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Struggles to Travel “More Sustainably”

As you can guess by the lack of blog entries, life has not slowed down.  In fact, it has amazingly sped up.  Here it is the 15th and I’ve spent exactly one night in my own house during the month of May.  For the first few days I was farm sitting for a friend, then down to my parents’ house to help my mother get organized and off on a trip to France.  Then home for one day to attend a conference in London.  The next morning I packed up and moved out to another farm to sit there until yesterday.  I then drove to my house to unpack and repack my car with what I need for the next leg of my travels, and two hours later was on the road down to Niagara.

I am spending a few days again at my parents’ house.  Today is my father’s 70th birthday – Happy Birthday!!! – and we are going to spend it doing whatever he wants.  Likely a nice long hike with the dogs, and general relaxing around the house.  I brought home a leg of lamb from my fall lamb (the last of it) and am going to roast it for dinner.  This means finding a recipe and learning how to cook such a thing!  It will be my first time cooking leg of lamb.  I also started some sourdough bubbling away.  The full recipe won’t be ready until Monday but I’ll take a short cut on some of it and make sure we have fresh bread for tonight.  And I’ll have to bake a cake of some sort.  I’m not sure what kind yet, but I’ll be sorting out all the details momentarily.

From here I leave to go to Quebec for two weeks.  First I am attending a sheepdog clinic, which I am really excited about.  I have decided to leave Ross here with my family as he really doesn’t like to travel, and he doesn’t work sheep.  The girls will come with me as they each have a date with Kevin Evans (2008 international supreme sheepdog champion from Wales).  I went to his clinic last year and it was fantastic.  I can’t wait.

I am a bit worried about the weather and packing for this trip has been quite a challenge!  I will be camping there for 6 days and 5 nights.  I will have access to hot showers, but otherwise will be outside the entire time.  Last weekend it snowed!  I have good camp gear but it’s not meant for winter camping.  This weekend it’s hot and sunny.  Who knows what it will do next weekend.  I’ve had to pack clothes that will keep me warm from below freezing to bathing suit weather!  And get it all into a carry-on size piece of luggage as my car simply has very little room once the dog crates and dog stuff are packed in.

I have had to do some shopping to prepare for this trip.  I so far managed to buy all but two items second hand.  On Kijiji, I found a used soft-shell, collapsable dog crate big enough for all three dogs to fit in comfortable.  Normally a $200 item, I got it for $60.  It just barely fits in my car, but as it is light weight I’ll be able to carry it from the camp site to where we will be training (a 10 minute walk).  I also bought a couple of polar fleeces at a local second hand store ($5 each), and I found a cast iron frying pan ($4) and a Coleman thermos for water ($2).  Oh, and a t-shirt and pair of hiking pants for ($6 for both).  So all in all, I have kept well in budget for these items!

The two things that I bought new are a rain coat and rubber boots.  It is really important to stay dry in such weather, and things like a dry tent and a dry coat & boots are paramount.  If you get wet, you get cold, and if you are cold you are miserable.  I’ve done a lot of back country hiking and travel in the past and getting cold and wet is very dangerous under those circumstances.  I’m just car camping this time, but still I want to make sure I stay comfortable and am able to enjoy this as much as possible.

The rubber boots I bought at TSC, and are made in Canada.  No idea where the rubber came from.  My last pair gave up the ghost with all the rain this last week (as did my rain coat) so I really had no choice.  The coat was a very expensive item.  It is a mid-thigh length trench coat from Patagonia.  It cost $250.  This is well beyond my budget, and I really struggled with what to do. I had searched for weeks for a used raincoat, checking every second hand store I could find.  When I failed to find the technical gear that I needed, I looked into new options.  If you click here, you can read what Patagonia is doing to try and be socially and environmentally responsible.  If you check here, you can browse the environmental footprint of the coat I bought.

This company appears to be really trying to make change, and not just greenwashing its products.  I like that they admit there is a lot more that needs to be done, and that they list both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ about the product I bought.  It’s far from perfect, and nowhere near a sustainable coat.  But by buying it, I believe I am supporting a company that is making significant effort towards social and environmental sustainability.  To stay economically sustainable, this means higher prices.  I’m ok with that, as long as it’s the real deal.  I can’t know for sure, but I did talk to quite a few people and do some on-line research, and decided I’d trust in this purchase.

Whew!  What an ordeal just to buy a coat!

I struggled about the water cooler purchase as well.  What I really wanted was this stainless steel portable water container.  But besides being sold out, I simply could not come up with $200 for a water jug at this point in time.  This is in fact a big deal to me because when traveling with dogs I need to have a lot of water .  I used to buy a big plastic jug of water and refill it all summer long, but I don’t want to even purchase one of those this year.  After much searching through thrift shops for some sort of alternative, I found a small coleman cooler that will hold probably 2-3 liters.  Not quite big enough, and still made of plastic, but at least it’s second-hand plastic.  And since I’ll only put cold water in it, hopefully we won’t end up with too much toxic waste in our drinks.

My last dilemma is tarps. I have one that I purchased years ago, but it is photo-degrading and now has some holes in it.  It is still useful and I brought it along, but I need at least another.  Tarps are important shelter for both rain and sun, again especially with dogs.  I have to keep the dogs contained and since that often prevents them from going off and finding a cool spot, I must provide them with one in their containment area.  So what to do about tarps?  I can buy another plastic one at Canadian Tire for a few dollars, but… well, it’s plastic!  The alternatives I’ve found are nylon.  That’s not any better (here’s just a brief  summary of why).  So what to do?  I can buy a canvas tarp, but can’t find one locally.  I don’t have time to have one shipped.  Hopefully I can borrow a plastic one for this trip, and order a canvas one for next time.

Well I had best get down to my day.  My father just woke up from his birthday morning sleep-in and I need to get breakfast rolling.  The afternoon will be spent trying out my camping gear, cleaning the car, and doing some gardening. Oh, the garden!  But that’s a whole other post…


One Response

  1. I can’t believe your dad is 70! Say happy b-day for me and the girls. And you can borrow our tarps (not sure if they are plastic or nylon) when you drop by. Hope we can chat soon. Love to you and the kids.

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