A few days ago (March 1), I ventured into new ground for me, though not for my family. A year or so ago, my husband started making chicken bone broth, which was lovely. And then, somewhere along the line, he shifted what he was cooking and the bone broth stopped being made. But we still roasted chickens. As a former vegetarian, it’s important to me that we honour the death of an animal that gives us life by using as much of it as we can. So, I wanted to revive this tradition.
Bone broth also has excellent nutritional value. An article on the online info site Healthline (McDonell, 2020) entitled ‘Bone Broth: How to Make It and 6 Reasons Why You Should’ notes that 1. it contains many minerals, vitamins and amino acids, 2. these nutrients can improve joint health, 3. bone broth may be beneficial to the digestive system, 4. it may also be anti-inflammatory, 5. it can help with weight-loss and 6. it can improve your sleep and help your brain do it’s stuff! Not bad! And, perhaps, why I always felt great after eating my husband’s soup.
Digging a bit deeper into this, Sarah Ballantyne (2017) discusses the importance of two amino acids in bone broth, glycine and proline, both of which tend to be underrepresented in our diets. Both of these are found in connective tissue and play essential roles in healing. While they are non-essential (meaning we can produce them ourselves), having them readily available is more efficient (Ballantyne 2017, p. 179).
Glycine is required for DNA and RNA synthesis, hence bone broth’s importance in healing, especially the gut. It also converts into serine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory and alertness as well as good moods (Ballantyne, 2017, p. 179). This is presumably part and parcel of why glycine can improve sleep quality (Yumadera et al., 2007 in McDonnell 2020).
Proline also is important for wound healing and a healthy immune system but also helps to regulate cellular metabolism, gene expression and protein synthesis. Both glycine and proline are essential components of collagen supporting bone, gut and cardiovascular health (Ballantyne 2017, p. 179). While talking about vitamin C’s role in the production of collagen, Aileen Burford-Mason underlines the importance of collagen to maintain the body through ‘daily wear and tear’, noting connective tissue disorders such as osteoporsis, heart murmurs, hernias and rotator cuff injuries (2017, p. 73).
McDonnell (2020) further includes the amino acid arginine in her discussion noting that it is important for reducing chronic inflammation, making bone broth potentially helpful for fighting diseases associated with inflammation such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Soups generally are associated with regulating a healthy weight (McDonnel 2020). An interesting note about smooth vs chunky soups comes from one of the article McDonnel (2020) cites where smooth soups were observed to induce ‘greater fullness’ than chunky soups because of both “feelings of gastric distension and rapid accessibility of nutrients causing a greater glycaemic response” (Clegg et al, 2013). Good to know! When given the choice, I’ll definitely be pureeing my soups.
To make the bone broth, I followed my husband’s recipe, which was ultra simple. One onion, 1/4 c. of apple cider vinegar and chopped organic chicken bones. They all went into a slow cooker to cook there for a couple of days.
Two days later…. I strained the bone broth and stuck it in a covered bowl in the fridge, ready to make soup!!
Ballantyne, Sarah. (2017). Paleo-Principles. Victory Belt Publishing.
Burford-Mason, Aileen. (2017). The healthy brain: Optimize brain power at any age. Harper Collins.
Clegg, M. E., Ranawana, V., Shafat, A. & Henry, C.J. (2013). Soups increase satiety through delayed gastric emptying yet increase glycaemic response. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition67 (1), 8-11. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2012.152
Yumadera, W., Inagawa, K., Chiba, S., Bannai, M., Takahashi, M. & Nakayma, K. (2007). Glycine ingestion improves subjective sleep quality in human volunteers, correlating with polysomnographic changes. Sleep and Biological Rhythms 5, 126-131. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-8425.2007.00262.x
This is one of my favourite soups from one of my favourite recipe books: Rebar. It is a deep rich soup made traditionally with yams and peanuts, but as my son has a peanut allergy we substituted peanut free almond butter (Barney Butter). It is spiced with cumin and corriander combined with lime and pineapple making for a delicious vegetarian soup.
I made it a few weeks ago, just after my Dad went into hospital. While ostensibly for him, this soup would have been too spicy and was just perfect to see me through the week. I ate some of it, gave some it away to a friend and froze the rest. Cost-wise, we figure the whole batch cost approximately $12 and made 8 servings, coming in at $1.75/serving, half of the price of Amy’s soups (currently ranging from $3-$4, depending on the store). I packed it in reused plastic containers that are a good serving size, so no extra waste. A most delicious soup!
While I used chicken stock from the cupboard, the next soup will have bone stock, started today! What a wonderful feeling to be back in the kitchen, making stuff I really enjoy. While I think there is a balance to be had between convenience in this busy world (my Dad is, after all, in the hospital and life has been even more hectic -hence this late post), I have always found cooking to be a time to slow down, to take the time to really enjoy the senses. It is a practice of mindfulness, where you can truly focus on the here and now and the relationship between the flavours and textures that you are working with. Here, the lime is a beautiful addition. Lime deepens flavours and really brings them out. I remember when I added lime and mint to strawberry jam. Devine! The strawberry flavour was intense! Here, the lime balances and delivers the combination of spices, pineapple and ginger to the taste buds. Lovely!
So very fulfilling to be carrying on the thoughts from last term’s consumption blog. Putting learning and reflection into practice.
Alsterberg, Audrey & Urbanowicz, Wanda. (2001). Rebar: modern food cookbook. Big Ideas Publishing Inc.
One of the first things I noticed about Glen Caradus was that he was always bringing really fabulous teaching materials to the Camp Kawartha Environment Centre. There was the treasure hunt he had made, with reference to stands of birch and cedar in Anishinaabemowin. There was the terrain map of Peterborough where you could place animals where you had seen them. And then, one day, he came into the Environment Centre and unrolled three huge map segments. It was a fully interactive, hands on, foots on, map game that he had created from his experiences with Adventures in Understanding (a canoe trip that he helps coordinate that connects youth from First Nations and other communities/nationalities as they paddle from Peterborough up to Curve Lake). I was literally blown away by this map! It is interactive, embodied and playful: an astounding educational game.
We hear a lot about creativity and innovation in teaching. These are linked to entrepreneurship, often seen as a key component of education in world that desperately needs new ways of relationship to the planet (Kelley & Kelley, 2013; Kelly, 2016; O’Brien, 2016; Robinson, 2020; Robinson & Aronica 2015; Zhao, Y., 2012). Glen embodies all this: he is a creative educational entrepreneur with a passion for kids and the planet. Many know him as one of the Paddling Puppeteers: a daring duo who paddle the Kawarthas telling and singing stories about our relationship to this land. I know him best for his work in outdoor education and for his deep connection with the land and it’s peoples, human and other-than-human.
I asked him to chat with me about his experiences and his journey to where is now, teaching outdoors at Rowan Tree, a Waldorf inspired nature school in Peterborough, Ontario. In these COVID-times, during lockdown, we eschewed the usual fireside meeting we might have had and met over ZOOM. We began with a land acknowledgement which I invited him to do. Glen gracefully spoke about both of us being at Nogojiwanong, “the place at the end of the rapids” on the traditional lands of the Michi Saagig Anishinaabeg, with whom we are in relationship with specifically through Treaty 20 of 1818 and the Williams Treaties of 1923 (personal communication, January 23, 2021).
What inspired this guy to combine puppets and canoes and sing about our planet and especially this region of the Kawarthas? It turns out a strong supportive family with roots in education, music and gardening coupled with a transformative moment in his own education at Trent when he took Native Studies 101 as an elective. Three weeks later he changed his major: “everything about it intrigued me, moved me, outraged me. It was such a gamechanger” (Glen Caradus personal communication, January 23, 2021). What a poignant example of how pivotal education can be in our lives! Glen also speaks about the importance of ‘fertile ground’ within community for growth and development, echoing Sir Ken Robinson’s voice talking about the similarities between good soil, education, and community (Robinson, 2020, Timestamp 7:00-10:34).
I was excited to talk about his adventures with the Paddling Puppeteers. I don’t just have a passing interest in this: puppets have transformed my teaching with my son, enabling our homeschooling experience to be peopled by many classmates, all local animals (plus a dragon, of course), who have aided my son’s education by having, and overcoming, with his help, their own educational challenges.
Glen recalls that the Paddling Puppeteers started in a local coffee house, as so many creative ventures do, with his friend and colleague Adam Brown. Both of them had experience with puppets working through the Canadian Mental Health Association “promoting wellness and mental health awareness for children in a really sort of fun and creative way” (Glen Caradus personal communication, January 23, 2021). What came of that coffee was genius. “We thought: ‘Wouldn’t be fun to do our own puppet show, but with, you know, history and the environment as a theme?’” (Glen Caradus personal communication, January 23, 2021). Glen was deeply inspired by Pete Seeger’s grassroots activism “promoting the cleanup and the caring” (personal communication, January 23, 2021) of the Hudson River in his retrofitted boat, the Clearwater (The Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Inc., 2021). Glen recalls his excitement: “Let’s replicate that. Let’s do that in a canoe!” (personal communication, January 23, 2021). He goes on: “Our lofty goal was to clean up the Otonabee River through our puppet show. To raise awareness about it’s beauty and to draw people to the river. The show really was, you know, all about the water and the shoreline. The river still needs some love, bit we feel like we made a contribution” (Glen Caradus personal communication, January 23, 2021).
The winter of 1998-99 was a time of passion and puppets, with scripts being written in time for a summer launch – in a birch bark canoe – through the waters of the Kawarthas. But it was also a time of community. Glen and Adam put up posters saying “Come help us”. They were overwhelmed by the response. Their first puppets were “low budget – in the best sense of the word” (Glen Caradus personal communication, January 23, 2021). And they were made by friends and community. Glen brings up the Bread and Puppet Theater, founded in 1963 by Peter Schumann: “his whole thing is no budget. You don’t need a budget. You need people, ideas, cardboard, tape. And you can do incredible things” (Glen Caradus personal communication, January 23, 2021). Since that time, the puppets have expanded in scope are are now made, in part, by a puppeteer in Toronto. But, I take the original point: creativity doesn’t have to be expensive! And, indeed, when we are talking about sustainability (a key message of the Paddling Puppeteers), this is an important consideration: what can we use that we already have?
I asked him how a puppet, coming to life in his hand, brings connection to kids and enhance their learning. Glen muses: “It’s transformative in the moment for me. It makes me happy. And, you know, it sustains me. And it’s obviously such a great medium, suspended disbelief” (personal communication, January 23, 2021). He talks about a play he did with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Feelings are Important, where they were able to discuss some pretty deep issues. Glen notes: “Putting a puppet on your hand and creating characters or voices. Yeah, it seems to pull kids in for the most part” (personal communication, January 23, 2021).
The tapestries behind him, where he is sitting in his Rowan Tree classroom, are from his puppet shows. There is an interactive time at the end of one of the shows when the kids get to restore the shoreline and attach them to the stage. “It’s the idea that they become the stewards. The idea we can all play a role” (Glen Caradus personal communication, January 23, 2021). This is key: enabling kids to be agents of change.
But the Paddling Puppeteers isn’t the only thing that Glen is involved with! As I noted in the beginning, I got to know him at the Environment Centre, where he works to connect kids with nature. As with his puppetry adventures along the waterways, he roots much of these teachings in connecting kids with Indigenous wisdom and developing community ties between cultures. What he has to say about this is deeply moving.
“I’ve also incorporated Indigenous knowledge. You know, the expression “Nothing about us without us” is a useful one. That comes from an elder. So, I’ve tried to really work on partnerships. So, anything that I’m presenting the elders have give me some input and permission. That’s really important. And I’m just amazed at the generosity of the elders. That’s been a really nice journey … As a non-Indigenous person, it’s a process of reflection, constantly… The beauty of the culture is what really drives me but also the profound connection to land through the language and culture of the Michi Saagig Anishinaabeg is really remarkable and I feel like it’s important on so many levels, that window into Mino Bimaaddiziwin – you know, living the good life – which is acknowledging yourself, your family and all your relations living in the natural world around you. It’s an amazing teaching.”
(Glen Caradus personal communication, January 23, 2021)
His deep passion for this work profoundly impacts this region. One of the ideas about creativity is that it’s not just enough to have the ideas – that brilliant flash of insight – you actually have to put it into action, have to birth it into the world (Robinson & Aronica, 2009, p. 67; O’Brien, 2016, p. 4). Kelley & Kelley call this “creative confidence” (2013, pp. 10-11). Glen exudes this creative confidence in his entrepreneurial endeavours which all focus on building community and connection with the world. I am recalling that large map game he often brings to the Environment Centre. But this map game wasn’t the beginning of the story. That story starts with another canoe trip.
In 2014, Glen “jumped at the chance” to be the on-water coordinator for the annual Adventure in Understanding, a five night canoe trip for First Nation and non-native youth from Nogojiwanong (Peterborough) up to Ashigamog (Curve Lake). This program was developed and supported by the Rotary Club of Peterborough, Curve Lake First Nation Youth Committee, Camp Kawartha and the Canadian Canoe Museum. During this 100 kilometre canoe trip, youth canoe together and connect through games and meetings with elders at the various stops along the way. “It’s really a piece on reconciliation”, Glen notes (personal communication, January 23, 2021).
This inspired him to create “giant map game of the route” to be used for outreach throughout the region. This has been a partnership between Curve Lake Cultural Centre and Camp Kawartha. Interestingly, he has had little uptake from the school board. This prompted him to work with local film-maker Rodney Fuentes to produce a documentary to promote this interactive embodied learning experience that truly situates the kids within the social and natural landscape. How it works is that you roll your dice, and move a birch bark canoe along the route, answering questions about peoples and the land along the river. Of course, all canoe trips are an adventure, so there’s an element of chance: mosquitoes might just drive you crazy and you end up back at a previous campsite or position along the river! Or you might make better time with a tail wind at your back!
Glen speaks a little about “the fine line between appropriation and appreciation” of Indigenous practices and understandings (personal communication, January 23, 2021). He encourages teachers to work with the Indigenous consultants attached to their boards, acknowledging the nervousness many non-Indigenous people feel when trying to incorporate cross-cultural knowledge within their classes. Glen points out how outdoor education has a natural role here, reaching a lot of kids through centres such as Camp Kawartha. Of course, some of the most poignant moments for educators is when the students become the teachers. Glen recalls a Anishinaabe youth at one of the camps at the Environment Centre last summer who led a tobacco ceremony and harvested cedar: “It was really something else. This kid’s 9 years old and what an impression he made on the other kids” (Glen Caradus personal communication, January 23, 2021)
Glen, himself, is researching his own cultural (Scottish) traditions on the land and working to incorporate that into his current teaching at Rowan Tree: “I think if we all go back in our culture we realize that we have some similar traditions” (personal communication, January 23, 2021). He tells the story of the red stark who brought fire from the land of Tir-Na-Nog, noting the parallels between this and the stories of Coyote from Indigenous tradition. Glen further recalls two Rwandan boys who, two weeks after having arrived in Canada from a refugee camp, were in a canoe on the Adventure in Understanding trip: “They were quite amazed at how similar Anishnaabe traditions were to theirs” (personal communication, January 23, 2021). I think this underlines the importance of stories to human connection, both to each other and to the land. As Caduto & Bruchae note: “Stories form a link between our imagination and our surroundings. They are a way of reaching deep into a child’s inner world, to the places where dreams and fantasies are constantly sculpting an every-growing world view” (1994, p.11)
Glen’s most recent foray into storytelling, creativity and education has been at Rowan Tree, a Waldorf inspired forest school. “Waldorf is a lovely approach to education with a real emphasis on nature, creativity and gratitude,” Glen notes (personal communication, January 23, 2021). He mentored his class in producing a Solstice Play: “the kids wrote the script, which, you know, brought in literacy, and then they designed the set and made masks. It was a story of a giant snowball hitting the sun and breaking it into pieces and then the animals have to go out and find the pieces of the sun because they were unhappy with the dark and the cold. So they went on this quest and each of them found a piece of the sun and put it back together … It was such a great process of them learning cooperation because how do you take all these different ideas and facilitate that and come up with a script” (Glen Caradus personal communication, January 23, 2021). An important lesson here was also finding the balance between ambitious and simplicity: “You know ambitious is good,” Glen notes, but he had to remind the kids to keep it simple (personal communication, January 23, 2021). Though in my mind, directing fourteen “rambunctious” kids into creating a play has a lot of ambition and is far from simple!
But here, Glen is embodying the type of teaching Fullan (2014) and others are calling for: a teacher that focuses on “the learning process, developing students’ ability to lead their own learning, and to do things with their learning. Teachers are partners with students in deep learning tasks characterized by exploration, connectedness and broader, real-world purposes” (2014, p. 7). Furthermore, he is actively embracing play. Deborah McNamara, clinical counsellor and educator at the Neufeld Institute, calls play “the birthplace of personhood”. She states that “there is no greater task in raising young children today than creating the conditions that will protect the space ad time for play” (McNamara, 2016, p. 55). I think Glen brings so much to his students because his teachings always incorporate play and because he doesn’t teach his students, he provides opportunities for learning.
One of the pieces that came up at the end of our conversation was the importance of working through challenges: building resilience. I asked if there was anything he wanted to share, either about personal development or teaching practice. Glen reflects: “On some level it’s daily isn’t it? Situations one-on-one with a child that’s upset or a child that’s, you know, has overcome something and is really pleased”. Then he brings up the Adventure to Understanding: “100 kilometres – it’s modest in some ways. Now, there are two days that aren’t modest – the kids are paddling all day long – but, you know … when we arrive at Curve Lake and you see those kids .. they’re proud” (Glen Caradus personal communication, January 23, 2021). He talks about a time when two kids didn’t want to be on the trip and didn’t want to paddle. They worked through this difficulty with some help from their peers – the canoe floated in the middle of the lake for awhile. However, when they arrived at the shores of Curve Lake, their excitement and pride was enormous, having worked through the challenges that come with cooperating in a canoe!
Glen further recalls his own experiences with his friend James Raffin who was involved with Connected by Canoe, a two-part journey from Kingston to Ottawa that took place in May of 2017. It was about reconciliation, about connection and about community, much the same way Adventure to Understanding is. Glen termed it “a floating conversation about Canada”. The weather wasn’t the best (to put it lightly!) and Glen recalls James Raffin’s quip that “Miserable is memorable. Fair is forgetful” (personal communication, January 23, 2021) with the lesson being that challenges are where we grow. I think even had the weather been fair, that canoe trip would have been memorable! But I also know that I don’t tell as many stories about the times when my canoe trips have been lovely. Instead, I talk about the time in Temagami when the waves filled the canoe with water and we lost our map and our compass! So, point taken!
I end my conversation with Glen, regretfully, but with the knowledge that this is just one piece of a larger, on-going conversation. As I write this, I feel grateful for the time Glen took to speak with me about his own experiences. They have not only enriched my understanding of Glen’s amazing contributions to our community and our children, but also of my own pedagogy and place in the larger web of educating in this marvellous community where canoes and puppets and music are all a part of teaching not only our youth, but ourselves in how to belong to this world. Thanks Glen!
Adventure in Understanding. (n.d.) Adventure in Understanding. Adventure in Understanding. https://pkaiu.com.
This blog started out as a place to express the thoughts, experiences and teachings from the courses I am enrolled in through the Masters of Education in Sustainability, Creativity and Innovation from the University of Cape Breton. One of the key works of my course in Sustainability was a sustainability journal (see previous posts in this blog). There were two things that jumped out at me: the first was the amount of money and resources we spend on my Dad’s daily soup consumption. My Dad lives with us and has had a few strokes so his swallowing isn’t the best. Soups are an excellent way to go to provide nutrition and joy of eating. However, I don’t make the soups. I buy them. Good quality ones (Amy’s) as I felt guilty about not doing things in-house. Thus, not only were we consuming a lot of cans, it was costing us quite a bit of dosh!
The second was the amount of money spent and single-use-plastics tossed in the recycle bin to support our daily salad needs. We eat a fair amount of baby spinach, which can be put in salads and omelets. A number of years ago, as part of the EcoParent team, I reviewed a book on growing your own greens. I tried this out! For the book review. And then didn’t really continue it. Again, that commitment to sustainable daily practices. Slow Food, indeed!
These were two areas I thought I should change!
Enter my next course in ‘Education for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship’ where we’re asked to something creative with food that challenges us, brings us out of our comfort zone. I enjoy cooking, so the actual act of cooking, is not that challenging. What is challenging for me, currently, is time commitment to make the food choices I want. As I’ve said previously, my husband makes our own yoghurt. And he used to make our own soup (from our own bone broth!), so I’m not the only one in our household that needs to work to make sustainable and healthy choices a daily practice.
Firstly, I’m going to bring back the soup! This will not only reduce the money spent on food but also the number of cans going into the recycle each week. I also get to work with some of my favourite cookbooks again which have been sadly neglected in recent years.
I’m excited! It’s kinda like going on a canoe trip for the first time in a long time and hauling out dusty packs and getting the tent out of the basement.
My goal is to make one soup a week and to freeze at least a couple of days worth. I also want to learn how to make bone broth and I’ll get my husband to help with that. We aren’t currently vegetarian, so I’ll aim to make both chicken and beef broth (a friend has donated some beef bones for this!).
Secondly, I’m going to haul the mini-greenhouse up out of the basement and get it growing greens. I’m curious as to how much salad I can produce weekly. This is more challenging, of course, and there will be a steeper learning curve. My MEd colleague, Charlene, has an amazing growing tower in her class and there are others among our cohort who will undoubtedly have knowledge here. I have grown veggies from seed many times, so the initial set up won’t be the big challenge, it will be the production of micro-greens for the table on a consistent basis.
The third thing I am going to do, is with my son. This is a creative add-on to my other goals and is not rooted in sustainability: just pure fun. Last year, for Easter, we made a DNA molecule (guanine) out of chocolate truffles, each atom, a different type of truffle. It was so fun and soooo delicious and Gabriel loved it. He recently declared that he wanted to make a model of a cell out of chocolate. So, I’ll add that in to the Food for Thought experiments! Because: Why not! 🙂
Thanks to Mitchell for the experience of the consumption blog. Thanks to Liz for the inspiration and support for the Food for Thought project! Thanks to all my fellow students and friends who are part of this experience!
A conversation with Craig Brant about the Camp Kawartha Environment Centre
Recently, I’ve been profoundly influenced by Suzanne Simard’s research on trees (2016). She speaks about the intricate communications between trees and mycorrhizae (fungus roots) and how forests celebrate diversity, redistribute resources (especially to those in need), support their children, warn and protect each other from threats and keep giving even when they become ancestors. She coined the term ‘mother tree’ to refer to those elder trees whose underground networks of roots and mycorrhizae nourish the growth of the entire forest (2016; 2021).
This is very much what Roorda means when he speaks about ‘sources of vigour’ – “strengths and opportunities” that offset the “weaknesses and threats” that endanger this world (2021, p. 9). These organizations, people, ideas, technologies and nature itself are wellsprings of hope (2021, p. 128). Trees are sources of vigour.
And so, in the forest, surrounded by these gentle giants, I asked my students: How could we more like trees?
When we returned to the Camp Kawartha Environment Centre, I looked at the beautiful straw-bale building and thought about connection, reciprocity and community.
This place – right here – was a mother tree.
Inspired by this, I sat down with Craig Brant, the manager of the Environment Centre, to learn a little more about the web of interconnection it weaves through the human and other-than-human communities in the Kawarthas. Sitting by the wood fire inside, Craig remarked, “One of our main roles is to provide hope that -quite simply – people and nature can co-exist harmoniously” (personal communication, December 1, 2020).
I asked Craig how this place began. It is an offshoot, an acorn if you will, of Camp Kawartha, whose legacy of outdoor education stretches back a hundred years, and which has become leader of environmental education and sustainability under the guidance of executive director Jacob Rodenberg.
Originally, Craig recalled, the Environment Centre was a trailer, parked in a ball field on the edges of the Trent Nature Areas. The idea was to reach out to very young children and to provide them with a place to connect with nature. Craig smiled, “Jacob had the idea, well, let’s build something a little more inspiring… We can do this, is the kind of thing he always says.” Craig went on, “And we’ve always said that we want this to be more than just an environmental education centre but a hub for people to gather and meet and hold events and workshops and conferences, to be a place where people can discuss and make these changes [in the world]“ (personal communication, December 1, 2020).
The building that grew from this inspiration embodies sustainability, education and community. Trent University leased an acre of land free of charge to Camp Kawartha. The building itself was part of the then Sustainable Building Design and Construction program at Sir Sandford Fleming College, headed by Chris Magwood and Jen Feigin (now both with the Endeavour Centre). The Environment Centre was envisioned, designed and built by students in this program with the goal to showcase various different alternative building techniques such as three different styles of straw bale construction, rammed earth and hempcrete blocks. They even pushed industry standards by developing prefab straw bale walls that were constructed at Fleming and then transported to Trent. Craig laughs, “Perhaps one day a contractor could show up at the Home Depot and say ‘I’ll have 36 sections of straw bale wall by these dimensions, please’” (personal communication, December 1, 2020).
Solar panels gracefully co-exist beside bird feeders. The trees my students and I planted this fall were watered by a rain-barrel collection system. There is solar hot water and geothermal heat. A thatched entrance way and living roof nestle this building in the natural world. And the list goes on….
Like a sapling, the Environment Centre had a lot of support to get it off the ground, some forty or so organizations, Craig recalls, some which still give generously each year. As it has grown, it has strengthened partnerships and now provides generative growth to many of its sister organizations. Craig estimates that (in a normal year) 11,000 people come through the Environment Centre. One of its core activities is providing environmental education programs for schools, summer and school holiday camps as well as a thriving home school program. Of the camps and home school programs, Craig notes “these are the kids that are growing up here. They come year after year for camp – or a few weeks every year – or they come every Friday or every second Friday – some for 6-7-8 -9, years … So this place has become part of the fabric of their growing up as well as their families here” (personal communication, December 1, 2020). This year, with COVID-19, the Environment Centre has pivoted towards more day programming from kindergarten to high school (balancing the full Forest School programming at the main Camp Kawartha site on Clear Lake) to provide for families looking for one or two days of outdoor learning and well-being a week.
Mother trees have networks of nourishment throughout their forest communities. Similarly, the Camp Kawartha Environment Centre is a hub for many education communities. Partnered with Trent, it provides an Eco-Mentorship certificate program as well as participating in and supporting other outdoor education endeavours from Trent’s School of Education and Fleming’s early childhood eco-mentoriship program, to innovative high school curricula, such as the Youth Leadership in Sustainability program initiated by Cam Douglas. The Environment Centre has close ties with Peterborough Green-Up, the Peterborough Field Naturalists, the Pathway to Stewardship and Kinship project and many other environmental organizations in Peterborough and the Kawarthas, often providing an accessible and beautiful meeting space. Last year, it hosted a tank of small salmon fry destined to rejuvenate the salmon population in the local rivers as part of the Lake Ontario Salmon Restoration Program. As I write this, I think of the symbiotic relationships between trees and mycorrhizae that Simard (2016) speaks about, or the symbiosis of fungus and algae that becomes lichen, a relationship “in which the balance of giving and taking is dynamic, the roles of giver and receiver shifting from moment to moment (Kimmerer, 2013, p. 269). This is what is happening here, this cooperative collaboration, where each person or collective brings their energies and abilities in a shared reciprocity which benefits the whole.
If the community connections are the roots and mychorrizae of this mother tree, then nature connection is its trunk, branches, leaves and fruit. This connection also takes time to grow, as Craig reminds me, with a story about the chickadees that now routinely feed from kids’ hands. He speaks about the strength that this connection with the natural world brings to humans: “because they have in their heart caring for all aspects of the living world, so, therefore, they wish to take care of it and to use their time and energy and resources to protect and nurture and regenerate the landscape and habitats” (personal communication, December 1, 2020). It’s beautiful work to connect kids with nature and to watch them grow into adults who feel themselves to be a part of nature and in a reciprocal relationship with it.
I ask Craig if he can share a particular story about connecting kids with nature. He pauses and begins with a gratitude: “For even having these ways of seeing there’s a debt of gratitude there to Indigenous peoples of various nations all over the place who, it seem to me, have always been saying that there are relationships and accountability we have to the natural world” (personal communication, December 1, 2020). We are after all, one tree in a forest of great age and wisdom.
He tells a story about one day in winter where he and a bunch of kids went fox tracking. They spent about five minutes really tracking before imagination kicked in and creative play emerged. They became foxes! They leapt and ran and sniffed the wind. Kinesthetics, imagination, creativity and deep nature connection: a little bit of embodied fox knowledge. Craig speaks about Sir Ken Robinson (2020, Timestamp 9:30) who, drawing on an agricultural analogy with plants and soils, remarked that, if you get the culture right, then people thrive. Craig agrees: “I think that is really important to what we are trying to create here at the Environment Centre … We’re creating those kinds moments day in and day out, in as many different ways as possible, to reach as many different styles of learning and providing a nice variety. Then we hit repeat!” (personal communication, December 1, 2020).
When I ask “What now? What does the future hold?”, Craig brings the discussion back to the importance of stewardship, one of Camp Kawartha’s missions. He talks about tending the land, about planting trees, and caring for those already here, such as the heritage apple trees from the old homesteads that now make up the Trent Nature Areas. Trent University is in the midst reviewing their plan for the nature areas and this has promoted discussion and strengthened relationships between Trent and the Environment Centre in terms of stewardship. Certainly, there is a lot of work that can be shared here. The Environment Centre has further partnered with TRACKS to provide them with additional program space. Craig takes a moment to reflect: “We have a lot of people that come through here in a year and one of our visions is to become more involved in that landscape tending and, really, once this pandemic passes, we want to be working with more adults in the local community We do a lot of work with kids, and there are all those young adults across the way at Trent. We’re trying to strengthen those possibilities” (personal communication, December 1, 2020). He brings the conversation back to Robin Wall Kimmerer and her comment that North Americans often seem as though they have only one foot on the shore while the other is on the boat. She challenges us “to set aside the ways of the colonist and become indigenous to place” (2013, p. 207). Craig sees this as integral to a regenerative future: “What does it look like to behave and act and conduct ourselves as if we were going to be here and build the types of relationships with the land and the other peoples and with each other – with humanity – that are healthy and that are giving and acknowledge these sources that give us life?” (personal communication, December 1, 2020).
Indeed, what does it look like? I think it looks like a forest of trees, each supporting each other and giving life to the world around us.
The Camp Kawartha Environment Centre embodies its mission of stewardship, nature connection and community building. The individuals that come here to learn, to work, to share and to play are all involved in building and strengthening the relationships and responsibilities humans have to this world and to the generations that come after. Roorda speaks of sources of vigour and inspiration that mend the ‘flaws in the fabric’, bringing humanity back into harmony with the natural world. (2021, pp. 9, 137-139). The Camp Kawartha Environment Centre is, surely, one of these!
Today, I review what I’ve written, add to some posts, and reflect on what I haven’t included. Two things stand out, both related to bills I paid earlier in the week.
Firstly, I think my husband is less inclined to buy extra stuff in the grocery store (though he has his own weaknesses). He took over the shopping in September, which has done his health and my time a lot of good, not to mention being a great role model for my son. Glancing at where our accounts are, I think he’s doing better at buying less. I love giving people gifts. Again, that tendency is what tempted me to agree to do more than I had time for. Equally, I wonder how many extra ‘treats’ I bought my family that weren’t really needed. I certainly haven’t noticed the lack. Something to think about going forward, especially coming up to Christmas. My son certainly enjoyed the Lego set I got him but he didn’t really need it.
Secondly, one of the things I know would benefit us greatly is to insulate our home. Our utility bill is high and having put on the addition for my Dad, we are well aware that there is no insulation in some of our walls. Going forward and thinking about time and where to invest it, finding a fund to cover re-insulating the house would be an excellent use of my time or my husband’s.
Finally, I want to say how much I have gotten out of this journal. Interestingly, it has allowed me to see all the good I (and my family) are doing. This has been huge! I often feel that I don’t do enough – again that niggling anxiety that is associated with hyperconsumerism, or at least keeping up with the Jones. I pulled a book off my shelf last night: Slow. Simple living for a frantic world by Brooke McAlary (2018). She reminds us not to actually leave the trappings of hyperconsumerism behind when we slow down and consume less. As she notes: ‘I find so many people get overwhelmed at the idea of “doing minimalism right” that we essentially swap the old Joneses out for the new. The new Joneses seem to have conflated the minimalist aesthetic with mimimalism as a lifestyle (they are very different things). Their homes look like something straight out of a magazine spread and are simply another brand of unachievable status. So we find ourselves comparing our lives with a new set of icons’ (McAlary, 2018, p. 43). This journal has helped allay that through enabling me to see that that is perhaps exactly what I have been doing. That anxiety I feel when buying things or just generally is possibly because I am simply trying to keep up with the minimalist Joneses rather than being proud of what I have accomplished.
Nevertheless, the journal has also focused my attention on particular habits of mine that I can work on. I have been able to reflect on my life at a time where I have felt quite stretched. While I would have reduced my workload regardless, this allowed me to go a little further and begin to track and take ownership of how much my devices enable distraction. Giving attention to how and where I give attention, is worth continuing.
Downsizing, though it comes with an economic hit, has increased my wellness exponentially. I am now sleeping better. I am not running from pillar to post, ignoring my family and wondering how I am going to undertake the responsibilities I have. Through journalling, I am realizing that there is a lot I can do with what I have. And what I do have, is a wonderful family, a very supportive work environment and some really great friends.
Turning off the phone has really made me realize how tied to the blips and beeps I often am. A number of times this week, I realized my attention was irrevocably pulled in the direction of a beep when it patently shouldn’t have been. I will be paying a lot more attention to deciding when I attend to my phone and email and when I just let it go. I’ll pick it up later and be present for the people and projects that are here, right now.
Thanks Mitchell! Excellent project. And thanks, in advance, to my classmates for sharing their thoughts. I’m looking forward to taking the time to share and reflect.
McAlary, Brooke. 2018. Slow. Simple living for a frantic world. Sourcebooks.
Today, we gave back! We planted more spruce trees along the northern edge of the Environment Centre’s property. We carved sticks to mark them. We transplanted kale we had sprouted into larger pots to grown indoors. We plan to donate it to the Turtle Trauma Centre when it is grown. And we planted seeds for pollinator plants that need cold to germinate. This is my first time attempting stratification. We buried some pots outside and put some seeds on damp cloth to be stored in the fridge and freezer. Some of these seeds may need two winters to germinate, but we can simulate that with the indoor ones. Very exciting.
This brings a certain sense of relief. In the spring, I joined hundreds of new butterfly rangers with the David Suzuki Foundation and bought seeds for my group to plant. It was difficult with COVID and I ended up doing most of the work and planting most of the seeds into my own garden. This was finally bringing the pollinator garden I had envisioned to life, if only in the hopeful start of planting seeds! We have a hive of bees at the Centre and my plan is to plant the pollinator garden under the hive (which actually enters into the building so that students can observe the hive) and have the students make information signs. This was supposed to have been done earlier in the season but with the extra work I took on, the planning for it didn’t happen. Now it is! A lesson in perseverance and patience and letting things grow in their own time. And taking the time to let them grow
In many ways, making time for things is like weeding a garden. To tend a garden well, you need to weed. And to prune. And to thin. I’m really bad at thinning. I don’t like to kill the little carrots that have put so much energy into growth. I have to recognize, though, that this is what did me in bad stead earlier and is why I overtasked myself. Sometimes you need to prune and thin to enable particular growth to flourish. Perhaps I can practice in my garden what I also need to practice in my life and vice versa.
I gave my gifts of tea and potatoes and received some potatoes in return. I think about making tea gardens, perhaps a collaborative project we can do with another group at the Centre. I love collaboration and connection, though I acknowledge that also takes time, and to perhaps choose what I can and cannot do.
I go home. Check the election results. Turn my phone to DND and enjoy my family.
I did turn my phone to DND and put it aside at dinner. This was essential! The incoming election results were captivating. I was conscious about how much my attention was drawn to it. Again, hyperconsumerism, this time of information rather than time or products. It is interesting to note how the Associated Press’s display of ‘live’ counts can be mesmerizing, as if by paying attention we can will the results to turn our way.
Not that the U.S. election is unimportant in this world. Indeed, it could be one of the most important elections for climate change. But here’s the rub. I can’t do anything about it. And, the truly important changes come from individual actions every day. It would be better to go for a run, to prepare myself for teaching tomorrow, to bring something of myself to this world. But the numbers niggle and tickle at my consciousness. In many ways, I suspect this is what people feel who find they ‘must’ buy something. As I check the results through the day, I make myself pay attention that feeling.
I listened to a talk by Tara Brach entitled Freedom from the Prison of Limiting Beliefs where she focused on ‘metacognition’, of being aware of your thoughts and actions. This awareness enables choice and is an important step in changing behaviour (Brach, 2020, timestamp 23:00). I found this talk very appropos for what we are doing with this journal. Being aware, being curious and opening to change. She also had some interesting things to say about fear-based beliefs being a refuge (I am too greedy or flawed etc.). She notes that fear is a ‘primitive survival energy’ (2020, timestamp 9:33). Today, I am reflecting on the linkages between fear-based beliefs and hyperconsumption. Fear drives hyperconsumption: “an anxiety about not succeeding in life” (Mulligan, 2019, p.35). This is what this journal is all about. Bringing awareness to our thoughts and actions and thereby providing the choice to change. As Brach notes: “whatever the practitioner inclines their thinking toward will become the inclination of the mind” (timestamp: 19:30). Thanks Mitchell!
And so, I am aware of the inclination of my mind to follow this election and to resist it, at least in part.
I take my Dad for another walk out to the pharmacy. My son, having tested negative for COVID, pushes his wheelchair. We enjoy the sun and opportunity to be together. At least in this moment.
After we wheel Dad back, we head out to our community garden to dig some late season potatoes! I love growing potatoes. They are truly pommes de terre when they are fresh, so crisp and juicy like an apple. My son loves finding them in the ground, little treasures of culinary yumminess. We were late getting them into the ground so the unseasonable weather has allowed us to be late getting them out as well. This is always a special thing for me, growing our own food. While we don’t grow as much as we’d like, my son is growing up with dirt under his fingernails and an assumption that growing your own food is an expected and enjoyable part of being alive. My mom grew some food when I was young but then we moved into a subdivision and the beans became roses. My first experience of growing potatoes was only a few years ago. In contrast, my mother-in-law was a small scale organic gardener who grew as much food as she could for her family. I hope to build on this and learn more about what delicacies exist in the woods and meadows. I have heard sumac makes a lovely tea. The ignorance of what lies just outside our door makes us unappreciative of the nutritional wealth all around us. Perhaps if we knew, we would care for it more. There’s lots for me to learn here.
Later, I check my phone.
But I also prepare for my class tomorrow and focus on the good energies that I must bring to that! I put some of the potatoes we dug in a bag for the student who has given me duck eggs, slip a favourite tea bag in for another student who enjoys tea. I make sure I’ve got my cameras ready and the sheets printed for our Mom who is generously coming out to teach a little about photography. Then I go to bed.
Today, I took my son for a COVID test and bought him a small box of Minecraft Lego for being brave (he’d had the nostril swab in the summer and REALLY didn’t like it!). We didn’t technically ‘need’ to go. He just had some sniffles that were getting better. But, as I said to him, this isn’t about him, it’s about my Dad and the careworkers that come into our house and it’s about the students I see on Fridays that have immuno-compromised family members. While there were almost tears, he was laughing and high-fiving me by the time we were across the parking lot. Apparently, it wasn’t as bad this time. He also wanted some of his Hallowe-en chocolate, which he doles out to himself with admirable self-restraint.
Lego is one of those toys, I don’t feel bad about buying. I gave my son my lego from when I was young. I don’t like that it’s plastic but, as toys go, it sure has staying power! I also love the creativity that my son indulges in with it. While he always builds the set, within days, he’s altered it to make something new. This is what I look for in toys.
I also bought a book for a friend’s kid that wasn’t feeling well and delivered it. Gifts are important and books are wonderful as they can be treasured in people’s shelves like old friends or given to others as one outgrows them.
Still, both these gifts were bought and not made. Did I really need to get my son some Lego? Probably not. Etzioni’s comments in You don’t need to buy this(2012) are clearly in my mind. My son’s resilience does not need bolstering by Lego. And here, perhaps, I need to think more closely about what a gift is and where gifts should be given. I am much struck by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s (2013) discussions of reciprocity throughout her book, Braiding Sweetgrass. I had reasoned with my son that going for the COVID test was not for him but for the reassurance of others. Was a gift needed in return? Or was the gift in the giving? Something to ponder.
I turned my phone to DND at dinner and checked it at an appropriate time after dinner. This helped to focus energies on family and on shifting from the day’s activities and responsibilities to night-time care. As a whole, I am sleeping better.
So, I got sucked into the U.S. election! I did very well leading up to it, but today, the phone was out at dinner and we were checking stats and looking up numbers and all the rest of it. It brings into sharp relief the importance of turning it off and how addictive it can be. It also highlights how much weight world affairs can have on our daily lives.
On the plus side, it was a politics lesson for my son and my Dad was engaged as well.
My decision to cut back teaching time paid off today as I was easily able to sub in half a day for a colleague who wasn’t feeling well. I had a great deal of fun with the kids! And I was able to support my teaching team. We don’t have a lot of leeway with additional teachers right now, so this was one thing I could offer to the Environment Centre as I scaled back my days. I couldn’t take Gabriel in and we had to juggle some care for him but it worked out well.
I was still able to take my Dad for a walk when I got home in the afternoon. This was the highlight of my day! The weather is glorious and I always feel strange when I have been able to be out all day, I am not able to provide this for my Dad. COVID makes this more difficult as there are places and people I would normally reach out to.
I also had a massage. I have some shoulder and leg issues which dogged me last year and this year I am determined to make sure that this problem gets resolved. I was doing quite well in the summer and focusing on stretches and on getting back into running. WIth taking too much on, this self-care came to a halt. Added to this, my regular massage therapist ended up injuring herself and taking a needed break from her practice. As an outdoor educator, I need to be taking care of myself, not the least because it’s too easy for the kids to outrun me! 🙂