Dirty Hands and the Love of the Land

Young women farmers in Alberta are challenging the odds against them.

A decade ago, Heidi Ellis never would have dreamed of becoming a farmer. She grew up in the city of Strathmore, ON, only an hour’s drive from Toronto. “Farming is the last thing I thought I’d ever do,” Ellis says with a laugh. “Growing up, I remember picking peas from …

Continue reading

Humble Lessons from Landslides & Everything Permaculture is Not

The earth moves in miraculous, frustrating ways.

Last week I wrote about African proverbs, garden wisdom and the power of patience and confidence against what we can’t predict in life, including the rain and sun and whatever other element Mother Nature casts our way (or doesn’t). Oddly enough, all of the above manifested with extremity since I …

Continue reading

Germination & African Proverbs

Cucumber seedling that survived "cat landing" in my nursery.

Ugandans often speak in proverbs to make a point. My boyfriend, Atayo does it constantly. “Even if you don’t see any rocks on the road, you may trip over a stone,” he’s says with a cautionary tone in his voice. “What?” I respond, a bit exasperated. “What are you trying …

Continue reading

On the Road, In the Air, Across the Ocean Again – Uganda, Round Two

Tofino, BC, Canada

Well, Americas – it’s been a wildly wonderful couple of months. From Uganda to Edmonton, Canada to Comitancillo, Guatemala to Nicaragua – back to Edmonton, up to the frozen valley of Peace River, Edmonton and all things Edmonton, again, over to Canada’s warmer coastline to the west, Victoria to Tofino …

Continue reading

Women Who Dig – Runner-Up in Briarpatch’s Creative Writing Contest

Woman from Comitancillo (Photo by KJ Dakin)

Before we talk, we eat. Aurelia has laid out lunch on the long skinny table. She’s prepared dishes that give homage to maíz, corn – the food that defines Mayan-Mam cultural heritage of the Comitancillo highlands of northwestern Guatemala. There’s sopa de res y maíz, beef and corn soup, and heavy …

Continue reading

Her Worth, Her Work on International Women’s Day

Women digging, Uganda.

She may not seem significant to you because she’s holding the hand-hoe, feeding the pigs, or hauling broken laundry basket filled with carrots still clinging to the soil. But her work is the definition of work in the truest sense. She puts her intellectual, physical, emotional and according to some …

Continue reading

La Reina del Norte – Queen of the North

Mural at Su Casa Cafe in Peace River, AB

For nearly five months every year, Peace River’s landscape is winter-locked in shades of white, grey and brown — save for Su Casa Café, a Mexican restaurant that’s painted the shade of a pregnant 5 o’clock sun, a hanging orange in the sky, and trimmed with the colour of the Pacific …

Continue reading

For the Love of the Beehive

Respect.

Bees are pretty inspiring little creatures. Let’s all take a moment to agree on that. In the last couple of years I have become instinctively curious about, and inspired by the humble little bumblebee. Now I could sit here with my mug of honey-enriched tea and discuss the impressive capabilities …

Continue reading

I Dreamed of [Painting Permaculture] in Cuba

cuba10

What do you see? An old white-painted shack with the rust seething through? A storage unit? A fence? If you mentioned any of the above, you’re clearly, rationally, correct. But if you, instead, engage the irrational you may open your mind to invite in other solutions to the question of reality – and see …

Continue reading

The Country Under My Skin – Nicaragua (Part III)

peace1

Building a Nation of Poets, Painters and Peace-Makers To know Nicaragua, over the years, has been to recognize the artist in every Nicaraguan I’ve met along the journey of my travels, and volunteer and work experiences. Poets, painters, musicians, folkloric dancers, graffiti artists, actors, sculptors, weavers, carvers… Art in Nicaragua, whatever medium, …

Continue reading

The Country Under My Skin – Nicaragua (Part II)

ode1

From Resistance to Revolution (And Those Caught in the Cross-Fire) There is no way you can understand Nicaragua, know Nicaragua, without knowing about the Nicaraguan Revolution of 1979. It’s not an exaggeration to say, even today – thirty-four years later – that the Revolution really lives inside of Nicaraguan people. The Revolution was led by …

Continue reading

The Country Under My Skin – Nicaragua (Part I)

Photo Credit - Caitlin Jackson

There is a verb in Spanish – conocer. It means to know. It’s used in the context of meeting and becoming acquainted with people. It’s also used in the context of geographical place. I could write, for example, he estado a Nicaragua. I’ve been to Nicaragua. But these are empty words when I contemplate all that …

Continue reading

On Wildness, Saskatoon Berries and Prairie Identity

Photo - Kay Niedermeyer

This summer, in an effort to “permaculture-out” my mom’s yard and build a fruit forest at the back of her property, we planted saskatoon bushes. This is really neat for many reasons – not only does it pays homage to the prairies surrounding her home, but it also provides her with one …

Continue reading

Small

(Photo - Trina Moyles)

As G8 leaders are shaking hands over food security deals with the private sector, patting themselves on the back, and smiling to flashing cameras that will transport their sureness, their smugness to media all over the world – I’m in my garden, pulling carrots.  The G8 leaders, as they say …

Continue reading

My Three Sisters – Outliers Against Conventional Agriculture

Mural in Managua, Nicaragua.

My good luck last week came with the rain. It had been bone dry in Kabale for over three weeks. The sun had baked the clay soil hard as a hockey puck. My garden was thirsty. And I was thirsty (and exhausted) from hauling water up the steep concrete steps that led …

Continue reading