Summertime!

Just a quick note today – so thankful to live in such a giving part of Canada! And so thankful to the farmers from the St. Jacob’s Country Market that supplemented what we were unable to grow in our garden this year!

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What you need to know about livestock feed

In line with my constant ramblings about chickens — they are new– I have so much to say about them — I thought it was appropriate to move into what to feed these birds. When we were in the adoption process for our dog, I literally spent HOURS looking up dog food. I am mindful of what I put in my mouth, and wanted to make sure what I was feeding my new best friend was good for her. Likewise was the case for my birdies.

This issue is so timely. Livestock feed is a hot topic right now, especially with Heath Canada’s plan to reduce the amount of antibiotics in feed for the purpose of “growth promotion” — i.e. artificially fattening, so animals are bigger, faster = more $.

Sounds good no? Continue Reading…

Water proofing and bug deterring the COOP!

The gals are a-growing, so we are putting the finishing touches on the coop. They still haven’t completely feathered out yet, so we have been bringing the chicks inside at night! We have removed the heat lamp too, so that they can start acclimatizing to their big girl house!

We predator-proofed the windows with construction grade mesh – courtesy of my dad – ain’t nothin’ getting in those windows! We painted it to match the trim (of course) and use decking screws and washers secure the windows in place.

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We also caulked all the seams and cracks and painted the plywood in exterior paint so we can literally hose the entire coop down if need be. We used Behr Marquee Exterior Semi-Gloss Enamel from the ‘OOPS’ shelf at Home Depot for both the interior and exterior, so I can’t tell you the exact colour. It was super cheap, and turned out to be super cute as well! We used peel and stick laminate tiles for the flooring, for the same reason.  This will also help to keep out other garden crawlers from setting up shop in the cracks and crevices of the coop.

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Now onto the run! Will update post once we  are up and running! Stay tuned!

Chicks have arrived!

The gals (hopefully) are here. The lovely lady we bought these chicks from is pretty sure we have all hens, but said if one starts cawing that we could bring it back to her farm property. Roosters aren’t allowed in cities as per by-law. A 5 am wake up call wouldn’t be the best way to befriend the neighbours… Speaking of sexing birds — I will be writing a separate page — a more critical look at the poultry industry, particularly what tends to happen to male layers (layer is the type of chicken that lays eggs vs. a broiler which tend to be raised for meat). While we are so happy to welcome these lovely ladies to our small family, we are well aware of the darker side of egg production which has largely served as inspiration for undertaking this adventure in urban agriculture! So here’s presenting: From top to bottom: Dot (standing), Maybel, Lily, and Fries (we’re still working on this name.. ) 2014-07-07 16.29.23 Fries is a bantam, and is 2-3 weeks older than the other three, so she will be the smallest of the 4. Fries is also going through a molt, which is why she has some balding on her back . We can’t wait to get these gals outside so they can start eating all of the delicious earwigs hanging out in the garden!

City Coop

So we’re doing it — we’re going to raise some chickens in our urban backyard. Our our adventure in urban agriculture! The veggie garden was terrific last year, and we are growing again this year, but we thought it was time to add some birds into the mix. We pick up the chicks today, so there will be more posts shortly, but here’s what the coop looks like so far.

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We had allowed for many more birds than we will be getting, but the roomier, the better. Its 4ftx 4ft x4ft, and we insulated it with a range of leftover reno insulation from R-7 – R-22 values (it gets really cold in Southewestern Ontario winters) so it will super cozy for our gals.

We still have some work to do. The chicks will stay in a brooder for a few more weeks until they are strong enough to venture outdoors. Here’s the largely upcycled, urban coop!

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Stay tuned!

Selling us our ‘health’?

It is truly vital that we consider history. Things are the way they are for a reason. Happenstance is rarely the case. The George Weston Company has been a prominent feature in food for decades. Post WWII, the expansion of food retailers as authoritative figures was boomed based on the emergence of supermarket “own brand”  foods., and increasingly processed foods. These are the President’s Choice brands (in Loblaws) or Compliments (in Sobeys). These own brand foods are based off of the success of big brands such as Heinz and Post, which consumer have come to trust and develop a taste for. Own brand development allowed for retailers to create and markets their own products based on this model established by big brands. However, here’s the kicker — these foods circumvented ‘retail price management’ (the price at which manufacturers set product prices) to produce a cheaper, yet comparable quality product. Ever wonder why PC ketchup costs less? logo-pc org westons

These processed foods were a god send to the wave of women who had experienced working during war, and sought to maintain this independence while juggling motherhood. Things that came ready-to-eat in a package were revolutionary on the homefront and for grocery retailer as well. These foods could last longer, be charged a premium for, and demand for these items were jointly created by retailers seeking to assert and market themselves as food authorities and demanded by time-strapped families seeking relief from the drudgery of kitchen work. Sounds familiar right? This might as well be the case today.

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Purveyors of … health?:

A subsidiarity of the Empire Company, Sobeys’ recent pairing with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and promotion of the slogan “Better food for all”, Sobeys has entered the health food game. Like Metro Inc.’s ambiguous (and inconstant) smiley face health rating system, and Loblaws’ “Guiding Stars“, these Big Three grocery retailers have now become purveyors of health. While this seems terrific up front, the roots of this trend is much more problematic.

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So here an important distinction is needed — when I say processed foods — what comes to mind? Chips? Those little yellow creme cakes that will apparently withstand the apocalypse? Which by the way — people petitioned to keep this industry going . While these types of processed foods are a problem : they are made from super cheap (artificially cheapened) ingredients, allow for huge profits (we are lucky to get like 1/2 a potato in your standard bag of $4 chips….), and are detrimental to health, there should be little debate that a steady diet of chips and pop are ‘bad’ for you. These foods are promoted to ‘be enjoyed in moderation’. My beef is with those foods that are still made with crappy, cheap, ingredients, that are fortified and enriched to appear healthful.  Are still profitable for retailers, particularly when they are ‘own brands’….

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These ‘healthy’ products allow these same retailers to tell us what is best to eat. What is best to persuade people to eat because they are profitable, and what to eat for one’s health are VASTLY different. People are becoming more and more aware of what they put into their bodies, and retailers are aware of this. They want to be the place we all go to seek health. Sorry – correction — they want to be the place we all go to purchase health (or as I would argue, the illusion of health).

Sobeys Closing… and The Truth about Canadian Grocery Retailing and What Little Choice You Have

 

The Canadian food retailing scene is particularly concentrated. Very few players largely dictate what we eat. Of these few players, Sobeys and Metro Inc. are leaps and bounds behind the Loblaws Company.

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The Scene: 

While Sobeys CEO Marc Poulin states that the closure of 50 stores will be beneficial long term, the food retailing sector is more complex that this. While a small shareof the food retailing environment, Sobeys store closing will further concentrate corporate ownership within food retailing. Few players = fewer choices. Oligopolies ahoy! Similarities cane be drawn to another prominent feature of the Canadian landscape — telecomm.  What is with Canadians allowing our government to be bed mates with big business? We should all be outraged that there is governmental “reluctance” to regulate these markets, to allow increased competition. Choice of telecomm provider is one thing – choice of what is essentially ‘allowed’ in our bellies is quite another…

So while Sobeys is closing 50 stores, and those employed there will need to find new places to work (another issue for another day…) we should take time to reflect on the larger, more complicated picture of what this means for Canadian consumers. What we eat, and the messy web that gets us to eating should be based on what is best for our health, not the health of retailer portfolios. I am saddened that Sobeys is closing. While pairing with Jamie Oliver was no doubt a marketing move, Jamie’s focus on real ingredients, real food, and the health of children has been inspirational, particularity in the UK. For more on how we are being persuaded to purchase health, please click here.

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What can you do ? Share this post with others, think critically about what you purchase and why it is available for purchase in the first place. Share a meal, talk with each other, talk with a farmer — they don’t bite and would love to be acknowledged for their work. I have yet to meet a farmer who doesn’t like chatting…  While retailing environments are becoming increasingly concentrated, we are also to blame. Our knowledge about what we eat, where it comes from and why we are eating it in the first place is at an abysmal low. We need to demand more of our government, but we need to demand more of ourselves. We need to make good choices. But only when our food system reflects true choice, can we do this. People are powerful.

So, now what’s on your dinner plate for tonight?