Monday, December 13, 2010

Is SOUPMAKER a profession? I think so.

Well, I just gotta say wow. I mean, I knew that this whole soup business was a pretty good idea, but it's kinda crazy how much it's starting to take off, and how very, very busy I am becoming. This week's updates? The Locavore Artisan Food Fair that I helped organize with Loreli from Siren's Bakery, Micheal and Fumie from michealsdolce, and my buddy Pierre, the Happy Goat, was a huge success despite the freezing rain. We had almost all our vendors get there despite the heavy ice and terrible roads, and we figure about three hundred people came through the fair.
It was my first BIG event, and I have to say, I wasn't really expecting to sell out quite so quickly! A lot of people had read the fantastic article in the Citizen and we're looking forward to trying my soups! As we were still setting up (thanks Jenn!) we were being surrounding by people looking for take home soups- and if I'd had more, I'm sure I could have sold more. It's time for a few more pieces of infrastructure before the next big event so I can transport more soup and fill more bellies. Funny- selling out made me both sad and happy at the same time- I would have like to have had enough to fill the demand, but there's a certain compliment inherent in running out of stock (oh, the puns). It's really great to realize that there's a demand for my product. 
And the soups yesterday were:
  • Organic Brazilian Black Bean Soup
  • Organic Chicken, Mushroom and Leek (which was to die for)
  • And the Indian Carrot Spice Soup. It's always popular.
  • Plus a quinoa cranberry walnut salad.
 People can be SO nice- I had a woman tell me she generally doesn't like anyone's soups but her own, and she liked mine, and others say they were all three delicious. They were gobbled up by children and adults alike. This makes me happy.
And I forgot to get pictures! I'm going to have to do that at some point when I'm at an event. Sigh.

Lots of organization to do this week for the truck and the soupscriptions- but it's a little more settled than last week and so I should be able to do it. Especially if I keep waking up at five in the morning, ready to work. Woohoo! Sleeplessness and productivity go hand in hand...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Entreprenurial Terrors, Food Sovreignty, Soup Delivery

Another busy week at the Stone Soup Kitchen... First trade show with the YBiz was last Friday. It was pretty intense setting up for it, particularly since I also set up the kitchen at Causeway last week to prepare for the tradeshow, and had to do a lot of shopping (which, at this point, is really making me go EEK since the pool of money formed suddenly by the sale of the house has been pretty heavily drained).
It was never like this. It's kind of creepy, actually
But I made a bit of it back, and do need the kitchen to be going, and overall, the plan is still sound, and I am still in a pretty solid position when I think about it. After all, I have a roof over my head, my health, people who love me and who I love, and am pretty sure I can scrounge up enough food to make a pretty delicious next meal. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this pretty forcibly in the middle of the night when I wake up terrified about this venture, but I truly am very fortunate.
The tradeshow was good, despite the realization that noodles were a bad idea and a small spill and limited space- lots of learning, and a little income, too!
Spent the weekend in a non-business related venture as well- which is difficult at times as the force of the terror is directly proportional to time not working on it (eek). But it was worth it- I went to the Food Secure Canada National Assembly in Montreal to discuss a national People's Food Policy. Canada does not have a food policy that integrates health, agriculture, environment and social issues. Not even close. There were some pretty interesting discussions going around, and some pretty amazing people there too. I was thrilled to meet a not for profit educational group from Montreal working out of a truck that travels to festivals. Cool.
The idea of food sovreignity is that all people, at all times, have access to safe,sustainably grown, culturally appropriate food at all time. Smart. I would like to write more about this, but my brain is not very functional. It's really really important though.

 Other News Briefs from the SSFW world...
  • Winterlude is looking very very positive- hopefully in the park and not on the ice. May have a spot in Confederation Park!
  • Ottawa U location is also looking up!
  • Video reviews are great. Yay Rob!
  • Little Brother is awesome on the renos, now that his flu is gone...
  • Started soup deliveries this week- which is great for me and for others- thanks new customers and old friends
  • Helping out at the Red Apron this week and next for a day each one- I miss the ladies.
  • I'm not entirely broke. I just have to remember this is normal
  • I learned that most successful entrepreneurs are around my age. Cool. I'm on track for SOMEthing.
Indian Spiced Carrot soup was very popular at the YBIZ fair, and I actually sold out. The recipe was requested, and so here it is (finally)! It's very important to use organic carrots. I think since they spend so much time in the soil, you can really taste the health of the soil that they are grown in. Last week, I had carrots from One Hundred Mile Farm that were pretty fantastic.


Indian Spiced Carrot Soup



1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
2 large onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 inches of ginger, minced
2 tbsp. lemon juice
10 medium and large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 liters vegetable stock
Salt
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
2 tsp. coriander, roasted fresh and ground
1 tsp cumin seed, roasted fresh and ground
1.5 tsp. black mustard seed, toasted

yogurt and cilantro for garnish

Saute the onions in the oil until golden, then add the ginger, cook one minute more, then add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Deglaze with the lemon juice, then add the carrots and the stock. Cook until the carrots are softened- it takes a while and you may have to add water.
Then, use your immersion blender to zoot zoot it 'til it's all pureed. Then stir in your sweet and add your spices. That's it.
Garnish with yogurt and cilantro for super beautiful yumminess. 

NOTE ABOUT ROASTING SPICES:
I have this teeny little cast iron pan I use to roast my spices. I put it on medium high, heat it up, add the spice (one at a time, they cook differently) and shake it for about two minutes until it smells toasty and open. Then I grind them in my spice grinder. Then I add them into the soup. The mustard seeds will soften up in the soup, but the roasting makes them even tastier. Don't grind them. They pop a little and it's nice.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Summer's Bounty, now in Winter Soups

Maybe it's the fact that it's dipped below zero, and the wind is howling, and although there is no snow on the ground, there's lots in the air. Maybe it's the fact that my Veggie Patch Harvest Share is used up, and all I've got left from the gardens are some potatoes. Maybe it's the fact that I'm not yet getting supplies in to make into soup, and so I've been going to the grocery store, and despite the abundance, most of what's for sale seems a little grim.

Whatever- this week has seen me really start to crack open the seals on my Mason jars and open up the Ziplocks from the freezer and make some foods that really warm the soul.  Opening that first liter of tomatoes brought back the bushel that Julie and I put up together in August, and the opened jar smelled just like summer. I canned some with balsamic and basil, and it was so lovely. My fridge is full of pickled beets, cukes and jalapenos, and it's so nice to remember all this bounty from the warm months... No need to suffer the pallid tomatoes and wan cukes. Nope. Not for a little while.

So here's what we ate last night- and today (well, and probably tomorrow- it seems to feed 8-10). I got to feed some wonderful folk with this one- the talented Kim, farmer Paul and the music maker Jennifer (who needs a website up- ahem).


Spicy Red Lentil Tomato Soup

This is a simple but flavourful soup. Spicy and fresh. Serve it with some yogurt (I've been making my own!) or sour cream.

2 tbsps olive oil
2 onions sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cups red lentils
4 cups vegetable stock
1 liter tomatoes, chopped or otherwise broken up (okay, okay. I use my hands)
 two tbsp balsamic
2 potatoes, peeled
8 pickled jalapeno rings, minced
basil- and YAY! I had frozen from the summer!
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt.
  1. Saute onions in oil over medium high heat until they start to get very very soft. 
  2. Add the garlic and the lentils, and saute for another minute.
  3. Add everything except the basil (unless it's dried- if it is, add it now). 
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for thirty minutes until the lentils are dissolved and the potatoes soft. STIR every few minutes as lentils will stick to the bottom of the bottom. 
  5. Add the basil, adjust the salt, add the lemon juice and taste until you might as well grab a bowl, it's that good.
  6. Garnish with yogurt (and more jalapenos, if that's the way you roll) and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Well. It's gonna be a short one as I gotta get a redo of my business plan done for the bank tomorrow morning, but here we go!

The Causeway kitchen deal is finalized! Sweet! Start in there next week, just before my first trade show/exhibit with the Y on November 26 at Dominion Chalmers Church, 10-3.

I'm glad this one is before the Locavore Artisan Food Fest on December 12, as that is gonna be big. We- an awesome group of producers, including the Happy Goat, Micheal'sDolce and Siren Bakery- have been organizing since October and have a pretty great line up ready for your gift giving pleasure... Sweetness, savouriness and all kinds of depth and complexity!  It should be fun- and wonderfully busy!

So, I've been planning for those, plus had a great meeting on Monday with Ottawa U- nothing's firm, or even close, but there's a chance the little green truck will be on campus in March! Woot! We looked at some places...

In the not good news, I had a car accident on Friday. Everyone (including my pup Zip) was fine, but the car is kinda damaged. I am deciding right now whether to repair my Civic with 265 000 km on it or to splurge for a new to me car with a flatter and larger cargo space. I'm leaning towards Subaru-ey newness, but need to sleep on it for one more night. I've been fond of Roxanne, but we've been together since she was new, and it may be time to let her go... I got a cold right after the accident and haven't been moving very fast.

A few little things done on the truck, a bit more planning, and it's time to get feverishly fast- January is SOON, especially given how much time things seem to take, and how crazy the next couple of weeks are.

Back to a revisit of the business plan to show the bank tomorrow.

But you know, as has become the case for much of my time of late, I do feel so wonderfully supported by my friends and family, and the world at large. I know this idea is a good one, and I know I can do it, even when I am thinking of how, if I had chosen to do something more simple, I would be earning money by now, and how that'd be pretty nice. It'll come, right? That's the idea of business, anyways. And the support is there, and the love, and the feedback, and I feel pretty lucky. So thanks!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Salmon en Papillote with Leek and Tomato, Cauliflower Puree and Wilted Spinach with Garlic

You make an envelope of paper around the fish, then bake it.
On Wednesday, I taught a lunchtime cooking class at the local Superstore- there was a nice diversity of students, and everyone enjoyed the food. 
Cooking fish in parchment keeps the moisture it- it's steamed and baked- and in this case, steamed with leek smell. What could be better- oh, I know- pictures. I didn't take any. I was teaching, and the oven didn't preheat, and I forgot. So I stole this one, so you can get the idea. 

But here are the recipes. It's a ludicrously healthy meal, and madly delicious. 

Cauliflower Puree
Serves four

1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp butter
½ cup milk
½ cup water
½ tsp. salt
white pepper to taste

1.     Place all ingredients except sour cream into saucepan and bring to a boil.
2.     Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and allow to cook 20-25 minutes, until cauliflower breaks apart with a fork.
3.     Pour into food processor and blend until smooth. You can add a bit of cream or sour cream if desired, but it’s not necessary. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Keep warm until serving.



Salmon Fillet en Papillote with Leek and Tomato

1 tbsp butter
1 leek
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp salt
16 grape tomatoes
1 tsp dried basil, or 1 tbsp fresh
I large salmon fillet
pepper to taste
1/4 c. white wine
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 F.
1.     Slice leek thinly, and clean thoroughly.
2.     Saute in 1 tbsp butter in an ovenproof skillet with salt on medium heat until softened
3.     Add garlic, tomatoes and basil and allow to heat through.
4.     Add wine and bring to a low boil until much of the wine has evaporated.
5.     Rinse the salmon, pat dry, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
6.     On a baking sheet, place a long sheet of parchment paper. Spread ½ the leek tomato mixture in the middle of the paper, then the fish, then the other half. Fold the paper to create an envelope- the top and sides need to be folded shut.
7.     Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, until salmon flakes easily.

Wilted spinach with garlic

2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp butter
one bag spinach, cleaned and deveined (or small box baby spinach)
Salt to taste

1.     Peel and slice garlic paper thin.
2.     Heat butter in deep frying pan or wok on medium low (but closer to low) heat.
3.     Cook garlic, stirring constantly for under a minute.
4.     When garlic starts to become translucent, and the sharp smell is gone, add spinach.
5.     Cook one minute more until it is starting to wilt. Add salt.
6.     Transfer to warm serving bowl and serve immediately.
 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kitchen space! Breathing Room! Movies!

Well. Last week I caught my breath, and it's a good thing, as this week I'm back at a good run. Keeping it all at a jog though, as I want to be able to keep on running for a while on this round. I moved slow last week- and boy, am I glad I did.
Four big pieces of news this week, on top of what's becoming the regular (but not taken for granted) goodness (which this week included teaching a class at Loblaws and having another class booked in for Urban Element).
News One: I have a commercial kitchen space!  Well, nearly. Formalities remain until I am renting evening space at Causeway.  It's a community economic development organization that runs some pretty amazing programs, and it's got a great pastry kitchen, with some good fridge space I can use. I have dried goods storage with my good friend the Happy Goat and freezer space here, so although it's a bit spread out, I should be able to keep things moving for the SOUPSCRIPTION service, the details of which are nearly worked out.
They missed the step where you cook the veggies.
News Two: New website host and some modifications to the website in order to get the Soupscription up and running. They're nearly there- end of the week and there should be a lovely form so you can sign up and I'll deliver you some soup. The actual delivery is going to begin in December- I'm away for the last two weekends of November, one cooking, one at a conference, and still need to firm up my supply, packaging and composting chains.
News Three: My brother is taking on the truck! I tried to be sad when his contract in Northern Saskatchewan ended, but I am selfishly kind of glad he's home and underemployed. I can employ him! He's found an insulation solution already, and is so darned smart and creative and handy, and I'm just so glad... There's a lot to be done, but he just looked at it and saw how to go about it. He's also smart for telling me to hold off on buying things until the right time. Going to the bank for more money is not a dream of mine, but it may become a reality.
News Four: The trailer for the movie! We saw the movie last night, and it is SO good. Rob's got some crazy talent- it's really fun to watch.  Come vote at Carleton on November 25- the whole movie will be up after that.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What a wonderful week

This week has been great- I'm a bit late on the blogging (I've decided to go every Wednesday- oops!), but since I last wrote there has been a lot of action on the media front and the truck front, plus life has carried on with it's wonders and obligations and workshops and acting like a chef and all.

Well. Number one on the excitement front- how cute is this? So cute, I tell you. Okay. Not as cute as the one year olds in their Hallowe'en gear, but you know, I don't have kids yet, so... Yay!


And the number two yay was the media attention- in the Ottawa Citizen, no less.  Very exciting indeed.This article was written by Ron Eade, the Citizen's food columnist, after a great event at the Urban Element (which is a lovely kitchen to teach and work in) for the Soup Sisters. It's an amazing organization out of Calgary that makes huge batches of soup for women's shelters. So fun, so community, so healthy.  I'm going to work with them regularly for the next little while to keep the soups scrumptious for Interval House.

A lot of time last week went to workshops- planning, practicing and teaching them- next week is the same. I'm going to present two workshops for the Food For All rollout- the result of months of policy consultations and writing on local food policy. I'm the edutainment! Also going to teach at the Superstore- which should be good too.


What I really need to get on though, is getting the interior of the truck ready for Winterlude- and getting a structure and plan in place. I met the man responsible for the concessions, and he seems keen on having me there, but I need to be ready. I have a commercial kitchen in my sights, and want to start a little delivering to make a little cash and get into a groove beforehand- especially as I will need some employees.  As usual, the broad strokes are worked out well and the planning is great- but the details still need a little work!
Is there some expression about people in ice carriages don't serve soup?

Winterlude will be amazing- it's pretty exciting to have the chance to do this- and soup on the canal in February... Yum!

But it's coming a along- and plans to make money are coming into play, and there is buzz, and the soup is getting out there and getting popular, and that's all good. We're finishing the filming for the film today, plus I'm organizing the truck tasks to be completed, plus updating the website a bit. And the week will see the truck renos on the go- photos of the interior will come on as they get done!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Changing Gears


There's this fantastic Yo La Tengo song I get in my head sometimes when I'm driving called Little Honda-I think it's a Beach Boys tune (sorry for my ignorance, Dave).  The chorus goes like this:

First gear, it's all right. Second gear, hang on tight.
Third gear, ain't I right. Faster, it's all right.

It's been in my head since last Friday, when it was rainy and really cold and I was very much in first gear. It didn't feel all right. Then I realized it was time to change gears. The cold is going to be too much. There's this whole water freezing thing that happens in the winter, and it was never part of my plan to run the truck into November as I've worked outdoors in the winter and everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much, plus the hands start to hurt. A lot. And as much as people might want soup in the winter, they won't walk through slush to get it.  And then stand in slush to eat it. My soup's amazing and all, but people are in some ways, totally sane.

Second gear, hang on tight.

Plan B is about to come into play, and come into play quick. I gotta start serving some soup. I gotta cook or I'm gonna lose it. So, I'm looking to rent a commercial kitchen space while finishing the truck. I've got a couple of leads and am gonna check them out Thursday...
Third gear's gonna be some mad juggling as I get the truck ready and put a cooking and distribution plan into play- fast!

It's all right.


Lots of awesome stuff is happening, though.  See? Lots of hours down at the paint and printing shop this week so far.  But it's gonna look cool. Or hot. Or warm limey green. 
Painter to paint seller, after asking about drying times, "Well, SHE seems to like it."

And I'm definitely getting some buzz, like an email from Ottawa Magazine, which is cool. Which I'm not ready for, but is pushing me to have more momentum.

Faster, it's all right.

I'm in discussions with Winterlude, and though that'll be cold, I'll be cooking in the commercial kitchen and using the truck as a sales space with floor insulation and some extra heat. Just gotta get me a kitchen and some minions child labour employees. And some sales!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Thai'd Up and Squashed Down Soup Recipe


Totally missed the pictures on this one- but there'll be film coming soon!
I made this recently for the kitchen portion of the film my friend Rob is doing for a Transition Ottawa film contest.  It worked out really well, with just enough spice and loads of flavour.  Roasting the squash saves active cooking time, as well as chopping- plus it brings out a lovely deep flavour.

If you don’t feed vegetarians, you can use a Thai red chili paste in this.  It contains minute quantities of shrimp and fish, so I skip it (even though it’s oh so good).

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon (+) olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch of ginger root, minced
1 stalk lemon grass, minced
Juice of two limes
1 medium butternut squash, halved, seeded, roasted and peeled
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp. sambal oelek (to taste- it’s spicy)
1.5 tbsp. tamarind paste
1 tbsp. honey
6 c. warm veggie stock (or a liter plus water if you are using a box)
Toasted coconut and sprigs of Thai basil or cilantro to garnish

Heat the oil on medium in your soup pot. 
Add the onions and a good pinch of salt, and sauté until they are golden and starting to caramelize.
Add the lemon grass and ginger and sauté two minutes more. 
Add the garlic and ½ the lime juice and cook for two minutes, scraping up the tasty bits at the bottom. 
Add your tamarind and sambal oelek and stir thoroughly.
Add your squash puree, the coconut milk, the stock and the honey.
Use your hand blender and blend to a lovely smooth consistency.
Heat through.
Check your seasoning and add the remaining lime juice, perhaps more honey or sambal oelek.  Adding the lime juice at the end brings a bright flavour to the soup.

 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Keep on truckin'

The truck is at the painter's, empty and (nearly) clean. I drove it across the Ottawa River by myself today (there's only the one seat) which was kind of fun (okay, it was totally amazingly fun to be driving something with a 20" diameter steering wheel) and took it on down to the soda blasters.  Thanks to Pierre for giving me a ride to the truck and to my amazing sister and brother-in-law for letting me keep it there for nearly a week while we got the fryers out (and sold- yay!) and the second stage of cleaning done. The third stage is tomorrow, when I drive it from the painters to a drive in bay and pressure wash the heck out of it.  Lard. Is. Only. Good. In. Small. Quantities. (I'm still unwilling to entirely forego lard, but I won't be eating at any chip trucks for quite some time).

The logo is ready to get printed for the side of the truck and I have four kids willing to work for me. This says something, right?  I don't have any adult employee potentials (somehow the small truck/dishwashing gig ain't super appealing to the realistic folk) but the little ones are pretty excited about being the child labour that keeps our high end food affordable.  So far, the jobs that they have created for themselves include a clown and a soup taster, and all have indicated that they would be pleased to "help" in exchange for food, and would be more than pleased to work rather than go to school. Ha!  No wonder we need to have laws.  Only one has asked for wages, and those would be five dollars a day.  Pesky, pesky laws. But really, it heartens me to know that I could (and do) have all these children working (oh, sorry, "helping") me in my non-Dickensian mini kitchen.

Community garden harvest
This afternoon, I'm putting the finishing touches on a Thai Butternut Soup recipe that's been rollicking around in my the taste buds of my imagination since trying a rather watery one at Bridgehead, and getting a lovely butternut from the community garden.  I'll post the recipe.

My gardening pal R. is coming to film me for a video he's working on for Transition Ottawa-very cool- and I need to get a good stock pot on the go and some stock into the freezer.  Still gotta get the solar panel stuff worked out... And some meals to deliver for a family- maybe soon my food can be made for children, by children (as my sister always says about the cheap t-shirts at the box stores).  Pesky laws. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Simmering Stones: It's taking longer than I ever thought possible

Simmering Stones: It's taking longer than I ever thought possible

It's taking longer than I ever thought possible

So, when my second cousin, who's been working with start ups for a couple of decades told me about the two and a half rule, I have to admit, I thought to myself that this was likely for other businesses, and not necessarily for mine.
The two and half rule goes like this: Any new business will...

1. Will cost twice what you estimate
2. Take twice as long to launch, profitably
3. And produce 1/2 what you project.
So far, number two is really where I am feeling the crunch the most.  Well, alright, number one is also becoming more and more feasible too- especially with the mechanic's bill coming up.  The truck is roadworthy thanks to the magical networking for parts done by my mechanic Hani at Paradise Auto and a pretty big bill.  It drives beautifully, and tomorrow will do so legally, crossing the bridge to Gatineau where we'll plunk it in my sister's driveway and rip out the interior crap (by which I mean grease-laden deep fryers) before it goes to be stripped down at the painters and painted it's beautiful colours.  All of which is costing more than I thought...  I'm thinking about taking an accounting class at Algonquin on weekends in November as I simply can't seem to wrap my head around managing the money- it's so different from the household, and I frankly feel a little lost with it.
The solar system is being designed (this sentence really makes me think of Slartibartfast who designed Earth in the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy), I think the ventilation is figured out, and the fridge is on hold until I get the energy budget worked out.  The solar really is going to be on the awning, just like the funny little Sanyo truck I posted so long ago. It'll be awesome. It'll be ready just after the winter solstice, when there is no sun.  It'll be so ironic. 

I do hope to be ready to serve soup before the solar system (heehee) is up and running- I'll just charge the batteries from home, and they'll be linked into the truck engine as a generator as well, and I will be looking for space as the painting is getting done.  Winter approaches, and work is getting done, and I moved in the last week which was a bit intense. Moving is pretty stressful. And I did two community workshops last week too- a preserving one at Transition Ottawa and a fall harvest one for the Good Food Box.

And then, there's this whole way of working that is new. Entrepreneurship is amazing, but it's also really scary to have no one to report to, and to be only responsible to yourself.  It's funny how much freedom can be terrifying- I totally believe in what I am doing, yet I find myself almost breathless from fear for doing it sometimes, and sometimes frozen from fear.  I find myself making this path I've wanted to walk for so long, making something really great and intense, and walking it so slow as though I have to talk myself into walking it all along the path.  It's like hiking alone, or long meditation retreats.  It's as scary to confront the self through work as it is through things that are obviously spiritual- yet somehow I never foresaw how great this challenge would be and how big my obstacles are- I guess over thirty years of school instruction and work instruction have left pretty deep ruts on my brain pathways of responding to what others have to say about how I am to live.  There's a process of unlearning the habits of being evaluated by others, reporting to others.  Seth Godin seems to be writing about this, and I am starting to read his work.
Maybe there's a two and a half rule for the personal and community growth involved with making this path-I just don't know the parameters yet...


Friday, September 24, 2010

One month 'till launch!

And the amount to get done is still a little mad- although not compared to the amount that is done, I suppose, and since I still don't quite know how the permitting process is going to work, it's a little hopeful to think it's all going to come together in time- but hopeful I am, and supported I am, and planning and working like crazy I am, and so, launch in one month for me, launch in one month- well- four weeks. And there's the move in there too. And getting caught up on a little bit of sleep would be pretty sweet- it's not like it's going to calm done when I get going, right?

Launching in the fall makes a lot of sense.  People want soup, the harvest is bountiful, the green of the truck will be beautiful against the last of the leaves.  It's better- if I don't manage to launch in the fall, winter will not only be moderately impoverished, but I will face a whole host of challenges to getting going, like freezing and fewer local foods. So, launch date in four weeks.

The truck is almost safetied, I have the painting lined up, but definitely want to get the kitchen in there before painting- what I am worrying about is that despite the calculations and floor plans, the equipment won't actually fit into the truck and then I'll have a useless truck.  It's possible- the space margins are inches, and I still don't have a fridge ordered to get in there.
 

I'm not entirely decided about the hyper efficient solar fridge or the completely reliable propane fridge- I finally found people who carry them at the RV stores here in the city, but boy, are they pricey.  There are three main factors:  size, efficiency and price.  Here's one I'm considering... It's solar and super effecient and the size is right.  Price- not so good. The challenges of off-grid commercial cooking are a bit intense.

I just lined up onions, but will need to find storage for them...  Maybe I should get an unheated storage locker and put in my root veg.  That could work...

Thanks for reading and commenting- the website launch has been great.  On to packing, dealing with a bunch of moving related administrivia, and finishing the organic beef stew, cheddar biscuits and salad I'm bringing my fantastic mechanic Hani and his crew.  They've done SO much...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Does having a website make you real?

One of the aspects of starting a business that has been so interesting has been this process of creating a reality out of an idea, going from brainstorm to business plan, to virtual presence to the physical reality of an actual truck at an actual place with an actual fridge and actual food.
A new stage has just begun- I have a fantastic website up and running, thanks to the help of Steve McCullough and Shane Lemon.  It's been very exciting to get it up and going- even though it's entirely virtual, it's my first really public space out there on the web- besides this blog, which is really a thought piece more than a shingle hanging out there. 

So far, the feedback has been fantastic- I have more to do to put it out into the world- an email to people I've been meeting and chatting with and who have shown an interest, a press release at some point in the near future, hopefully getting some more contacts who will help me to find a location to put the truck... And there's work to be done this week as well- I'm helping out at the Red Apron, getting ready to move my apartment (talk about terrible timing), fixing up the truck and teaching two workshops in the next week.  It's great- I work better when I am busy, but have a lot to focus on.  Thank goodness I have such great support and some decent time management skills! 

So, here it is.  My logo and slogan (which I'm trademarking due to a bit of fortuity. 

My website.  My business. That actually exists.  That didn't used to exist except as an idea. That isn't physically real, but is real. 

Pretty cool. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lessons from walking against the wind

It's September.  I thought I'd be up and running next week, but, barring some miracle, I won't.  The truck's just arrived in Ottawa, and my mechanic hasn't really gotten the depth of the work to be done figured out yet, the space is not found, and I'm going to move out of my very troublesome two bedroom apartment.  I was trying to wait so there'd be less stress this month, but the stress kind of built into a volcano in the last couple of weeks, and the latest lying by the landlords (the house is being shown to prospective buyers, the landlords are saying they've taken it off the market) is just the icing on the gravy, as my friend Mary MacDonald used to say.  So I'm looking for an apartment and for a place for the truck, and the two searches are combining into one... Mostly I'm focusing on an apartment so far, and trying to find somewhere that I can work out of as well- that has enough space for dry goods storage and suits Zip and I both well. 

I have learned a pretty important lesson about working for myself in the last couple of weeks as well- I've got to keep breathing, and when I feel like my work life is like this picture, I've gotta find a bit of shelter and think things through and relax.  Not taking a bit of a break doesn't really do me any good, and working slow and starting small is a better idea than doing everything at once and trying to get everything ready super fast.  The busy-ness led to a bit of exhaustion, and I tried to take a break by canning- which I'm happy to have done, but I also sort of think that curling up and sleeping in MAY have been a better rest than putting a bushel of tomatoes, 24 liters of peaches and a 1/2 bushel of cucumber dill pickles.  May have been more restful?  Um, yeah. I got some beautiful preserves, with the help of a friend who wanted to learn to can, though, and will do a little salsa soon too- but really, just a little- like a dozen jars.  Cooking really relaxes me a lot more than parking lot and apartment hunting, and if I don't keep at it, I don't keep sane- and that's no good.

The other thing I'm trying to do is to pay attention to the bits of my plan that are confusing me a bit- like how am I going to teach classes in the evening after working a full day in the truck?  Am I going to be a superhuman in seven months when that's supposed to take effect?  I somehow doubt it.  So, either I have someone running the kitchen when I teach in the evenings, or I don't sell from the truck that day(quite a financial and reputation loss- who likes an unreliable lunch spot?).  Is the truck big enough for two?  Will I be able to find someone who can make as delicious soups as me? Foolishly, I just sent in a resume to Loblaws to do a poorly paid lunchtime cooking class and have a call for another- do I agree to do these in order to create a reputation when it is financially a bad decision but is something I enjoy?  And when I have doubts about the truck running at all, do I keep working on it or work on developing a Plan B?  My inclination is to tighten the focus of Plan A and to work more on it, not to succumb to doubts... Or the fierce and dusty winds of exhaustion...

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Days are Just Packed

Well.  It has been a while...  What the heck has happened to the first half of August, you may ask, what the heck?
The first week on the month was spent at the  Dharma Center, cooking for around twenty meditators, who, considering they were mostly doing a lot of sitting (plus very slow walking and some standing) were remarkably hungry. I tenderly referred to them as my hungry ghosts and my little flock of locusts, as there never seemed to be any leftovers!  As is often the case at the DC, everyone but me and the teachers were in silence, so I got some lovely quiet time to reconnect with my spirit and the deeper reasons I love to cook. It really makes a difference in supporting people, and I do think that we are so frequently disconnected from our food that we are disconnected from our bodies.  This idea needs a whole post to explore, and I will do that soon...
  It was a joy to use a lot of the produce from the land to feed the people meditating on the land. There really can't be anything bad in that...  I made three of these Swiss Chard Tarts, based loosely on a Canadian Living Recipe.  
I also got to work with a whole lot of green beans, and came up with this blanched green bean, tomato and almond salad in a straightforward lemon honey mustard vinagrette.  It looked as though someone had licked the bowl at the end of the service.  Everything that had just come out of the garden was devoured. 
When I've been asked about how the cooking went, though, I generally refer to these little pillows of joy... One of my greatest cooking joys is always to make something I've never even imagined making before, and I made 48 of these babies- 24 spelt and 24 whole wheat, based on this recipe and the extensive comments.  They were gorgeous.  I was proud.   









They really had pockets.  The next time I go, one of the young woman who goes there regularly is going to volunteer with me in the kitchen to learn how to cook- this makes me very happy, as I so love to teach and I feel like I will be spreading a bit of my knowledge.  

Home last week, and the work on the truck began.  Suffice it to say, I will never, ever eat at a chip truck again without a quick walkabout and a very thorough peer through the window and an inquiry about lard.  It was pretty gross.  Thanks be that my little bro was there with me, cleaning and removing stuff, opening doors and scraping grease, or I would have been a mess of tears and degreaser.   We think it can work, but it is going to be tight, I tells ya... The truck goes.  It doesn't stop, but it goes.  


Here are actual pics of the truck.  The real truck.  It's still near Cornwall.  It still needs a ton of work.  But it's coming closer to being here.  They're from the still-rocking-my-world iPhone. 


 Another little catering gig on Friday, and then a party this weekend and my birthday (which was absolutely lovely- thank you Denise, Dave, Maggie, Mom, Wes and everyone who helped me celebrate).  I am weeks behind in returning social phone calls, and have to finish getting the website up today, but am feeling really positive after a two days without actual working.  The work begins again this week, with getting the truck here and really working to find a spot and getting it set up so I can get permits and get cooking... Going to try to network my way to a spot, and I just know it will work out. Well.  I just desperately hope it will work out.  And work on it.  Off to finish the website!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Business Plan Done. Truck really small. Hmm.

The business plan is written, completed, submitted for revisions, all 35 pages of it.  I think it looks pretty good, of course, since I did my best, although it could have been snazzier with better graphics if I'd bought a cool program or spent more time on it, I simply didn't have more time to do it, so it's pretty darn good. Besides, I'm mainly securing my own financing. 

I went south to meet an auto painter who lives near Ken, who sold me the truck, to see if the truck would fit in the painting bay and how much it would cost to paint it professionally. Three grand, and we're not sure yet, but I'll call him in the morning (I went to see my awesome sister and her lovely family before they head East to Newfoundland- the baby may be walking before they come back). The three grand seems pretty reasonable, according to my brother-in-law, but it's a whack of cash and the first amount like that I've considered spending that has no resale value. And the timing is tricky, since my bro has to leave before the truck could get painted, and we can't put the solar panels on until after it's painted, and he can't paint it until after my brother leaves. Oh spinny head.  Trust it will work!

Now, at first I thought it was so cute that the truck was small.  But today, it just looks really small, especially when I imagine the stove, sink and fridge in a converted freezer I'll have to put in there. So, do I spend $3000 on it?  And I'll have to spend on ventilation as well.  I wonder it I'd be better off selling it and finding something better....Hmm... the expensive trailer looks better and better, but the truck will be so cute.  It looks like this, only slightly larger. And the green will be like this.

Well.  Off to the Dharma Center tomorrow to cook for the meditators and meditate myself.  It should be so lovely... Maybe it will all come clear...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Renewable energy- figuratively and literally!

So.  The truck's going to be as green as I hoped for, sooner than I thought!  Just a couple of days after a casual conversation with my brother in which I mentioned I dreamed of running the electrical off of solar power on the truck one day, my awesome little bro hit upon a kijiji ad listing solar panels with everything that we need to connect them, plus a wind turbine I can sell, for a pretty darn reasonable price. He's even going to help me set it up- he rocks my world!  So we bought them.  Whoa. It's a money spending month here at the Stone Soup Headquarters on St. Francis St.  You gotta spend it to make it, right?  And everything so far is an investment. Well, except the iPhone.  Which rocks my world, by the way.

I'd be able to run a fridge if I had this many panels... Sweet.

I'll be able to run my small appliances, exhaust system and lights off of the sunshine and batteries, but still have to figure out the fridge issue so I don't have to plug into anything.  It may have to be propane- expensive, though!


The business plan is almost done and looking profitable, the website is almost ready, the bank account rapidly emptying and ready for refilling with a little credit (and then a lot of other people's hard earned cash) the ten days of upcoming cooking at the Dharma Center planned for (but how to take the time out? argh!), and the social life still ticks along, with my most amazing friends and family keeping my energy relatively renewed... Even after the great retox weekend of 2010...Plenty of time for renewed detox while cooking clean and light and meditating loads for the next ten days, I suppose. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Farmers Market Challenge!

This last Sunday, I was fortunate enough to do a demonstration on herbs at the Lansdowne Farmer's Market for the Red Apron.  We decided that the best choice for this week's herb theme was pesto, and went with a traditional basil pesto- the catch was that I made it using all ingredients bought at the market that morning.  

Luckily, the foods at the market are gorgeous- I found lovely basil from Roots and Shoots, amazing nettle pecorino made with sheep's milk, and instead of pine nuts and olive oil, I used a beautiful hemp oil and hemp seed from Stone Farms, right in the Ottawa Valley.  

It was really hot, but some wonderful friends came out to see me (thanks guys!) and the pesto was great, as was the final product- a pesto pasta salad.

Thank you to Justine for taking the photos- and for the Red Apron for asking me to do these things- also the source of the first cheque made out to Stone Soup Foodworks- can't wait to deposit that in to the new account!
The website should be up and running soon- keeping the fingers crossed!


Here's the recipe for the pesto. 

Farmer's Market Pesto

Make sure to carefully wash and dry the herbs!
1 3/4 c. organic basil 
1/4 c. parsley
1/3 c. hemp seeds 
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3/4 c. Sheep’s Milk Nettle Pecorino cheese 
1/2 tsp. Salty Don’s smoked maple salt
1/2 c. hemp seed oil 

Pulse everything EXCEPT THE OIL together in your food processor until it is are finely minced but not a paste.  Alternatively, you can chop it on a cutting board or use the traditional method of a mortar and pestle. 

Put in a bowl and mix in the oil.
 Serve it with a pasta salad, grill it on chicken or fish, make potato salad, eat it from the spoon, or use your imagination.  You can also freeze it in ice cube trays and eat it in the winter, recollecting the sweaty days of summer.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A radio interview!

I had a radio interview on CHUO a couple weeks ago for the urban chicken movement!  It's here, about 14 minutes, and I kinda rocked it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Websites and Business Plans

Sitting in front of the computer ain't my favourite thing to do, but with temperatures outside on the upside of 40 (with the humidex) I suppose it's better to be out of the kitchen for a couple weeks- but boy, this business planning thing is pretty intense!
It's great to be doing though- I've worked out my mission, am researching information on the industry and the shape of things to come in the food world (and am right at the start of a wave of interest in carefully sourced food) and crunching numbers.  It's good- it gives me a solid plan to work from, and the creative bits are pretty fun to do.  Not as much fun as being in the kitchen, of course, but definitely interesting, and I need it for the bank. 
Speaking of, I am setting up with the credit union Alterna Savings for a business account and loan.  They keep it in the community, and are also pretty hip to the idea of social enterprises, which I plan on working towards in the future.   A future that feels like it's approaching much more quickly than I would like, given the amount of work there is to do and the wicked heat that is preventing any physical labour- or at least making it difficult.
 The website is also being built- it has a host, it has content, but it doesn't really have a structure yet.  It's coming together, and I am using Drupal on the recommendation of a friend- which may just be too complicated for techno-mediocre me... I understand its powerful, but boy, the power to wield it seems to be slightly beyond my skill.  I'm thinking of hiring someone to get it done... My friend can help me, but not for a couple of weeks and I need it to go find myself a spot to park the truck...
Mostly, I'm tempted to go pick apart and chop up the basil I got to practice for my cooking demo of pesto on Sunday at the Lansdowne Farmer's Market- but I gotta get some writing in first!  Back to it!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Who's got a little wee truck?

 Me!  I gots a wee little chip truck!

This morning I drove to Stormont Glengarry and Dundas Township, straight down Bank Street, through Winchester, with a car full of the smell of strawberries (thanks Rob!) to see the cheapest chip truck that's been on the market all spring- and the only one that has actually run out of the six I've visited. 

It ain't as flashy as the trailers, and it's gonna need some pretty fierce cleaning and a new ventilation hood and an extra water tank, and a paint job (but handily, the auto shop teacher who sold it to me knows a guy in the neighbourhood who will do it and who loves the Dodge Lime Green from the 1970's, and since I quite like the Sublime Green, I think that we'll get along just fine).  It needs work, but it's $25 000 less than the one that doesn't need work, and I can work for that kind of money. 

She's a littler truck than what I was planning on- 10' of cargo space vs. 14' like I'd hoped for, but I can work it for the year and get a bigger truck next summer.  I mean this baby DRIVES- and I can leave it down south until the beginning of August and work on it there until I have a place to put it- and I can leave it there for free...1979 GMC Grumman, originally owned by Eaton's as a delivery truck when I was a wee girl. Aluminum body, 4 cylinder inline, no idea how many klics, but the driving is really secondary.

Business plan and website are still on the workload, and feeling a bit wiped out today, but boy oh boy, am I glad to have an adorable little truck! Photos to follow!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Stone Soup Foodworks- my three minute pitch

Well, I am now in the Self-Employment benefits program, which is an absolutely fantastic program where I get some business training, HAVE to write a business plan, and am surrounded by other interesting entrepreneurs with passion and skills that are pretty fantastic- all while receiving Employment Insurance.  It amounts to a scholarship to start a business, and apparently the benefits to the economy are pretty great- getting us folks who ought to be self-employed off the streets means we really get to start making a living-and hiring people and all of that. 
Yesterday, we gave a little pitch to explain to the others what our business was all about. Since I am going to be getting funding soon, I put a bit of effort into making it convincing... Here's what I wrote, and what I said? Well, it was pretty close. It's a bit advertisy, but you know, I'm SELLING!


I am the chef owner of Stone Soup Foodworks, where we bring the community to the table, and the great food to the community.  I’ve developed my skills in the kitchen as a cook and chef presenter for the Red Apron, and I have been the head chef for the Dharma Center of Canada as well as catering events with seasonal, sustainably produced foods.  Before becoming a cook, I worked as a teacher and environmental technologist and when I became involved in the local foods movement, I saw the way to bring together my lifelong love of cooking with my passion for the environment and skills as an educator- in a business that combines fantastic food with my love of sustainability and my belief in the power of education.

Local and sustainable food is a very hot trend right now- the 2010 Chef’s Survey rated these two aspects of food as the hottest for the year, and the most likely to continue in the coming decade.  Stone Soup Foodworks will capitalize on this trend, creating tasty soups and salads with produce grown by Ottawa farmers.

Sustainable foods are currently more expensive than conventially produced foods as the methods include the costs of caring for the land, the water, and the farm and the farmers.  At the core of Stone Soup’s belief system is that everyone should be able to access good food- so combining quality with affordability is a key part of our strategy.  Since we don’t feel right about asking to pay farmers or our employees less, we save on our infrastructure costs by selling from our mobile kitchen in a converted chip truck.  Ultimately, we will be running on waste fry oil and solar panels, but to start out, it’s the grid and propane.  We will be selling to the well-educated and savvy government employees at one of the many campuses in Ottawa that are devoid of delicious and healthy lunch options.

The fantastic green truck will be selling scrumptious and seasonal soups and salads as well as treats and drinks from other local producers.  We will feature our producers on the website and the blackboard, and in the winter, our energies will turn to catering and educating people about cooking beautifully from scratch, preserving techniques like cellaring and canning, and Ottawa’s food system.  Next summer, we plan on adding a truck to attend festivals and later on developing courses to be taught in schools and workplaces that will help people to restore lost kitchen skills. We believe that food is an integral part of a healthy body, economy, ecology and society. 
Stone Soup Foodworks.  We make slow food.  And serve it fast.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Interviews and Activism

Two major events in the last two days, and I just want to record them before curling up into a little ball and sleeping (after meditating- I am really trying to keep this up!), so it's gonna be a short post.

Yesterday saw my "interview" for the Self- Employment Benefits Program- and I put the interview part in quotations since there was only one interview style question, and it was "Begin."
Stone Soup Foodworks was presented with lots of detail and also lots of holes (like where are you going to be located, for example), samples of Peanut Butter and Yam soup were submitted and finances were discussed.  I have my fingers crossed for it, and I know I have lots of other support, but financial support would be great too.  It's so time!  Today I went to see a mobile kitchen on Bank Street- Donna, the owner, was all ready to open when her location fell through. Argh.


Second major event was the first public meeting of the Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub, attended by over seventy people and a lot of media.  Four of us spoke, and we pretty much rocked it. The movement is forming, the movement is forming.


And to bed.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Here's What's Been Going On, or, April, a Reprise

April, eh?  Looks like more than a month has flown by since I blogged.  So much for the high level of commitment I started with ... And especially since it was such an interesting and active month. The thing was, I was pretty darn busy...

The month started out with a Vipassana retreat at the Dharma Center in Kinmount over Easter weekend.  I designed a fantastic spring menu that included an asparagus and mushroom risotto with a Puy lentil and roasted vegetable salad, this divine Marmelade Cake (oh my, oh my, this cake, this cake, with oranges and almonds and nutty healthy indulgence that I can't stop making, sharing and eating- if you haven't had it yet, you will, you will). There were also some of what are now becoming my Dharma Center standards, the ever popular Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup and a lovely Vegetable Stir Fry.  As usual at the Dharma Center, I got in some beautiful meditation time and a bit of time on the incredible property.  My energy was really low, and I found out later in the month that I have become nearly anemic again, which has also contributed to my blogging delinquency due to exhaustion.

Shifts at the Red Apron picked up again, I got some calls to supply teach, which I couldn't do since I was bumped from the supply list due to not having been called, and I started researching the business a lot, travelling to Peterborough and getting the house ready to be sold.  Excitingly, I went to an information session for the Self Employment Benefits program on April 19th that led to the very intensive creation of a business outline for Stone Soup Foodworks- there's a lot to catch up on here, so I will go into some more of the vision in another post- I will say, though, that spending so much time on the computer writing did not leave me at all interested in writing more on the computer-even in this format, which I am coming to love.  The proposal was twenty five pages long, including six pages of budgeting that required the use of borrowed textbooks...

Instead of blogging, I was doing a bit of the cooking demo life that I do adore.  I was a feature chef at the Ottawa Eco Fair, representing the Red Apron by making my own recipe of scrumptious Roasted Garlic and Heirloom Tomato Soup and giving out over 200 samples, and 200 postcards for the Red Apron.  It was a fantastic day, and I got to hang out with some great people, including Lyssa who I've gotten to know over our work getting hens into Ottawa backyards...

After the Eco Fair (did I mention it was fantastic?  And that I got PAID to do that?) it was back to the proposal, plus a day of soup making  so I could submit some samples.  I did my Magic Mung Bean Soup (no recipe yet) and a very energizing and healthy Jade Green Soup- this one is pureed garlic and asparagus and peas, that would be totally fat free were it not for the addition of cream... Oh, and a Tuscan White Bean Salad that I served in one of the sample packages I'd ordered while writing the proposal.

The proposal in, an interview scheduled to hopefully get me nine months of Employment Insurance Benefits, meant it was time to prepare for another retreat at the Dharma Center.  This one was particularly exciting as the other two legs of the Three Sisters (more on us later), Sweet Rhubarb and Pickled Beets, were attending the retreat and I got to make them food and talk for four hours on the way up and four more on the way back- and a little bit, slightly illicitly, in the middle of the silent retreat. It's hard to be silent with such great people...  And the food I made! My favourite to make was this salad of leaf lettuce, dandelion greens, cooked and cooled asparagus, strawberries, pecans and violets with a balsamic reduction.  The meditation being taught was Tantric, which involves visualization and a lot of focus on colour, so the food suited! 

I also prepared vegetarian brown rice sushi, which was a big hit, along with my favourite vegetable, prepared in my favourite way- spinach with ground sesame, a bit of tamari and a pinch of sugar.  Oh yum.


Along the way, I seem to have become the lead cook at the Dharma Center, which is pretty fantastic. It's sometimes hard to find dog care for sweet little Zip, but my folks were generous enough to take him this time around...

Well, off to finish organizing the paperwork for the house sale (it's going up- but not really due to the economy, rather due to a need for capital and a reduction of focal points in my life).  And do the million other things that need doing... I get to cook tomorrow with this guy- which should be great and a big learning experience... I will blog again sooner rather than later... Thanks for reading- and for encouraging me to write!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Trucks, Permits and Doing Everything at Once

A couple weeks back, JoAnn and I were talking about how, when you get the right idea, you get obsessed.  I sorta thought to myself that I'm not really that kind of person, that kind of person who gets really focused and just does one thing.  You know.  I'm a generalist.

Well, who knew?

I'm obsessed.  I'm getting a truck, making it a kitchen, and selling soup, and all I can think of is truck, spot to park truck (the laws are crazed), menu, sourcing, license, sell my house to finance business, old chip truck or renovate delivery truck, really, sell my house?

So I'm a little spinny, cuz it's all decisions all the time, and the house thing makes sense since:
a) the house is a four hour drive away and requires regular work, which I won't have time to do
b) it would give me some financial breathing room and mean I wouldn't have to borrow for the business
c) if I want to avoid capital gains taxes, I have to sell it by Dec. 2011 anyways
d) My friend Jer and Brad, both of whom are pretty darn smart and into economics, think that we are heading for some kind of serious deflation that will make credit unavailable and lead to a precipitous drop in housing prices, which would mean I had no equity.
e) it's springtime, and houses sell well in the springtime.

But then
a) the house brings in money on a monthly basis, and I can use money coming in on a regular basis
b) I like having a connection to Peterborough. I love Peterborough.
c) even if everything collapses, i can go live in my house. But I guess I could buy another house with the money I make from the house sale.
d) if the economy doesn't collapse, I am still making money from my house and it's value continues to rise slowly the way house values have for a long long time.
e) isn't there enough chaos in my life?

I think I'm leaning towards selling it and buying a delivery truck with the cash, then making a ton of money and buying a little land in Wakefield. Brokeness is getting really old for me.  I should probably number crunch first.

That said, I also got recommended to the Self Employment Benefits Plan today (yay!) which will probably get me a course and extend my EI benefits, plus had a very informative conversation with Brad Campeau, who runs a cookie truck called B. Goods about getting it up and running and making a truck, and making a living being a mobile food vendor.  So I'm back to the idea of wholesaling and delivering, which is good, and will be in addition to the street vending/ festival vending, which will be irregular.  And a space.  I have to find a space- so some phone calls tomorrow, and some sleep tonight, possibly without the sudden awakening with a menu idea or a way of contacting vendors or the jaw clenching realization that I need to write a business plan right NOW and get a cell phone (oh god, but I'll need one) and the desperate question of location, without which all else falls apart... before the apocolypse even hits.

I suppose it's not THAT urgent, but it feels that way. I've gotta make some money.

Maybe the house sale is the best way to go?  You never know about decisions, except in retrospect. And with the root word spect, try to keep it in perspective.  I had a visit with a friend today who's daughter is quite ill, and it really does remind me of what's truly important- and it ain't making money...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Seeding Time

First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone who has commented on my blog so far.  My friend Sarah, who writes a frequently hysterically funny blog about living on sailboat with my dear old friend Ari and their baby Yemaya, just posted about commenting and I realized how little appreciation I've given those of you who have commented- and I sure do appreciate it your interest in my crazy little life!

So, the heart of the matter- or perhaps the germ? 

Every year, most towns and cities host "Seedy Saturdays" where locals can buy and exchange seeds, find out about local initiatives, and emerge from winter hibernation.  It's a pretty great start to the season, and for me, it's also a reminder that it's time to get my little container garden planned and started, sign up for my Community Shared Agriculture, and prod someone (well, Leela) to organize a community garden meeting. 

This year, I missed Ottawa's since I was at the conference, and I also missed a talk at the conference about seeds from my former teacher and now friend Andrew McCann. I was a bit bummed about both, but thought I could catch up with Andrew another time, and I really wanted to learn about the Ontario Abbatoir situation, so I did.  Darn.  I'm sprawling like a pumpkin vine in the fall...

The germ of the matter is seeds.  I DID get to Kingston's Seedy Saturday this weekend, en route to visit my friend Shawn on his birthday, and after picking up some great heirloom seeds (I'll get pics up soon, I really will) from the Sisters of Providence Seed Sanctuary where my friend Cate is the main seed saver, I finally got to hear Andrew talk (and you finally see me get to the point!)- and it was worth the wait. 

He spoke really fast, for less than an hour, and packed the time with a history of our seed system (which has been pretty much privatized and working on developing seeds for industrial agriculture since the1930s), some of the research in genetic modification of seeds currently underway, some of the attempts to protect seeds and a vision of what he sees as a healthy and sustainable local seed system.  Now, a local and sustainable food system is something that has gotten a lot of thought in the last few years. I mean, people are familiar with the benefits of locally produced foods, especially when we find out more about nastiness like the salmonella in the untraceable and omnipresent hydrolyzed vegetable protein from California, but why a local seed system?

Well, as agricultural activist Vandana Shiva says, if you control the seed, you control the food.  And guess who  controls the majority of the world's seed?  If you guessed a large corporation that starts with an M and ends with an O, you're right!  And do you think it's good for their bottom line if people just plant their fields year after year with seeds that they grow themselves?  Since life is pretty amazing at just reproducing itself?  For free?  Since the hybridization of Pioneer corn in the 1930s there has been a huge industry in producing seeds for sale- seeds that can lead to higher yields of food per acre- and this has led to larger crops for quite a while.

Well it is, but you can't replant those hybrid seeds.  And now, genetic modification has allowed for the development of seeds that are tolerant of certain herbicides (specifically Roundup, produced by that same M...O corporation), and there has been a great deal of work on terminator technology- so that seeds produced by these plants are sterile, not just less productive in the second generation the way their hybrid forefathers are.  It seems to be like a breakdown of the very processes of life itself.   The UN has banned the use of terminator technology, but there is still a drive to protect the intellectual property of the seed researchers. 

Phew.  And I'm getting a sense of the size and intensity and complication of this topic.  No wonder Andrew talked so fast.

So pretty much, we have a system with nearly NOTHING new being bred in the last eighty years that is not for corporate profit. So this means:
a) no large scale organic seed breeding programs to develop higher yields in organic regimens
b) no regionally based seed developments in the last eighty years that increase agro biodiversity
c) a massive loss of earlier agricultural genetic diversity, which projects like the seed sanctuary and the Svalbard Seed Vault (two big ovaries into the permafrost) try to address
d) and the knowledge of breeding and genetics being concentrated in the for profit sector.
e) Holy crap.

So Andrew proposed some pretty interesting things.  Breeding clubs for example.  Seed farms in regional food sheds.  Linking the food system to the seed system in areas.  Having seed sanctuaries throughout.  Open source genetic information. Which blows my mind a little bit.

So this year, I ain't planting any hardware store seeds.  And I know my CSA (or maybe CSAs) is/are being careful too.  And I sort of feel like not taking a job job is keeping my own self a little more regionally grown.

Thanks for reading.