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A sneak-peek at the 2020 Downhome Calendar photos, and your chance to enter the 2021 Calendar Contest.
This Codroy Valley couple and their dog have taken major steps to live off the grid.
This Lab City convenience store is well-known for their cool treats - and their warm service.
The little-known story of a Newfoundlander's heroic actions that terrible day.
Just when we think we've seen Newfoundland and Labrador from every angle, readers gobsmack us again with their stunning phots of landscapes, seasons, wildlife and overall essence of this incredible place. It's why, after more than 20 years of running this annual contest, judging the photos is still a favourite time of year for Downhome staff. It wasn't easy to choose, and we reached out to the public for help on the final one, but we are proud to present the 2020 Downhome Calendar photos.Each of the 13 winners will receive 10 copies of the calendar and a one-year membership to Downhome magazine. In addition, a random draw from the 13 winners netted one lucky person the grand prize: a free trip for four adults with our contest sponsor, O'Brien's Whale and Bird Tours. Congratulations to the winning entries, which you can preview by clicking the link below, and to the winner of the O'Brien's boat tour, Tanya Northcott! And be sure to check out the 2021 Calendar Contest below. You could win an Early Bird prize! We will select four entries received in the month of November and put them to a public vote. The winner will have their photo made into a postcard which will be sold at Downhome Shoppes, and they will get 10 free postcards plus $50 Downhome Dollars.Thank you to our awesome contest sponsor, O'Brien's Whale and Bird Tours!Click HERE to see the winning photosClick HERE to enter the 2021 Calendar ContestThe 2020 Winners are: January: "Hopeall Sunrise", Leigh Gilbert, Green's Harbour, NLFebruary: "Nightlife in Twillingate", Julian Earle, Twillingate, NLMarch: "Twillingate Fly-by", John Huddart, Twillingate, NLApril: "Sable and Beaumont Relaxing in Ramea", Jeanette Carter, OntarioMay: "Puffin Picking Irises in Elliston", Barb Dauncey, Calgary, ABJune: "Calm Evening in Rigolet", Eldred Allen, Rigolet, NLJuly: "Summer in South East Bight", Tanya Northcott, Ottawa, ONAugust: "Bonavista Horses", Lisa Butler, Gander, NLSeptember: "Days Gone By in Fortune Harbour", Steve Spracklin, Bowmanville, ONOctober: "Fox at Maberly", Nicole Florent, Kingston, ONNovember: "Petty Harbour Sunrise", Sheldon Hicks, Portugal Cove, NLDecember: "Tillie in her Santa Hat", Nicole Watson, Kingston, ONWinner by Popular Vote: "Nice Day on Clothes in Dunfield", Bernice Goudie, St. John's, NL
Yurt LifeThis Codroy Valley couple has taken radical steps to live off the grid. By Ashley Miller No indoor plumbing, no television, no electricity - no joke. Chris and Melissa Battiste recently traded these basic amenities, plus their modern home and just about everything they owned, for a life they say is less stressful and more meaningful. This summer the couple erected and moved into a yurt - a circular dwelling style that dates back to ancient Mongolia - on their 10-acre property in the Codroy Valley. If all goes according to plan, the couple and their dog, Baloo, will call this off-grid structure home sweet home year-round.And it really is a sweet home, both inside and out. Tucked away in the woods in a secluded corner of their sprawling property, the average highway driver would never even know itâs there. A footpath meanders its way through the forest, over with bridges across streams and up stairs to the final walkway leading to their humble homestead. âWelcome to our Yurtâ reads a rustic driftwood sign a few steps from their front door. Inside, the beautiful wooden latticework (a staple of yurt design) is decoration enough, alongside the coupleâs personal photos, books and a print of Max Ehrmannâs famous poem, âDesiderata.â A window at the top of the yurt offers a view of the stars as they fall asleep in their hammocks (which they swear offer a better nightâs sleep than a traditional bed.) Although the yurt itself (purchased from a company in British Columbia) took only a few days to assemble, leading the simplistic, off-grid lifestyle they now enjoy has been years in the making.âThis was something we always wanted to do,â says Chris, originally from Port aux Basques, NL. (Melissa hails from Alberta.)The couple originally planned to wait until much later in life to achieve their goal of living off the grid, until a near-tragedy turned their pipedream into a real priority. In 2011, Chris was driving to his then-home near Cold Lake, Alberta, when his truck hit black ice, left the highway and smashed into a pole. So brutal were his injuries, the accident report actually stated he died at the scene. âDoctors donât know how I survived or recovered to the point I did, but I did,â says Chris, who spent the following three months recovering in hospital. In addition to a broken elbow, a broken jaw and a cracked skull, Chris sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI), forcing him to medically retire at age 37. Doctors told Chris, a former computer programmer, that he could mitigate the effects of his TBI (which include difficulties with comprehension and maintaining focus) by living as stress-free as possible. It was this unconventional âprescriptionâ that spurred the couple to move forward with their plan sooner rather than later. To that end, they packed up and moved to the Codroy Valley in 2012 and, little by little, started simplifying. Less is MoreIn preparation for their massive lifestyle shift, the couple went through several stages of purging their belongings. After all, with roughly 314 square feet of space, their yurt can only hold so much. Not only was the process easy, it was enjoyable, they say. In fact, the more items they let go, the more free they felt. In this world of excess, Chris and Melissa say itâs an exercise they believe would do a lot of people good. âI like what Brad Pitt said in the movie [Fight Club]. Itâs a stupid quote, but it makes sense. He said, âThe things you own end up owning you.ââ Chris continues, âIf you think quads and cars and iPhones make you happy, it will make you happy. But itâs a short-time high.â True happiness, he now believes, canât be derived from material things. And these days, all it takes to put a smile on Chrisâ face is a walk in the woods, the sound of a trickling brook, or a simple cup of tea.âItâs perspective,â explains Chris. â[When] my jaw was broken, I couldnât really have a cup of tea easy. But the minute the wires came off my jaw you would not believe how good that cup of tea tasted. And now I still hold on to that feeling.â Work to LiveWhile theyâre certainly revelling in the simple pleasures of their new reality, that doesnât mean there is no work to be done - quite the opposite. There are the regular chores: firewood to cut, preserves to can and water to fetch from the brook. Clothing is washed in a small, manual washer and hung to dry.Theyâre also getting started growing their own food, with ambitious plans to eventually produce and forage 100 per cent of what they consume.âWe have tomatoes, basil, rhubarb, thyme and dill, just a few little things until I get a real garden set up,â says Melissa, adding she also plans to construct a greenhouse. (The couple are mainly vegetarian, but when they do eat meat, they prefer that which can be sourced from their own backyard: moose, rabbit etc.)A trained cabinetmaker (and a âjill of all trades,â according to Chris), Melissa takes the lead on most major projects in and around the yurt. She is currently in the midst of building two sheds, one for firewood and one for tools, and has plans for a root cellar. âGoing back in time is the best way to describe it,â says Chris of their lifestyle, adding they live much the way their grandparentsâ generation did. That means reading by the light of a kerosene lantern, cooking in a wood-fired oven and, yes, going to the outhouse. But for Chris and Melissa, these arenât hardships; they are reminders of their independence. But of all theyâve achieved so far, they are especially proud to have severed ties with electricity. âI would never touch that again,â Chris vows. âI just hate to see what electricity is doing to the environment and to peopleâs pocket books here in Newfoundland.â Not to mention, when post-tropical storm Dorian swept through the province in September, knocking out power to many on Newfoundlandâs west coast, it was life as usual for Chris and Melissa. They had no power to lose. That same weather system, which walloped the Wreckhouse area with winds in excess of 150 km/h, provided an excellent test for the Battistesâ new home. It survived unscathed. Chris and Melissa were unsurprised, though.âIf you think about the physics of the yurt, the reason the Mongolians had it so long is because itâs round and when the wind hits it, it just goes around it,â says Chris. âWhereas in our house you could hear the wind coming and then you could feel the house shake.âOf course, the winter will bring its own challenges, and the Battistes say they are eager to meet them head on. They are determined to live this life for as long as they are physically able because they believe this is the way they were always meant to live. They know their rustic way of life isnât for everyone. But they hope their story inspires others to take small steps towards simplifying, for a taste of the true joy they get to feel every single day. âConsidering I got a pretty bad brain injury, I love my life - I love it. Itâs peaceful and itâs zen,â says Chris. âIâm getting to do exactly what I was born to do.â
Cheers to the ChampionLabrador City business wins 2019 Downhome Cone Wars When you get talking to Brenda Tobin, it quickly becomes clear how her business won over the public vote in our summer 2019 Cone Wars: Search for a Soft Serve Hero contest. She loves her customers and they love her back. The first thing she and her partners did when they found out their soft serve had been voted best in the province was plan aâcustomer appreciation dayâ to give out free ice cream and loot bags. Brenda and her business partners - her son Trevor, his wife Krissy and Brendaâs husband, Ed Dyke - have been operating Tobinâs Convenience on Hamilton Street in Labrador City since 2015. They have two other businesses in town as well: Tobinâs Mini Mart and High North. At Tobinâs Convenience, Brenda says they stock âeverything from a clap of thunder to a babyâs fart!â Of course they sell pop and chips, bars and beer, lottery tickets and smokes, but they also sell homemade pizza, cold plates, sandwiches and other meals from their own kitchen, plus sweet treats from their bakery. âThis store is also known for the candy,â Brenda says. âWe have a large selection of retro candy [e.g. Gold Rush bubblegum nuggets, black licorice pipes, BB Bats the first candy ever put on a stick]. We have a big display of machines that have 30 kinds in them, I guess, and then we got a bunch that we bag also. So overall, we got roughly 100 different kinds of candy in stock all the time or most of the time.âAnd like a good neighbour, Brenda says if a customer comes in looking for something they donât have in stock, such as tea bags, âIâll go out back and grab a couple of tea bags and give to them, to hold them overâ¦ Or it could be a half a cup of sugar or a bit of spice, it could be anythingâ¦ Little things like that goes a long way with people.âCustomer service is key to the business, and Brenda says her staff deserves a lot of credit for their success and good reputation. They are friendly, efficient and generous. âOur staff decided from Day 1 to donate all their tips,â Brenda says. âSince weâve been opened weâve probably given back about $6,000 to the community.â Theyâve funded non-profits such as food banks and the womenâs shelter, local schools, Lions, hospital auxiliary, Scouts, Girl Guides and others. And at the end of the school year, Tobinâs Convenience donates certificates to the youngest graduates. âThe school passes those out to all the little kindergarteners and they come in and we take their card and we give them a free ice cream.âSpeaking of ice cream, what is it that makes Tobinâs Convenience soft serve the best in the province? âThe ice cream that we serve here is just so creamy and thickâ¦ I donât know even how to explain it. People just really, really love the ice cream here,â says Brenda. At the height of summer, there could be six girls working behind the counter serving ice cream to customers from Labrador City, Wabush, Churchill Falls and Fermont, Quebec. They have not one, but two soft serve machines, and Brenda admits that one makes the creamier soft serve that folks rave about. Itâs the older one that came with the business that Brenda and her partners bought. That store had been around since the 1980s, and was also known for amazing ice cream. âWe spend a fortune making sure that we keep it serviced because it produces such good ice cream.âThe soft serve machines are quiet now as the outside temperature dips and summer treats fade to memory. But come April, the ice cream will flow again and folks will flock to Tobinâs Convenience, 2019 Cone Wars Champion, to enjoy the best soft serve in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Caught in the Halifax ExplosionThe heroic story of Able Seaman George Critch By Lester Green George Critch was born at Shoal Harbour (Cavendish), Newfoundland on November 20, 1892, to Garrett Bryant and Jessie Critch. His father died when he was a child. His mother married James Dodge in December 1898, and moved the family to Northern Bight, where George was raised with two stepbrothers, William and Eli, along with two stepsisters, Violet and Annie. In October 1914, George signed his enlistment papers, completed his training and sailed overseas aboard HMS Carthaginian. He underwent intense naval training on HMS Vididat Devonport before he was deployed to HMS Alsatian. Able Seaman George Critch of Shoal Harbour and Northern Bight, NL After two years at sea, followed by a two-month furlough back home in St. Johnâs at HMS Briton, Able Seaman Critch was assigned to the Canadian Navy. He was with HMCS Niobe in Halifax the day that no one in Canada has ever forgotten.Critch and five other members of the Canadian Navy were oblivious to the events that were about to unfold in Halifax harbour on the morning of December 6, 1917. They were immersed in their work supplying air by hand pumps to two navy divers in the water. They were completing repairs on a dockyard pier when they were struck by a pressure wave from a massive explosion.The disaster was a direct result of human error in directing ship traffic in the harbour. This miscommunication led to the departing Norwegian ship, IMO, colliding with arriving French vessel, Mont-Blanc. The Mont-Blanc was heavily laden with munitions destined for overseas. There was no special protocol for passage of ships carrying dangerous cargo, and this likely led to the collision of the two vessels.When the two ships struck, the impact caused the benzol barrels stored on deck to leak, which was ignited by the sparks created by grinding metal ships, setting off a fire that led to one of the greatest man-made tragedies to occur in North America during the First World War - the Halifax Explosion.At the dock where Niobe crew had been working, the resulting wave killed five of the six sailors who were manning the air pumps. The fate of the two divers was in the hands of an injured and shocked Able Seaman George Critch.When he realized the divers were still in the water, the adrenaline rush gave Critch the strength to make his way to the collapsed rubble of the pump house. He squeezed his way under the debris and located the pump that, thankfully, was still in working order. Lifting the wreckage with one hand, he began working the pump, which normally required four men to operate, forcing air down the tube that saved the divers. Chief Master-at-Arms John Gammon, who was in command of the dive crew, had also survived the blast and assisted the divers onto the badly damaged dock. Seaman Robert Smith and Able Seaman George Critch (courtesy of Shelley Smith) For his heroic deeds, Gammon was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. Able Seaman George Critch was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (Naval). Six months after returning to his home at Northern Bight, George married Alice Smith of Gooseberry Cove. Her family was all too familiar with the atrocities of war. She had lost one brother, Luke, on HMS Laurentic. She suffered the mental anguish at home, alongside her mother and younger brother, Jim, while waiting for the safe return of her remaining four brothers.An article in the Evening Advocate on January 12, 1920, describes their December 22 wedding. All the groomsmen had served overseas, reminding us that many families in the Southwest Arm area, where more than 100 men served their country, were affected by the Great War. On November 11, take a moment to reflect on the Halifax Explosion, which history records as one of the greatest tragedies of the entire war for Canadians. Thousands of lives were lost in this civilian disaster - not overseas, but here at home.
By Dale JarvisStories of strange beasts and mythical creatures are popular all over the world, but there seems to be a special place for them in Newfoundland and Labrador. Part of that might have to do with the strong storytelling tradition here, and part of it might have to do with the importance that local folklore still holds for communities.Through the years these stories have beentold leaving the shapes, colours and textures to the imagination of those listening. The Craft Council Gallery is changing all of that, and has invited local artists to take the stories of these strange beasts and bring them into the material world. Bringing these creatures to life through the hands of craftspeople is to celebrate the diversity of the provinceâs cultural heritage.Between October 11, 2019 - November 17, 2019, the Craft Council Gallery Presents: Crafted Beasts, A Cabinet of Curiosities of Newfoundland Beasts. Designed as a creepy Victorian museum show curated by the fictional Duckworth Cryptozoological Society, this is an immersive exhibition where visitors can explore the magical world of folk tales and the Newfoundland and Labrador storytelling tradition. Come meet the Old Hag, sea monsters, and the fairy folk, as well as the tales behind them.The exhibit features the work of craft producers Anita Singh, Charlene Denief, Graham Blair, Janet Peter, Michael Harlick, Renee Holloway, Susan Furneaux, Tucker Ellis, and Vicky Northey, with text by folklorist and storyteller Dale Jarvis. October 11, 2019 - November 17, 2019Crafted Beasts, A Cabinet of Curiosities of Newfoundland Beasts275 Duckworth Street (entrance to Gallery off Solomonâs Lane)St. John's, NLEditor's Note: Check out the video below of Craft Council Gallery Director Bruno Vinhas talking about the upcoming Crafted Beats exhibit. For more on Newfoundland Beasts, check out "Beware These Beasts" by Dale Jarvis in the October 2019 issue of Downhome.
After the cod collapse, is cod jigging still a rite of passage? by Jenn Thornhill VermaAbout a mile-and-a-half off of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador, weâre dropping anchor, 26 fathoms deep. The fish finder, an instrument for locating schools of fish, confirms what captains Leo Hearn and Kimberly Orren already know: the cod are plentiful. In their 22-footer, we have everything we need for an afternoon of cod jigging. Weâre suited in head-to-toe rain gear, rubber boots, wool hats, waterproof gloves and life-jackets - clothing signalling late summer in a place accustomed to late, short summers. We also have a bucket of freshly caught capelin weâll use for bait; a few single-hook jiggers with steel weights on 250-pound test lines; and an empty fish tub for todayâs catch.This third Sunday of July 2019 marks the first cod jigging trip for two of the five of us on board. At 20 months, notsurprisingly, my daughter, Navya, has never fished a day in her life. Iâll consider the âfishingâ she does today an activity best placed in air quotes, much like when she plays âsoccerâ or goes âswimming.â And yet, Navya gets whatâs happening, bright-eyed and repeating âfishâ whenever we show her the capelin. My 39-year-old husband, Raman, is the other newbie. Raman is a first-generation Canadian; his parents emigrated to Canada from India. While I spent my childhood in Newfoundland running freely outdoors, Raman tells me he often spent his in New Brunswick running mathematical equations indoors. He thinks summertime math is a rite of passage, but weâll start Navya off with cod jigging today. As the boat bounces on the Atlantic, Raman holds Navya tightly. I smirk, thinking it looks like heâs hugging an ocean buoy; only Navyaâs face is visible, the rest of her body swallowed up in bright red gear, perhaps a size or two too big, her hood and her life jacket.I turn my attention to Leo, who offers a quick lesson on baiting. One can jig a cod without bait. In fact, thatâs why the jigger, designed to look like capelin, was introduced by merchants - so fishers could catch cod no longer taking bait. If fishers could guarantee catch, then merchants could guarantee incomes. But fishing without bait eliminates a natural equilibrium between fishers and fish. Itâs one of the reasons I chose Kimberly and Leoâs non-profit, Fishing for Success, for todayâs family fishing excursion. They teach families like mine our ancestral and traditional fishing knowledge and skills, and they do it in a way that conserves the fish and protects the environment. âThere are no gill nets here for three miles,â Kimberly tells us as we head out to the fishing grounds. Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove has a protected fishing area, having first banned trawls (longlines) in 1961, then gill nets in 1964.I follow Leoâs instruction, holding the capelin in my left hand, then piercing its eye with the jiggerâs hook in my right. I guide the hook along the capelinâs spine until the fish curls around the hook. Then I drop the jigger in the water, allowing the line to pass over my open hands, as the steel weight helps the jigger plummet to the depths below the deep blue rug. Then, I gently hold the line, awaiting that distinctive tug. Within seconds, the line is taut against the gunwale (sometimes called gunnel, the rail of the boat). I pass my one hand over the other pulling in the line, at the same time noticing marks along the gunwale, evidence of many lines pulled many times. Then, a glint emerges to the surface. I haul my cod up and over the gunwale. âFish, fish!â Navya says excitedly, emphasizing the shh the way toddlers do, awkwardly making their way around new word sounds, uncertain where to place the emphasis. Raman tries his hand at jigging and before we know it, we are hauling in cod for cod, in a way thatâs almost comical. Just as one of us catches one, the other has one on their line. Navyaâs âfish, fishâ repetition becomes the perfect narration. The unfolding scene reminds me of an Ernie and Bert sketch from Sesame Street when Ernie calls âHere fishy, fishy, fishyâ and fish come flying into the boat.Should we fish cod at all?Itâs easy to get caught up in the excitement, but I know cod arenât as plentiful in the Northwest Atlantic as they appear to be today. Itâs 27 years after the collapse of northern cod and the July 1992 shutdown of its fishery, better known as the cod moratorium. That moratorium remains in effect today, but the federal government, which manages the fishery, allows a small commercial and recreational cod fishery (what locals call the food fishery). In August, a new union hoping to represent inshore fishers, the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundlandand Labrador (or FISH-NL), called for an end to all cod fishing apart from the commercial fishery. The call comes after a new paper by fisheries scientists George Rose and Carl Walters finds overfishing played a greater role in the collapse of cod and its slow rebuilding than originally thought. A few years ago, other work by Rose and Sherrylynn Rowe found cod making a comeback (in anarea called the Bonavista Corridor on the northeast coast of Newfoundland), but that comeback didnât play out. And yet, Fisheries and Oceans Canada continued to increase the landing limits for cod in the years that followed. More recently, a federal fisheries scientist reported a âhighly probableâ near future extinction of cod in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.This information might lead one to reasonably ask: Why fish Newfoundland and Labrador cod at all? But I donât think the route to conservation is an outright fishing ban. To protect and preserve the fish, or any species, I believe we need a healthy relationship with them. History tells us that traditional fishing approaches like baited hook and line are sustainable (the fish bite when theyâre hungry) and ecological (this approach leaves no âghost fishing gearâ or microplastics behind). Of course, we must fish within reasonable limits - something we hadnât done a particularly good job at leading up to the moratorium. Two fisheries scientists hypothesized that more cod were commercially fished from the Northwest Atlantic in a 15-year period, between 1960 to 1975, than over the 250 years between 1500 and 1750. Social enterprises like Fishing for Success, a small-scale fishery operation, help maintain links with history while allowing us to enjoy the benefits of fishing for generations to come. The end of the dayBack in the boat, we have our 15 fish - the daily limit for a boat of three or more recreational fishers - so Leo hauls up anchor and Kimberly sets a course for harbour. Iâm sitting at the stern, my arms wrapped around our living ocean buoy. This vantage point allows Navya to see a female fishing captain at the helm. While there are fewer fish and fewer harvesters and processors, the fisheries haul in more profit than ever before in this province. A commercial fishing career remains viable, though there are more hoops to jump through than ever before - and being female in a male-dominatedindustry is only one of them. We pull up next to the red ochre fishing stage. Inside, the Fishing for Success crew have prepared a pot of coffee, ginger cookies, partridgeberry loaf and partridgeberry jam. The coffee helps, but real warmth will have to wait for the salt beef and cod fish stew simmering on the double burner stove in the back corner of the stage. This is yet another reason to enjoy the food fishery: to put fresh, local food on our plates. In a province accustomed to shipping most of its food from elsewhere, this feels like a luxury, but it need not be the case. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have fresh seafood at their oceanfront doorsteps. So long as we pay respect to the fish through sustainable fishing approaches, we can enjoy these simple luxuries for generations. As Leo fillets the cod, I try my hand at a traditional Japanese fish print. Before photography, fishers made prints like this to record their catch. Using acrylic paints that can be washed off so the cod may be used for food, I paint my canvas in bold shades. The resulting prints appear as magic cod - and they ought to be, given it marks Navyaâs first cod jigging trip at a time when one canât help but wonder how many more trips weâll have like this. We hold up the print for a family photo. Before we can pour a bowl of soup, Navya is already fast asleep in Ramanâs arms. Jenn Thornhill Verma is the author of a new book, Cod Collapse: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundlandâs Saltwater Cowboys.
The final installment of our three-parts eries on NL agriculture looks at how we make food security a community affair.By Elizabeth Whitten In the last two issues, Downhome has presented a deep look into whatâs happening in our province when it comes to agriculture. Weâve met retired and new farmers, and weâve talked to government officials and leaders in education. All of our conversations have been about our food supply.The reality is, Newfoundland and Labrador is very food insecure. According to Statistics Canada, there are only 407 farms operating in NL today, down from the 4,000 farms of 70 years ago. Many of todayâs farmers are aging out of the industry while we continue to import about 90 per cent of what we eat. While most of us arenât likely to quit our day jobs, buy a plot of land in the country and work the land as farmers, there are things individuals can do to help increase their own food security. In the final installment of our three-part series on agriculture, we chat withpeople who know we can grow more food for our own tables. Putting food firstFood First NL is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing our food security and working to ensure that we have access to healthy food, says Executive Director Kristie Jameson. At their core, they deeply understand the complexity of food security. And itâs not just the fact that the vast majority of our food is imported, she notes, but also how the population is spread out over a vast area.âThe food brought in has to reach everyone, which leads to a very complex food distribution puzzle that we havenât really figured out. So we end up seeing many communities have limited physical availability of good, quality, healthy, affordable food as a result of the fact that many of these communities donât have full-service retailers and donât have regular distribution to the communities,â Kristie notes.A surprising 84 per cent of communities in NL donât have a grocery store. However, there are corner stores, "many of them independent, family-run shops" that are the primary retailer for many communities. So residents rely on these stores for food, or they have to travel to get to the nearest supermarket, which could mean an hourâs drive or a ferry ride and then a drive, Kristie explains. So while food production is a major challenge in NL, access is also a hurdle to overcome.Furthermore, our food transportation system is easy to disrupt. For instance, ferry runs could be cancelled unexpectedly due to bad weather or the ferry might be tied up for repairs. Maybe the weather is too poor for people to drive to the nearest store in another community. Remember when Hurricane Igor washed out roads in 2010? People couldnât travel by road and delivery trucks couldnât get through, Kristie recalls.All of these factors have impact on the quality and cost of food that consumers can access. âItâs important to consider the ability for people to actually afford food, not just from considering the cost of food but also from considering the income that people have,â says Kristie.What we have going in our favour, Kristie advises, is the strength of our traditions and our living knowledge of hunting, fishing, berrypicking and gardening. âAnd whatâs so strong about this is that the knowledge and the skills and the practice of them still do exist here in the province today,â she says. âAnd I think a lot of the work we do at Food First tries to build upon those, and support groups in the province in developing and implementing programs that are really in many ways building on those strengths.âIndividually, Food First encourages people to try getting involved in food production at whatever level they feel confident, even itâs something as simple as growing a few potted herbs on a windowsill. âItâs very addictive. I think as soon as you try doing a little bit, then youâre more and more interested to take on more,â Kristie says.Kristie also recommends cooking, preparing meals and trying to make more from scratch. It all helps people to further understand and appreciate where their food comes from and what theyâre eating.Furthermore, by getting involved in acommunity garden, individuals can help localize some of their food supply while supporting and educating each other. Food First NL has helped establish community gardens across the province. By their count there are now more than 90 community gardens in operation. Through cooperative efforts, community organizations develop plots to farm, often in raised beds. Local residents can access these plots and grow their own food, creating opportunities for greater self-sufficiency and socializing with others as they work together for the common goal of producing food to eat.A community garden âcreates a tangible, hands-on learning mechanism of how important and how valuable farming can be to a community,â says provincial minister of Fisheries and Land Resources, Gerry Byrne, who also happens to have a small-scale farm and, by his own admission, âcanât stop talking about it.âHe says, âGrowing food and growing farms and growing farmers is what Newfoundland and Labrador needs to do more of, not less.â No yard, no problemIt shouldnât surprise anyone who knows her to see Emily Bland as the âSeed-EOâ of SucSeed, a thriving hydroponics company based in St. Johnâs. She comes from a family of farmers, and growing fresh produce has been a normal part of her life since she was a child.SucSeed is a social enterprise that creates hydroponic systems that donât need sunlight or soil to grow food. With a LEDlight on top of the unit acting as a sun, it can used be indoors all year round.âItâs an enclosed ecosystem,â Emily explains. âYou add water and nutrients to the bottom of the container. The water circulates through and provides the plant with the nutrients when they need them.âThe system was developed by Enactus Memorial, a student-run volunteer organization at Memorial University that leads enterprises aimed at improving quality of life. Emily was president of the team in 2016, when they worked with MUN Botanical Garden and engineering students on a hydroponic method to address food insecurity. Their original goal was to have 15 units installed and growing in northern Labrador. In just a few short years, theyâve sold more than 15,000 units across Canada. Considering the challenges Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have in growing fresh food in our climate, Emily says of hydroponics, âItâs something I think we should have been doing and been more aware of long ago. You look back 60, 70, 80 years ago and we were producing almost all of the fresh produce that we consumed on the island,â she explains. Today, we produce around 10 per cent of the food we consume.In addition to making, marketing and selling these hydroponic units, SucSeed is actively involved in food security education. SucSeed is currently in 400 classrooms, working with close to 8,000 students to help them learn about food sustainability. Emily says they want to be educating one million students every year by 2022. âWe want to reach the next generation and empower them to grow,â she says.After the harvest time, Emily says they get a lot of thank-you letters from kids whoâve tried kale for first time or made fresh salad from what they grew. Theyâre genuinely excited to eat vegetables.âItâs great when you see kale putting a smile on a kidâs face. And then they go home and start talking to their parents about these amazing fresh tomatoes that they grew in the classroom, or lettuce and kale. In my opinion, I think it tastes better, too, when you grow it.â Food for the tableBehind Derrick Maddocksâ St. Johnâs home is a lush little oasis. There are trees along the fence, a shed tucked away in the back corner, a greenhouse and carefully plotted out garden beds. Itâs not a large backyard, but heâs made the most of it for the garden heâd been growing for the last 30 years. His small property produces a mouthwatering mix of fresh produce: tomatoes, peppers, onions, green onions, peas, beans, potato, carrots, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and apples.Now retired, Derrick spends more and more time out here, typically an hour a day during the growing season. âPlanting, weeding, going to the store to buy fertilizer and seeds and whatnot, pollinating tomato plants, those sorts of things,â he says.When asked why he started growing produce, he says heâs not sure if he can answer that. As a boy, his mom had a garden, âmaybe that influenced me. When we were in Labrador City, I tried to grow a few things. I just liked the real taste of what you grow yourself rather than what you buy at the store. So I guess all those things sort of combined.â He can remember being at a Christmas party years ago, and a man told Derrick he liked to go home after the workday and build things with wood because he could see what heâd accomplished,â and I think itâs the same thing with gardening, you know. You actually grow something that wouldnât otherwise grow there, and youâve got in your hands something: this is what I produced. So this sense of accomplishment is there.âBecause he lives on a small plot of land, thereâs no way he could grow all the food he and his family consume. In fact,it probably doesnât even save them money when you add in the cost of his time and all the tools, including fertilizer and soil. âI mean thereâs no soil here; all the soil in the backyard is basically bought soil,â Derrick says.However, there is almost always something on his table that came from the garden. âWe have a fairly large raspberry patch and we grow a lot more raspberries then you could eat, so we freeze a lot. So over the winter Iâll be eating frozen raspberries,â he says. The menu changes with whatever crop is in season, so in the fall heâll harvest the potatoes and carrots which will last a few months. âSo you have a little something from the garden almost all year round,â Derrick says.As of this interview in August, the strawberries are being picked. âAnd right now Iâm eating strawberries almost to the point where Iâm sick of them. But a month ago and a month from now, Iâm not gonna have anyâ¦ You have a season, you get it, you get overloaded with it and then itâs gone.âWhile itâs not enough to keep him from going to the grocery store, itâs enough that thereâs usually something on hand in the house to eat that he grew.âIt is an enjoyable pastime, it gets a person outdoors,â he says. âItâs not really food security, but if everybody did it thereâd be a lot less food necessary to bring into the province. So thereâs pluses to it.âHow did we get here?Back in our grandparentsâ day, people typically had a little plot of land allocated to growing at least some of the vegetables they needed to eat. Even though they werenât full-time farmers, they still grew something. Come harvest time, they had some produce to eat throughout the year so they didnât have to buy all of it.If we used to have so many farmers and we were such a self-sufficient place, what happened? Food First NLâs Kristie Jameson notes that people never really stopped growing their own food or catching it, but some people did move away from it. It was probably one generation that shifted away from it.Fortunately, enough people have grandparents alive today whoâve practiced these skills their entire lives and can share their knowledge. âAnd whatâs been amazing is the amount of interest that there has been in people getting back involved in this work or picking up the approaches of their grandparents,â Kristie says.Among FoodFirstâs initiatives to meet that interest is a series of videos they developed called âScoff,â which showcased NL seniors demonstrating different traditional food skills, from cleaning cod to bottling beets. And recently, Food First launched an online map that makes it easier for consumers to find the closest available fresh food, including farmersâ markets, community gardens and food banks.For Seed-EO Emily Bland, the issues NL is grappling with are things that can be fixed. Itâs not completely out of our control. There are resources like community gardens, backyard gardens and hydroponics within our reach.âThereâs answers to a lot of the challenges that weâre facing,â she says. âWe just need to take the initiative to do it and not wait another 10, 15, 20 years to fix it.â
The Everyday GourmetBy Andrea MaunderPeople often say to me they could never be baking all the time because theyâd be too tempted to eat too many sweets. And I always reply that the funny thing is that when youâre around baked goods all the time, you feel less tempted to overindulge simply because they become part of the scenery for you. Usually, the occasions I make something new or something I havenât made in a while are when I simply must have a serving for myself. There are a couple of exceptions. I never get tired of my scones (even though I made about 15,000 of them this summer!). My coconut cream pie is another - light and barely sweet with flaky pastry (Iâve been making it since 1995, and I promise that recipe soon). Iâve been perfecting my carrot cake for nearly four decades, and I have to say, I have never tasted one that I like better than my own. It might be the only dessert I make that Iâm unwilling to share my slice. I will unapologetically sit down and slowly savour every morsel, with perhaps only a most fleeting pang of guilt that I didnât offer anyone a forkful. Iâm not gonna lie, or apologizeâ¦ itâs a bit of a process. There are a few steps that I think make my carrot cake exceptional. I toast the walnuts, plump the raisins and grind the spices from whole. If you donât have a spice mill (or coffee mill), use ground spices in the measurements below. My frosting is a little different, too. I begin with Italian buttercream frosting (thatâs the one where you boil a sugar syrup that your pour into whipping egg whites, and then carefully incorporate the butter), and then I add cream cheese. It makes for a gorgeous frosting that delivers that tangy cream cheese flavour, but with a lighter texture, less sweetness and better piping and holding power. You will need a candy thermometer. A stand mixer will make the frosting process a lot easier - but it can be done with a hand mixer if you can recruit a volunteer pair of hands. MAKE IT: Carrot Cake 1 cup walnuts 1 cup golden raisins 3 (3â) cinnamon sticks (or 5 tsp ground cinnamon) 3/4 tsp allspice berries (or 1 tsp ground allspice) 1/3 tsp whole cloves (or 1/2 tsp ground cloves) 1/2 a whole nutmeg, finely grated (1/2 tsp ground nutmeg) 1 tsp ground ginger 1 tsp ground cardamom 3/4 cup vegetable oil 1 3/4 cups white sugar 4 eggs 1 tsp vanilla 1/4 tsp almond extract 2 cups flour 2 tsp baking powder 3/4 tsp baking soda Pinch salt 3/4 cup water 1 1/2 cups grated carrot (on largest shredding side of a box grater) Preheat oven to 350Â°F and prepare two 8-inch round cake pans. Spray them with nonstick spray and line each with a round of parchment paper. Spread walnuts on a parchment-lined sheet, toast 5-8 minutes until fragrant and beginning to brown a little. Remove from pan to cool and then chop medium coarse. Soak raisins in hottest tap water to allow to plump. Combine whole spices in a spice mil and grind until fine. (Cinnamon can be a little hard; run it through a sieve to remove any unground bits.) In a large mixing bowl, hand whisk oil, sugar, spices, eggs, vanilla and almond extract until incorporated. In a separate small bowl, dry whisk to combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Switch to a silicone spatula or wooden spoon and add the flour mixture and water to the large mixing bowl; stir to combine. Add drained raisins, chopped toasted nuts and shredded carrots. Divide mixture evenly between prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through the bake to ensure even doneness. Cakes are done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool 5 minutes before inverting onto cooling racks. Allow to cool completely. Cream Cheese Italian Buttercream Frosting 2 cups white sugar, divided 1/2 cup water Pinch salt 6 egg whites 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, cut into 2-inch cubes and allowed to come to room temperature 1/2 cup vegetable shortening 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 1/4 tsp almond extract 500 grams cream cheese (full fat, room temperature - two (250 g) packages, cut into 2-inch cubes) 1 tbsp lemon juice 1 cup (or so) toasted coconut, if desired, for garnishing the sides Clip a candy thermometer to a medium-sized saucepot. Add 1/2 cup water and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Boil until it reaches 240Â°F. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, on high speed, whip egg whites with a pinch of salt until they become frothy. Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and whip on high speed until light and fluffy. When sugar syrup reaches 240Â°F, remove thermometer and remove pot from heat. Drizzle the hot syrup down the side of the mixing bowl slowly, avoiding the whisk (so it doesnât spatter and burn you), while you continue whipping on high speed until the frosting is fluffy and firm. Keep whipping until the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl are no longer warm.Then, still on high speed, slowly incorporate the cubes of butter, one at a time. To be sure itâs not too cold to mix in properly, squeeze the cube of butter between your fingers and make sure it squishes without too much resistance. If itâs still cold, either wait longer or carefully microwave to soften it, but be sure not to melt it. Butter temperature is important for buttercream. If melted or too cold, your buttercream could separate or curdle. Continue until all the butter, and then the shortening, is incorporated. The meringue will deflate a little; this is normal. It helps to stop the mixer every so often and scrape down the sides. Whip in the extracts. Stop the mixer, lower the bowl and remove 2/3 of the buttercream to another bowl and set aside.Incorporate the cream cheese the way you did the butter into the remaining 1/3 of the buttercream. Add the lemon juice. Then, in three or four additions, add back the buttercream you removed and beat together after each addition until fully incorporated and fluffy. If itâs warm in your kitchen, you might need to refrigerate the frosting before icing the cake. Frost the middle, top and sides of the cake, reserving some of the frosting to place in a piping bag to add some flourish to the top, if you like. I sometimes press toasted coconut into the sides of the cake. This is optional. Refrigerate a couple of hours to set the frosting.Cut into 12 or 16 wedges and enjoy.