Friday, March 23, 2012

Comox Organizations I plan to join

There are so many exciting things going on in the valley, that i figured I'd share a few that I am excited about.

LUSH Valley Food Action Society: I plan to attend some of their spring gardening classes. They also have an urban fruit tree harvest program to harvest fruit that people would otherwise let rot on the tree. Another program they offer is a VIHA inspected commericial kitchen for rent.

Comox Valley Seed Savers: "Our mission is to conserve and preserve our local plant diversity by encouraging and supporting public participation in growing heritage and non-hybrid food crops and other plants."

Comox Valley Farmers Marrket: Not something I can be joining right away, but I do plan on supporting them, and hopefully in a few years I can grow enought produce to eventually sell some at the market.

Comox Valley Bee keepers: This I plan on attending VERY soon. i dont know if iIwill be able to start a couple of hives this year, but next spring for sure.

I am sure there are other great organizations to join in the valley, but there is a LOT of work to be done in my yard to get it ready. I probally wont be able to get everything done i would like this season, but if we can get a few tomato`s and zuccini planted at least I will be happy!



Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Brix Index ~ Why Modern Day Veggies Taste like $***

The Brix Index

Have you ever seen those 'V8 Juice' commercials where they bop themselves in the head and say, "Shoulda had a V8!" And on one of those commercials the guy says, "You can do that (bop) all day long. I'm not going to have a V8 juice because I don't like the taste."

Well NO $*^!. In doing some research I have found out WHY vegetables taste like ***t. (Well at least modern day vegetables)

Commercially grown fruits and vegetables have been genetically modified (GMO) from seeds to produce the biggest, best looking, fastest growing product possible. These GMO'd seeds are then put into dirt which is fertilized with not so natural chemicals to 'enhance' growth; then the crops are sprayed with chemical pesticides to kill off any bugs (good or bad) to ensure a usable crop. The cycle depletes the soil and continues to produce less and less nutrient rich foods, year after year.

Some sources believe that if we were to take a head of broccoli from 1950 and test its nutrient levels against a head of broccoli grown today the difference in nutrient value would be shockingly less than the veggie from 70 years ago.

The other factor which is hardly ever talked about is the taste. By genetically modifying these fruits and vegetables we effectively have been modifying the taste! No wonder broccoli tastes like ***t ~ pass the chips please!

Enter the Brix Index... This folks is what got me on the band wagon!!!!

The Brix Index ~ in the most simplest of terms ~ is an index which measures the natural sugars (and much more) found in fruits and vegetables.

Here are some links with more information:

In essence using non GMO seeds and fertilizing with 'natural fertilizers' (sea weed, compost etc) we can attain some of the best tasting fruits and veggies.

If you take away nothing else from this blog than understand the essentials: (as quoted from the aforementioned websites)

~ “Food should taste good and not just be ‘pretty.’”

~ ‘..Crops grown to the very best standards are so healthy that they don’t need toxic spray to protect them from insects & disease…. The very best produce will NOT rot or mold.’

~ “Brix = Quality”

~ Brix fruits and veggies have higher carbohydrate levels and mineral density

~ High Brix plants are resistant to insects and disease

So in order for we ‘Urban Agrarians’ to obtain this ‘high Brix’ fruits and veggies we plan to grow ‘Heirloom’ seeds; aka non GMO seeds. And we plan to grow them as organically as possible.

Nick will follow up with more info on ‘Heirloom Gardening.’ Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

We MADE it to Comox!

It was a bit touch and go, and especially hard in these last two weeks but WE MADE IT! After 6 + long years in the North Island we have moved to Comox in Central Vancouver Island.

I thought it would be a more emotional day, but I don't think reality has hit me yet.

I woke up at 6:30 this morning singing a song from Disney's "Polly:"

'Lift your voices and sing! Let the joy ring!
Over, over, over and over again!
Stand up! (Stand Up!)
And let the spirit move you!
Stand up! (Stand UP!)
Don't let 'em bring you down!'

It was the perfect mantra for the day.

Movers arrived this past Sunday afternoon and started packing. Our little house in Port McNeill was 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, only 1050 square feet but it had a SPECTACULAR view of Broughton Straight.

It was our first house, bought three + years ago with money we'd scrimped and saved all on our own. We brought home our two beautiful children from the hospital to that house. It served its purpose. I learned many, many things about myself, my husband, my marriage and parenting.

I will miss my friends and neighbours but not the town.

I am EXSTATIC about moving to Comox! Although we almost didn't get there!

The moving truck left this morning at 10 am and we had planned to be very much behind it. Only I tried to be 'helpful,' and of course it didn't quite work out as planned!

I reversed the truck onto the front lawn right up to the front door, thinking, "Geez why get wet humping all our stuff when I could just make life easy?!" Ummm... ya.... So once heavy and loaded down, the lawn -ahem- moss covered yard becomes a big mud pit. OOOPs!

Called the tow truck to be rescued and then the Realtor and tell her that I'd left nice big muddy ruts in the front yard! And all my shovels are packed so I can't even fix it. Sorry new owners!

So then we headed off, Nick, myself, Ruby, Eli, Gypsy (the dog) and Onyx and Oscar (our cats). (Dog and cats kennels side by side in the bed under the canopy - glad I couldn't hear the commotion for the trip!)

But we hadn't even made it 10 kilometres down the highway when the tarp ripped off the top of the trailer and we had to pull over to remove it. Nick's wine bottles are soaked, oh well.

But the Eli fell asleep (bless his heart he is teething) and Ruby watched a couple of movies on Nick's Tablet while he and I held hands and listened to Eric Church's new album and then the Zac Brown Band.

There was of course snow in the Sutton Mountain Range as we headed south. But just as we descended into Sayward junction, the clouds parted and the sun started shining. It was very much like a sign from above that we were in the right direction and have nothing but greatness ahead of us.

We rolled into Comox just before 3 pm. Exhausted but here! Our new adventure is just beginning!


Saturday, March 17, 2012

To Do List...... all the things I want to do in the new house

Hey all! I found another neat thing to try in the new house, and instead of just putting it on facebook, I decided a blog entry with all my ideas.

So here goes.....

A wall herb garden on the Main floor somewhere

Marbles in the fence I have yet to build

Build some gardens in the front yard

Get Bee's

Build a pallet compost bin
well these are some of the things I want to do at the new house. But the highest priority will be to get a better fence built in the back yard to keep the dog in. That and to chop down the tree's in the back yard so that I can plant a garden.



Thursday, March 15, 2012


We'll since the lovely Government of Canada representative decided that the movers won't be paid to stop at my storage locker, I have been tasked with moving everything from the storage locker into our house.

Yesterday after the 10 trip I told the wife i was done moveing stuff from the locker... The response i get..."wow, that was easy"..... you should have seen the look I gave it... I'm surprised the paint on the walll behind her didnt start to peel off.... easy considering I had to do it all.... dang BLUE jobs..

Anyways, the job is done, the trailer moved to the storage locker, and the smaller freezer moved onto the trailer. All that is left for me to do is load the wine onto the trailer, and move the food from the big deepfreezer to the small one. By this time tomorrow I will actually be done done......

The problem with being done.............

To The Ceiling!

adding this caption reminded me to turn the lights off before i melt something!
......... is that I now feel like a hoarder... I can't wait for someone we know to get knocked up so i can get rid of some of the dang baby clothes!

anyways, its only 5 more sleeps here with this mess, then its 11 - 13 sleeps in the hotel. I will be happy once we are in the hotel in Comox as I wont be living and having to worry about getting outta here. Add that I have until June before I have to go back to work, means that I have tons of time to get everything sorted away at the new place..... did I mention that I have 10 empty cases of wine bottles that I need to get filled :)

anyways... Katie is going to give me crap for posting pictures without clearing it with her (she was embarrased by the wine bottles in the last picture!) and most likly will find spelling mistakes.......... but hey, if she was awake at 8:50 she could correct me!



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Margarine is now banned in our house.

Well the last of the margaine was used up this morning, and it will not be replaced. I used to have a nice butter dish, but i think it got broken a few years ago..... we'll see when we get unpacked at the new place if it was hiding in a box somewhere.

So the reason for abandoning margarines and heading towards butter is that fact that most margarines are made using canola oil, which has a very good chance of being a GMO. Also, in the case of the Becel label I read this morning, it included Soy Lectin, which in another crop that has a very high chance of being a GMO. Ideally I would buy local butter direct from a farmer if possible, or perhaps buy cream directly from a farmer and make my own butter once a week with the KitchenAid. We'll have to see what our options are once we get down there.

Next on the list of things not getting replaced once they are used up is Canola Oil. the Canola Oil will be replaced with Olive Oil or Grapeseed Oil.



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Microwave is gone......

I got rid of the microwave yesterday. I tried selling it on the local facebook buy/sell page but there were no buyers.

I would have tried a little harder to sell the dang thing, as it worked just fine,  but I found the coffee maker in the storage locker. And since there is NO counter space in this house, it was turf the microwave, or no coffee maker. It was an easy decision. The microwave was dropped off at the thrift store, and the coffee maker picked up from the storage locker.

I must say that I am enjoying having this coffee maker, as it is WAY less effort to make coffee, and it stays warm in its insulated caraf for hours.

I did miss the microwave when I had to heat my lunch (leftovers) in the oven, but i am sure i'll get the timing down eventually!

Here is the spot where the microwave used to live, but now houses the coffee maker.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Since I know which soap is BAD......

...... and I really dont feel like paying the sometimes exorbitant price that clean, organic soaps and cleaners go for, I have decided to make my own.

Now this is not some passing fancy. You may think, "Sure thing Nick, lets see you do that", but I assure you this is something i have wanted to do for a long long time. The reason it has not happened before now is threefold.
     1) Wife said no lye in the house while she is pregnant
     2) No place to put soapmaking supplies
     3) No where to get the oils and lye needed

These limits on my abilty to make soap have all been resolved. Kate is no longer pregnant and we are moving into a new house, in a city that will have access to everything I need. I will also be much closer to Old City Organics where I can purchase all sorts of good wholesome organic ingredients for my future soaping endeavors.

So recently I have been researching recipes for different types of soaps. My friend Elizabeth at Humblebee Farm provided a great recipe for cheap laundry soap. I also found a new love for bar shampoo after i opened a bar of Burts Bee's Shampoo Bar but aparently they dont sell it at their Canadian online store, so I had to go and look for recipes myself. I have found a few that I like, but not one that I love yet. I was hoping to keep the more exotic oils to a minimum so I was think tallow, castor and olive oils, and some bee's wax. I'll be sure to post the exact recipe I end up using and the results.

The nice thing I have leant while reading ingredients is that almost all comericial soaps are nasty, but that it is quite easy to make your own. I stumbled upon a baby soap recipe as well as a dish soap recipe that both look promising. I promise to give them both a try as soon as we are settled into the new house!


P.s. kate gives me a hard time on my punctuation and grammer so please forgive me... I am used to SPELL CHECK!

EDIT!: My friend Jessica reminded me that I forgot to dishwashing detergent!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Johnson's Head-To-Toe Baby Wash

This entry was originally called "chemicals I want out of my house!" but the topic kind of developed into something different. It was originally a rant on the chemical Sodium Laureth Sulfate.

Sodium laureth sulfate, or sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES) is a chemical added to many cosmetic products due it being a cheap foaming agent.

What that means is that they use it to simulate soap in products. It is found in shampoo's, toothpaste, cleaning products, facial cleansers, etc. basically it is used in anything you want to foam.

The main problem with SLES is that, depending on the manufacturing process, is that it may be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1, 4-dioxane and according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer ethylene oxide as a known human carcinogen and 1, 4-dioxane as a possible human carcinogen.

Now what bothers me is that SLES is the main ingredient in the bubble bath I recently bought for my daughter, and it is the also the main ingredient in Johnson's "head to toe" baby wash. Upon reading the ingredients of body wash I could not find any actual some in it. If you read the back it says "milder than any soap" and calls the product an "ultra mild cleanser". It's kind of funny that no where is it actually called soap!

I'd like to take a break here to actually go through the actual ingredients of the Johnson's Head-To-Toe Baby Wash.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine:a synthetic surfactant derived from coconut oil and dimethylaminopropylamine

PEG-80 SORBITAN LAURATE:Fragrance Ingredient; Surfactant - Cleansing Agent; Surfactant - Solubilizing Agent; EMULSIFYING

Sodium laureth sulfate, or sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES:SLES is an inexpensive and very effective foaming agent. It is also is a detergent and surfactant found in many personal care products.

PEG-150 Distearate:effective thickener for surfactant-containing products

Tetrasodium EDTA is a preservative that’s made from the known carcinogen, formaldehyde and sodium cyanide

Sodium Chloride:table salt

Polyquaternium-10:Thickening quat conditioner of the polymeric quaternary ammonium salt of hydroyethly-cellulose

Parfume:also know as "fragrance" basically its just a bunch of chemicials to simulate a scent.

Quaternium-15: a quaternary ammonium salt used as a preservative in many cosmetics and industrial substances. It acts as a formaldehyde releaser. It can cause contact dermatitis, a symptom of an allergic reaction, especially in those with sensitive skin, on an infant's skin, or on sensitive areas such as the genitals.

So after reading and researching for this blog entry, there is no way I want this stuff touching my kid’s skin any more than it absolutely has to. I am having a hard time convincing Kate that we need to just throw the stuff out and get something nicer, but she's not having it because "we already paid for it!" hopefully after reading this entry she might change her mind.



Tuesday, March 6, 2012


The name of our blog, "Urban Agrarian' is paradoxical as the definition of 'Agrarianism' is;

"(A philosophy) which values rural society as superior to urban society, the independent farmer as superior to the paid worker, and sees farming as a way of life that can shape the ideal social values. It stresses the superiority of a simpler rural life as opposed to the complexity of city life, with its banks and factories." Quoted from Wikipedia.

I think our intended philosophy, and ideology, is that we want to simplify our lives. To slow down, live in less of a rush, be less dependent on others and in turn be more self-sufficient. To prove that self-sufficiency inside an urban area is not only possible but it can be accomplished without breaking the bank. That giving up this life of total convenience is better for our children than the alternative. We perceive this as a harmful reliance on fossil fuels, GMO vegetables and chemicals used in the preservation of food and cleaning products.
Hold the presses! I sound like a hippie!
That said, I like to live in an urban centre where my children have access to the amenities that are available, including but not limited to; the swimming pool, recreation centres, movie theatres, museums etc. We want to embrace the multi culturalism that 'big city' life denotes, to embrace our neighbours and learn from one another.
We embrace 'globalization' in the sense that the world has become an amazing global network of ideas and cultures; wonderful melting pot where traditional 'roles' and ideas are shattered and transformed.

What we cannot and do not embrace is the 'globalization' of a society which trucks in carrots from 500  or more miles, away!
Our goal is to ensure that our children don't experience the severe disconnect with food sources which tends to go along with 'big city' life.
Carrots are grown in the ground, not in plastic bags. Steaks are living, breathing creatures called cows, bacon is a living breathing creature called a pig, and drumsticks are actually chickens. All of who need to be taken care of while living and slaughtered humanely and safely.
And by 'taken care of while living,' I mean fed appropriate non chemically altered food, allowed to live a natural and appropriate life span before being slaughtered.
Yes please be aware that at one time the meat on your plate had eyes and breathed air.
This is a big challenge, long term, time consuming and not without cost. But I think in the long term the benefits will be more than we can (right now) possibly imagine. 

What I hope to gain;
Knowledge, understanding and appreciation for the farmers of the world
Healthier, non GMO, nutrient rich food
Less reliance on the fossil fuels which transport our food from afar

Perhaps (eventually) financial benefit
Weight loss

And finally pride

All we can do is try! And have fun while doing it!



Monday, March 5, 2012

Bye Bye Cancer Machine

Well we have decided that we are not bringing our microwave with us when we move. There are a few different reasons for this , what some would call crazy, move to a life of LESS convenience.

Here are a few of the reasons:

- We read what afterwards turned out to be a microwave myth.
-We recently spents 9 weeks living in my in-laws empty basement suite which did not have a microwave, and we did not particulary miss it.
-It draws parasitic power when not in use.
-We dont use it all that often (reheating my coffee is the biggest use, and warming baby food the other)
-We dont like the idea of feeding our children food and drink that has been irradiated.

So for this reason we decided that we are going to leave our microwave at home.

We have been trying a dry run for the last couple of days, and find we are doing great at not using the mircowave. Since we are not using the coffee maker at the moment because we put it away to de-clutter the house for home viewings, and can't find it in the storage locker, we have been using an improvised "french press" method. What that means is that we boil water, stir in coffee grounds, and pour it thought a filter into an lexan measuring cup. The measuring cup then lives in the "warming plate" of the stove. So my new method is tp just stick my mug next to the measuring cup. We are using the same "warming plate" on the stove to warm the dish that we put Eli's baby food into (not plastic i remind you!).

On the same basis of trying to move away from that extra convenience lifestyle, we will not be hooking up the coffee maker when we move into the new house (assuimg we can find the dang thing). Instead, we will be purchasing a french press and will be using that instead.

Thats it for todays rant! I'll try and come back and insert a photo of our funny coffee setup!

Some History

So as Nick said in his previous posts this all started with a general interest in web surfing... a few years, and several hundred dollars worth of self sufficiency books later; we are now on the verge of starting a new life in a new city. Along with that comes the desire to start fresh (ignore the pun!)

There are 4 in our little family, aka 'the Brady Bunch.' Ruby our daughter is 2 and Elias is 6 months old.

After 6 years in Northern Vancouver Island Nick's position with the Canadian Coast Guard has been transfered (thank goodness) to the Comox Valley in central Vancouver Island. Eight long months of despair, but our house finally sold and we were able to purchase a home further south! So exciting!

We are embarking on this new adventure with the hope that we can change our life style. The Comox Valley has it's own micro climate and as such has a small but stable agricultural community.

We have bought a house in an urban area but have plans to create an 'edible landscape;' essentially we hope to become largely self sufficient eating both fruit and veggies grown on our own property throughout the year.

We would LOVE to be followers of the '100 mile diet,' but alas with half our family afflicted with Celiac Disease (a wheat/gluten intolerance) we are unable to do so. Our diet depends largely on rice, quinoa, and other types of flours, which couldn't possibly be sustained within only 100 miles.

Please keep in mind that we are the 'uber-est' of  'newbs!' With little to NO experience in gardening let alone any type of self sufficient agro-culture mumbo jumbo.

But as the title of this blog suggests we are committed to achieving a life style that is free of dependency on high fructose corn syrup, modified soy bean oil, GMO products and as much as we can petroleum.

Stay tuned for more blogs and info!