a small plot to your children. Letting them choose what seeds they want and having the job of taking care of it will help teach responsibility and the love for growing things. Get outside and get active, a goal that will make your whole family healthier. 

Looking for other ways to show your children how to appreciate nature? Volunteer with Fruit Share at www.fruitshare.ca and do a favor to your family and community. 

The Buzz on Honeybees:

Today, I spent the morning doing a fair bit of research on our friends, the honeybees. Recently, my interest was piqued as I stood beneath a plum tree in full bloom without a single bee to be seen. I mentioned it to my mom, who could have sworn that there had been previously in the day, but I was unconvinced. Every other year I had to dodge and duck carefully to find my way to the center of the tree, where I would stand, motionless. The hum of the honeybees surrounding me as I did my best to take in every last bit of scent that my olfactory senses could handle. This year, no hum. No bees. I considered that perhaps it was the weather, not quite sunny enough or perhaps there was a threat of rain in the air. I also considered that maybe this was what I had been hearing about, the disappearance of the honeybee.

I was taken by surprise after completing my research to find that today is, in fact, the official Day Of The Honeybee! So, in their honor, I will do a little bit of bragging. Bees have been around for the past 30 million years and there are over 20,000 recorded species of bees to date (with suspected many more who tend to by on the shy side). They can be found on every continent (minus snowy Antarctica) and in every habitat with insect-pollinated, flowering plants. A colony of honeybees can have up to 20,000- 60,000 inhabitants living with one queen (who is busy laying 200,000 eggs a year!). Their tiny wings have the ability to complete a full stroke 11,400 times per minute, which is why they emit their buzzzzzzzing sound.  Honeybees communicate with one another through dancing, demonstrating with their bodies the direction and distance to the best flowers. Honeybees are also great teachers as young bees are not born knowing how to make honey, but must be taught by the more experienced.  

Given that their job is to find the most beautiful flowers, I have always somewhat envied honeybees. Until I learned just how much work they do. Per trip away from the hive, honeybees visit an average of 50-100 flowers. Their fuzzy little bodies have an electrostatic charge, which helps them attract pollen, which is then stored in little sacks on their legs. A bee can fly all the way around the world on just one ounce of honey eaten, but to make one pound of honey they would have to fly 55,000 miles and tap 2 million flowers! The average bee only makes 1/12 a tsp. of honey across the span of it’s entire life. Perhaps I should start using a little less on my toast…

Not only is their job more difficult than I had assumed, but they also face many dangers in their line of work. Assassin bugs wait for them in flowers and birds pluck them from the sky as they fly home to safety. Not to mention the environmental change-related stress that has been discussed in the media, which stands as one of the main causes for the disappearance of honeybees. Common insecticides used on blooming plants and in the treating of seeds kill many, both through direct poisoning and contamination of their food supply.  Feral honeybees are now almost completely absent with the decreased availability of diverse wildflowers, due mostly in part to the intensification of agricultural systems. It’s estimated that a queen bee must lay up to 1,500 eggs a day just to replace casualties.  

The term Colony Collapse Disorder was coined in 2006 when Scientists first started to notice the rapid decline in honeybee populations. They were finding that worker bees from hives were abruptly disappearing, leaving colonies to suffer and die off. This pattern was found to be the same all over the developed world. In 2012, a new study published found that these pesticides they studied were more harmful than they had originally thought.  They discovered previously undetected ways that bees were being exposed to the toxins through dust, pollen, and nectar. The toxicity in the bees’ bodies resulted in a brain malfunction, hampering the bees’ ability to return to their hives. In April of 2013, a peer review from the European Food Safety Authority, declared that these pesticides pose an unacceptably high risk to bees.  The European Union has since banned the use of several of these products for at least the next two years. 

Due to this loss in population, growers demands for beehives far exceeds the available supply. Many practicing apiarists, or bee farmers, are now in the business of contract pollination. This has overtaken the role of honey production and is due to the increased size of fields and the practice of monoculture (only planting one crop- bees like variety!). Still, it seems clear that we are falling short when it comes to honeybee repopulating and protection. With estimates that over 1/3 of all the food that humans eat depends on pollination, shouldn’t we worry? Why did it take almost ten years to ban the pesticides that we knew from the beginning were harmful? On this fourth annual Day Of The Honeybee, I’m going to take a minute to be thankful for those that still remain, and make a pledge not to use products that are harmful to our environment. Support the bees and your community by getting out and planting a wild array of flowers. Then you can enjoy the honey in your tea, knowing you’re keeping things buzzing. 

Want to further help your community? Visit www.fruitshare.ca and follow us on Twitter @bdnfruitshare

I like to dig
Out in the dirt
I’ll dig until
My fingers hurt

Neat rows for seeds 
Deep holes for trees
While hunkered down
On hands and knees

I greet the worms
Who crawl and creep
They’re kind of shy
Don’t say a peep

My nails and hands
Are caked with soil
The sun shines as
I work and toil

My shovel is
My trusty friend
It’s strong steel blade
Will never bend

It helps me plant
Delicious fruits
Making homes for
Their tiny roots

The two of us
We make a team
Bringing to life
What I can dream

I dig as much
As one should dare
And treat my yard
With love and care

The Ants Go Marching…

Each day when I drive to the Fruit Share office, I travel past one of our largest, local grocery stores. As I sit at the lights, I watch as people make their way towards the Great Cement Alter Of Food. All drawn by the same thing, the need for sustenance and supplies that they cannot make or forage for themselves. (Where is that bagel tree hiding?) It is the people who travel by foot that I notice most often and that I take the most interest in. Carrying their reusable bags, not rushing, but seeming to enjoy their pilgrimage through the heart of the city.  I couldn’t help but begin to see these shoppers as lines of ants, gathering their share of goods, before returning quickly home with the spoils of their visit. Perhaps these shoppers aren’t carrying 20 times their weight above their heads, but they seem to follow a similar path.

I read a statistic recently stating that the weight of all of the ants in the world is equal to the weight of all the humans in the world. I tried to figure out how many ants that could possibly mean were crawling all over the planet, but I couldn’t. (Then I started thinking about how many were underground and I got a little crawly). A foraging ant is known to travel up to 200 m from it’s nest in search of food for it’s colony. They keep track of how far they have gone using a natural, internal pedometer, which keeps count of how many steps they have taken away from the anthill. How many steps would a human be willing to go, especially in North America, to find their next meal? Aside from mammals, ants are the only other group where Scientists have observed interactive teaching. Ants use a technique called tandem running to help show others where and how to find a located food source, slowing down or speeding up to ensure that the new ant finds their way. Ants go so far as to form chains using their bodies to create bridges to go over water, underground, or through vegetation. To avoid floods they fashion themselves into floating rafts. Now that’s teamwork! 

Within an ant colony one can see distinct evidence of eusociality– or the highest level of social organisation. A cooperative division of labour where everyone has a job and everyone knows what they need to do to help provide for the group. Among leaf cutter ants, there are very specific jobs for the planting and growing of their fungal food source. The largest of the ants work to cut leaf stalks in to the tiniest pieces they can, the medium ants chew up the leaves, and the smallest of the ants plant and tend the fungus gardens. In the bigger picture, ants have a great number of symbiotic associations with other insects, plants, and fungi.  They also act as a food source for other predators who looking for a good meal. I doubt they even complain about it.

Of course, not all ants are friendly and cooperative.  There are some, such as the Australian Bulldog Ants, that don’t really  know how to get along. However, for the most part, I think that the way that ants act as a collective can be used as a source of inspiration. Looking to the bigger common goal, providing for each other in a fair and caring way. Imagine if all of those people headed to the grocery store were not only providing for themselves, but ensuring that everyone in their neighbourhood had dinner for the night. In once again taking a lesson from nature, I’m going to strive to be the best worker ant I can be. Collecting and donating food to make our colony (community!) stronger and healthier for all those living within. If you want to assist us in building this bridge to food sustainability, please bright it in together and visit www.fruitshare.ca to register.

Feathering The Community Nest:

Yesterday, I found myself staring out of a third-story window, watching happily as a soft rainfall dampened the ground below. I had shoved the screen as far open as it would allow and was taking deep breaths of the cool, green air. A sudden flutter of blue caught my eye and I at once recognized it as one of the Blue Jays I’ve been casually keeping track of since the onset of Spring. It’s mate was not far off, perched carefully a few branches behind, chirping quietly (as opposed to it’s usual, more aggressive tone).  It was then that I discovered that between the two sat a new nest, carefully constructed and up until now, hidden from sight. With a shake of it’s wings, the one bird flew off, as the other settled it’self comfortably into it’s cozy new home.

I inched closer to the window, cursing the screen for placing so many tiny squares before my eyes. I assumed it was the mother guarding the nest and wondered how many, if any, little eggs sat beneath her soft breast. I sat cross-legged, the attic window perfectly aligned with the tree top, wondering whether the Jay knew I was there? I couldn’t help but think that she looked rather satisfied, her head just peeking above the rim of the nest, eyes bright and alert. As I watched, waiting for the second to return, I got to thinking about how a nest represents the ideal conditions of both a home and a community.

I’ve always been somewhat amazed by the construction of bird nests. Delighted by the thought of tiny beaks weaving in bits of string, hair, and other soft stuffing- scavenged and sought out. I marveled at how self-sufficient these creatures were. To source all of their own materials right from the yard or neighborhood which they had so carefully selective to live in. Without a single cost for their chosen resources, those which others would never notice the absence of. Imagine if we, as humans, still practiced building our homes with only the supplies that grew natural to our surroundings. If we could rely wholly on the ground that surrounded us? 

I also couldn’t help but think of what a nest stood for in terms of safety, security, and protection. Even exposed to the elements, they boasted the ability to support and nurture the tiny eggs and hatch-lings potentially living within. Food sources available close-by without the need to ship over country or import from overseas. Perhaps, I mused, we need to look to the birds to recognize what is most important to our quality of life.  A supportive and protective community with available, self-sustaining resources. Surely our families and children deserve a life as simple and as seemingly carefree as these birds?

It takes much more for us as humans to create the ideal type of community, which proves healthy and fair for all. In taking a lesson from the Jays, I will remember to look to my local surroundings to provide for me. I will search out the glittering, the bright, and the strong to weave into my work. To build this Fruit Share nest with the potential to  help protect and to support those who need it most. The more nests we build, the stronger our network will become. Please join our mission at www.fruitshare.ca and help Fruit Share soar! 

Who Will Help Me Share The Fruit?

Growing up in Brandon, the only food that I thought we could grow in the area was wheat. The Wheat City being surrounded by golden fields, it made sense to me that this was our crop. I wasn’t entirely sure how the wheat was transformed into anything I ate, but I figured it somehow followed along the lines of “The Little Red Hen”.  Her tale of steadfastly following through with her plans, despite facing hardships, was found admirable and brave by my young self.  It was the side characters who seemed to offend my already growing sensibilities. Why would you not help a hen plant a grain of wheat? Could it be so difficult? 

It surprises me to find, in coming back to that story, that it was an early tale of local food sustainability and community cooperation. Imagine just how many loaves of delicious bread the little hen and her friends could have made had they cooperated? Surely the duck, with a pre-disposed love for bread, would have seen the error in his ways? Although I could never argue with the Hen’s final decision to share her bread with only her chicks, it still left a little ache in my chest for those who went without. If I was the Hen, what would I have done? 

Perhaps my early lessons in morality, especially where sharing is concerned, have brought me to the place I’m in now. A position where I can make that decision to share the bread (or fruit!) with those around me. So, do I go it alone, like the Little Red Hen, or do I look to my community, hoping for their support? I choose to believe that there are people in this city who are looking to do the same thing. Eager to help those who need it most. It is my hope, that along with friends (perhaps human and not duck), that we are able to make that difference. Our mission cannot be fulfilled by one person, so once again I ask, who will help me share the fruit? 

Please visit www.fruitshare.ca to register as either a Fruit Owner or Volunteer and help this little Hen sow the seeds of sharing. 

Small City Sharing

Word of mouth can be a very powerful thing in a city the size of Brandon. I’ve been doing my best to spread the word of Fruit Share and today I had the opportunity to speak with Jordan from the Westman Journal to discuss who we are and what we do.  It was exciting to share details of how well Fruit Share has done in it’s initial locations, Winnipeg and Steinbach, and to describe what we hope to achieve here. I have to admit that every email I receive regarding someone wanting to become involved in the project makes me unbelievably happy. At first I had assumed that only my friends and family within the city would be volunteering, but it has been a terrific surprise to see names I’ve never read before who are reaching out and wanting to help. I’m starting to love explaining to people what our goals are and watching their expressions change as they fully understand how important this will be for our community. I feel lucky that I get the chance to make a difference in a city that deserves to be treated kindly and supported. I feel a huge sense of pride when people congratulate me on helping to start this initiative and express interest in assisting in our mission. I hope that everyone who becomes involved will feel this same sense of pride- this need to share. Please watch for our upcoming article in the Westman Journal- you may even spot me! If you’re interested in volunteering or donating your surplus fruit, please visit www.fruitshare.ca or email me directly at fruitsharebrandon@gmail.com! 

Welcoming The Rain

I have always been particularly fond of rain.  I think a lot of it has to do with watching Disney’s Bambi as a child.  The whole rain scene- from the innocent first drops, to the terror of thunder and lightening- can still elicit a response. The cheery melody immediately bringing to mind the fresh earthy smell, the sound of fat drops falling through trees. To be tucked under a mama bird’s protective wing would surely bring one a feeling of unparalleled comfort.  Although we kind of missed the whole April shower thing, it might be even more satisfying now after such a long wait.  As I stood outside last night, watching one of our first rainfalls, I couldn’t help but grin. Such big drops that as I looked straight up, I could have confused them for snowflakes, each visible from a great distance.  The sun and blue sky still shining clear, illuminating each small body of water. My eyes searched for rainbows, finding just the slightest shimmer here and there. A full arc spreading out as the wind blew the last of the drops at a slant, hitting me right in the eyes.  Everything was fresh, clean, new.  A feeling of relief and a quiet calm falling over the neighborhood. A V of Canadian Geese, still slowly returning to their Summer home, cutting through the evening sky. The magic of Spring! 
With grumbles of a rain-soaked May Long weekend echoing through the city, I can’t help but smile.  I know that I’ll enjoy the rain as much as I would the shine and that a city full of budding trees and plants will be our rainy weekend reward.

Rules of Rhubarb Engagement

With our first harvest just weeks away I’m getting excited to see just how much fine fruit we can find! There are a couple rules of thumb when it comes to picking rhubarb that will help result in your best yield.  Rhubarb loves the early Spring cool temperatures and will do most of it’s producing in the months of May and June.  Once the Summer sun sets in and things start to heat up, rhubarb will slow it’s growth considerably. When deciding whether your rhubarb is ready to be harvested, don’t be fooled by the colour! In Manitoba, rhubarb can be all red, all green, or a mix of the two.  The key is to look for the size of the stalks, 20-40 cm. is best! Rhubarb can be gently pulled from the base, but can also be cut with a sharp knife if you find you’re pulling up roots.  Start with the larger, outer stalks and leave the smaller ones for the next harvest. It is important to leave 1/3 of the stalks so that your plant continues to grow over the course of the season. Be sure to discard or compost the green, leafy tops as they can be poisonous if eaten. (Your compost pile will be happy for the additions!) Store harvested rhubarb in a dry, cardboard box to help keep it fresh longer. Be sure not to add in any extra-ripe fruit or fruit that has been damaged as it can spoil the rest! Once your rhubarb plants starts to flower, that indicates it is nearing the end of it’s season. To help extend the growing season, trim off the flowers or rhubarb will become tough. A plant that seems to have fallen dormant over the Summer may still surprise you with fresh shoots come Fall, so don’t forget to check back in! If you find a good crop in your neighborhood, ask the owner whether they might be willing to donate a portion or drop off a GOT FRUIT? form found on www.fruitshare.ca.  

Happy Hunting!  

My Ode To Rhubarb:

Sweet and sticky
When you bubble
If it burns you
You’re in trouble

Fresh from the garden
Don’t eat the top!
Find it everywhere
Bunnies do hop

I dip it in sugar
To make it taste sweeter
I peel off the skin
To make it look neater

It grows near the fence
Where a person can find
Great leafy villages
Of the same kind

I want you in pie
To eat you as jelly
To spread on my biscuit
And fill up my belly

I hope you grow up
To be tall and sweet
Then i’ll eat you all up
My favorite treat!