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A Disconcerting Walk in the Woods

Life continues to rush along at breakneck speed.  Last week I finally finished one of my three part-time jobs and am now down to working (i.e. doing some task for others in exchange for money) just two days a week.  They will be fairly long days, but at least I will now have the rest of the week to get on top of all the other things going on in my life.  In August and September I worked nearly full-time, which really made it challenging to find time (and energy) to put food by for winter, let alone work on the dissertation!  I have managed to do some and spent much of this first weekend off in ages transcribing interviews, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and exercising the dogs in an attempt to catch up.

Of course there’s no catching up with some things.  I only managed to put up 7 liters of peaches for the winter, and peaches are now done for another year.  This is not nearly enough and I will suffer the consequences come January when I am on strict fruit rations.  I do have a lot of pears that I hope to have the energy to can today (they are starting to spoil and today is probably the last day they’ll be ok for canning), which will hopefully compensate.  But I will miss those peaches.

I also found a few new places to run the dogs, which has been delightful.  There are a couple of really lovely conservation areas nearby, one about 10 minutes away, the other, 20 minutes.  The one closest to me was host to an interesting program in which highschool kids lead grade 4 children around and teach them about nature.  They were running this program all last week, so I was happy to find another conservation area where I could let the dogs run around and not scare, or be swarmed by, dozens of kids.

I think this field trip for the kids is a terrific idea but was dismayed to discover just how much ecological damage they did in the process when I returned to my old haunts this weekend.  I have to write the conservation area, and the school district, and suggest ways they can improve for next year.  For example, I cannot understand why they opened the gates to the conservation area and drove bus load after bus load of kids to the back of the marsh.  It’s perhaps a 1km walk, but are children so feeble these days that they cannot  walk for 10 minutes?  The result is that the once grassy lane is now hard packed mud road covered in deep puddles (the earth is so compacted that the water takes ages to absorb).  At points it has been significantly widened, with deep tire grooves on the side, where two vehicles obviously passed each other.  Were they in so much of a rush coming and going that this was necessary?

At various points around the marsh, whole regions of the bank were flattened where kids were encouraged to go down to the water to collect samples.  Could they not go in single file?  And then there is the large field designated “Wild Turkey Restoration Habitat” that was razed to the ground in order to put up a giant tent under which the kids could stay dry while eating their lunches.

I find the message this kind of experience sends to be quite disconcerting: Nature is here for our entertainment.  It is ok to trample wild flowers, four by four around in heavy vehicles, cut down any inconvenient vegetation, compact the earth and otherwise convert the environment to make it more convenient.  Wait a minute – that’s exactly how we see nature!  So what’s the point of such a program?  To reinforce this thinking?  I am sure that was not the spirit in which it was undertaken, but this is exactly the message it sent.  Those of us who enjoy this conservation area on a regular basis will be constantly reminded of the week these kids spent there for at least the next 8 months, until the grasses grow back in in late spring.  Especially the walk in, which now requires rubber boots and leaves dogs filthy by the time you get back to your car.

I am currently reading Carol Merchant‘s “The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution” – a fascinating read about how our view of nature has changed since the 1600’s (read this for a brief summary).  How we’ve gone from seeing nature as an organic whole, of which we are part, to seeing it as a machine, separate for us and for our domination.  Of course the idea of dominating nature dates back much earlier, to the Romans and early Monotheistic religions, but it became widespread and entrenched with the Industrial Revolution, which requires this ideology.  Today this mindset is so deeply entrenched that most of us don’t even see it; we don’t recognize it in ourselves, let alone in the teachings we provide for the next generations.  It is this ideology that must change or we will never make progress towards living more sustainable.

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4 Responses

  1. Here is a tasty recipie for canning pears…It uses lemons for acidity and flavour. If you are 100% local perhaps sub lemon verbena and vinigar.? Good luck and happy canning.

    Pears in Light Syrup

    Use ripe fruit of ideal quality for eating fresh. A bushel weighs 50 lb (22.6 kg) and yields 16 to 25 L – an average of 2 1/2 lb (1.1kg) per L. An average of 17 1/2 lb (7.9 kg) is needed for 7 L or 11 lb (5 kg) for nine 500 ml jars.
    Instructions
    • Place required number of clean mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat water to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside; heat SNAP Lids in hot water, NOT boiling (180°F/82°C). Keep jars and SNAP Lids hot until ready to use.
    • Prepare syrup in canner batch quantities—approximately 5 cups (1250 ml) for 7-500 ml jars; 10 1/2 cups (2550 ml) for seven 1 L jars; 9 cups (2250 ml) for four 1.5 L jars. Very Light Syrup–in a stainless steel saucepan, combine 1/2 cup (125 ml) granulated sugar with each 5 cups (1250 ml) water. Bring to a boil; cover and keep warm.
    • Wash, peel, halve and core pears. To prevent browning, place halves in a colour protection solution made of 4 tbsp (60 ml) Fruit-Fresh® dissolved in 8 cups (2000ml) water. (we use 1 tsp. abscorbic acid/2 c. water..RA)
    • Drain fruit and add to hot syrup; return mixture to a boil.
    • Pack hot pear halves, cut-side-down, in overlapping layers into a hot jar to within 3/4 inch (2 cm) of top rim. (We slip 2 slices/qt or 1slice/pt of lemon down side of each jar..RA). Add hot syrup to cover pears to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top rim (headspace). Using nonmetallic utensil (I use a knife to jiggle out any bubbles trapped in the fruit… RA), remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Centre SNAP Lid on jar; apply screw band securely & firmly until resistance is met –fingertip tight. Do not overtighten. Place jar in canner; repeat for remaining pears and hot syrup.
    • Cover canner; bring water to a boil. At altitudes up to 1,000 ft (305 m):

    Process–boil filled jars

    Jar size Time

    500 ml 20 minutes
    1 L 25 minutes

    1.5 L 30 minutes

    • When processing time is complete, turn heat off and remove canner lid. When boil subsides – bubbles no longer rise to surface (3 to 5 minutes) – remove jars without tilting. Cool jars upright, undisturbed 24 hours. DO NOT RETIGHTEN screw bands.
    • After cooling, check jar seals. Sealed lids curve downward and do not move when pressed. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place.

    Note: Hot packing pears is recommended. Raw pack pears yield a poor quality product. Pears may be packed in very light, light or medium syrup or in unsweetened apple or white grape juice or water. Packing pears in a Very Light Syrup approximates the natural sugar level in most fruits and adds few calories. This small quantity of sugar also helps canned pears retain their natural colour and texture. The natural cell structure of pears traps lots of air so hot packing yields the best results. Heating the fruit prior to packing exhausts some of this air from the cell structure creating a denser product which retains a brighter, more natural colour and pleasing texture. Hot packed fruit also shrinks less during heat processing and thus is less likely to float in the jar.

    • Hi Rob – thanks so much for this!! If you read my latest post you’ll discover that I let my poor pears spoil and so have not canned any. I’m hoping to find some more in Niagara this weekend as they’re pretty much done around here. I will definitely follow your recipe if I do. Thanks again!

  2. Being stuck in the city, I walk my husky (click on the website link to see her) in Toronto’s Ross Lord Dam Park. There are some nice forested trails and if you ignore the constant hum of traffic in the background, it’s a little like being in a rural area. But the human visitors just trash the place. Garbage is left everywhere. Groups come and picnic and then leave their plastic, paper, uneaten food, etc. wherever they happen to be. The forest floor is covered with industrial junk, mostly ugly discarded fast-food containers, It’s very sad. And of course the dammed up lake is polluted with the waste from neighbouring manufacturing plants upstream , so no swimming or fishing. Too bad the geese and ducks can’t read the warning signs.

    • The complete disregard that so many show to our Mother Earth never ceases to amaze me. Where do these people think this garbage goes? Why don’t they care? This is the question that really bothers me. How is it that people can treat their environment with such disregard. It is a very worrisome phenomenon and one I simply cannot relate to. Yet it is very prevalent. Why?

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