Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Playing With The Moon!

In almost all of my blog stories I write about the importance of respecting Nature. A heart filled with respect allows our mind to open to a new sense of wonder. A mind filled with wonder allows our spirit to gain understanding.

One of the best ways to make these connections is to have fun with Nature…

… as I’ve mentioned before when writing about my guerrilla gardening adventures (http://bitsandpeaces08.blogspot.com/2010/05/guerrillas-are-on-attack-again.html).

A week ago, a friend sent me an interesting email filled with many photographs of people who were doing just that… having fun with Nature – or more specifically the moon! I thought that it would also be fun, for me, to share these photos with you, and so I will.

While I was getting the photos ready, the words of a poem – that I wrote in 1998 – began to echo through my mind. The poem speaks about the Earth, moon, sun and our ability to bring peace and love into our souls. I’ve decided to share both with you, here and now…

The Heart Of The Sunrise

In the heart of the sunrise, I see a brand new day

Filled with the laughter of the children who have come here to play

To dance beneath the skies and crawl upon the Earth

To enlighten all our hearts with dreams having birth

To pause and wonder at the value of it’s worth

In the heart of the sunrise I feel a brand new call

Asking me to share a vision with you all

But eyes look away, too afraid to see the light

And lacking is the strength to confront our enemy’s might

So the sky circles ‘round to fill this space with night.

In the soul of the moon, I touch a new babe’s eyes

Giving strength to the universe with a peace that has no disguise

Unleashing the tears that fall like love

Into the heart of the sunrise.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blueberry Daze – Continued

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a story to invite other Londoners to a morning of Blueberry picking at a nearby farm. This is one of the promotional posters that I created for my blog and Facebook event…

The purpose of this event was to provide a free ride - for people who don’t have access to transportation – to a local Blueberry farm. I wanted to inspire people to realize the value of picking and preserving locally grown fruits. By connecting consumers with local farmers a new relationship will be formed that will benefit our community and our environment.

My boss, at Murphy Bus Lines, thought that this was a great idea and he donated a bus to this cause. On top of volunteering many hours to make this event possible, I also donated my services as a driver.

With the help of the Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre, we were able to get the word out to the community so that people could sign up for this event. Many people who use this Centre have low incomes and transportation is often difficult, so this event was a great way to provide an opportunity to stock up on healthy berries for the coming winter.

I began planning this event in May. It took a few phone calls and meetings with community organizations until I found a group that wanted to be a part of this. By the time the GCCRC had ‘hopped on board’ it was nearing the end of July. This left us only a week and a half to advertise and register berry pickers. I heard that only seven or eight people had registered, so I was absolutely thrilled when I had counted a total of eighteen passengers on the bus that morning. Almost half of them were children under the age of twelve!!!

I had chosen Kustermans Blueberry Farm for several reasons. 1) They were one of the closest Blueberry farms to London. 2) They were a family run business – now into its second generation. 3) I liked that they had a vision for the future.

The owner welcomed us to the farm and gave us a short tour. The children just loved the petting zoo, filled with colourful birds, Chinese chickens, rabbits and miniature goats.

Steve Kusterman told us that he wanted to create a farming experience that an entire family could enjoy for a whole day. Instead of simply having people come, pick berries and then leave, Steve wants families to think about coming to his farm for a whole day.

He has created this petting zoo – with plans to expand, there’s a children’s playground with swings and slides and inside one of the buildings he is displaying and selling some local artwork as well as many freshly baked treats. The farm also grows Raspberries and Steve is planning on adding other vegetables that people will be able to come out to pick.

Soon, we were in the fields filling our buckets with the tastiest Blueberries in the world!

The children had a great time and, I feel, that this will give them an experience to realize that the food that we eat actually comes from somewhere – not just a grocery store. Many people are disconnected from this simple realization, so little thought is put into the food selections that are bought at the giant superstores that dominate our cities.

By buying and picking locally grown, in season fruits and vegetables we are supporting local economies and decreasing our needs for fossil fuels, as large trucks are not needed to transport these items across the continent. Imported fruits are also picked while the fruits are still unripe, so that they will ripen during transportation… and we all know that these fruits just don’t taste as wholesome and fresh.

The money saved by picking our own berries is another great benefit. I made a few calculations – based just on volumes of berries – and found that a $10.00 pail of fresh Blueberries would cost close to $30.00 if purchased at a grocery store. The stores also package their berries in plastic containers and these will often end up in landfills, contaminating our soils for thousands of years. This packaging is eliminated when you pick your own fruits.

This is my friend Liz! The evening before, Liz and I had attended a group dinner and I told her about this berry picking event. She wanted to learn where this farm was, and she wanted to stock up on Blueberries, so I told her where I would be stopping to pick up passengers. See – a little ‘word of mouth’ advertising goes a long way! Thanks for coming out, Liz!!

My favourite part about any kind of berry picking that I do is eating them while I’m in the fields – there’s nothing fresher or tastier. When I return home, I’ll be freezing most of the berries but I always leave a bowl full in my fridge to enjoy over the coming week. These will taste great but not as great as they do when eaten right off the berry bush.

Everyone agreed with me on this point. “There’s nothing tastier that a berry going from the bush to the hand to the mouth,” Liz said to me as she pushed a handful into her mouth.

I said, “Liz, you’re wrong about that. Actually, the tastiest berries go from the bush directly into my mouth!!!!” We all had a good chuckle over that one!

“Blueberry Daze” was a great success and soon I’ll be planning another events along this line of positive community action, so keep your eyes open for future event promotions.

Until then, be local, be in season and be healthy and happy!!!!


Monday, August 23, 2010

Of Birds and Bees

During the mid 60’s Rachel Carson wrote a book entitled “Silent Spring”. It detailed the horrors that were becoming evident throughout the world – tho’ focussing on North America – concerning the industrial use of pesticides and insecticides. The title refers to the fact that if our societies continue to use these poisons that the world may one day witness a silent spring as the birds and bees that we need for our survival may soon all become extinct – thus no chirp chirping or buzz buzzing!

This book had such an awakening impact in both Europe and North America that soon many of these harmful farming practices were abandoned, but not totally. Over the last several decades we have joyed in the fact that the Bald Headed Eagle is no longer on the endangered species list and this is a great cause for celebration. However, to this day many of these poisons are still be manufactured in North America – even here in London, Ontario – to be exported to countries that don’t have such controlling environmental laws. We should be wary of the bananas and other fruits that are then imported into North America as our vicious cycles of trade and export continues.

+ + + +

Two summers ago, I was riding my bike home after a small gathering of local environmentalists – a very interesting evening – and I was taking a short cut through a downtown parking lot – now empty, except for one lonely shadow. I noticed that this person was standing, with clipboard in hand and staring high above the surrounding city buildings. I became curious and wheeled around to see what was up – so to speak!!!

She told me that she was conducting a study to find out how many of the downtown buildings – with old chimney stacks – were being occupied by the Chimney Swift. They fly into their homes right at dusk. She told me about these birds, never taking her eyes off of the building tops, and I learned a great deal. One fact that I found fascinating is that the Chimney Swift never lands once it has left it’s home in the early hours of the day – they fly all day long, resting only after they have returned, by hanging (almost bat like) along the inner walls of chimneys.

She told me that during the daytime they fly around eating a variety of insects. Then she started a short talk about insects and how different species fly around at different levels in our atmosphere. The Chimney Swift only flies in one layer of our atmosphere eating the bugs that share this same space. She told me that one thing people are starting to recognize is that car and factory pollution is killing many different varieties of insects and the Swift is finding it harder and harder to find food.

I shared a short story with her, about my first Swift encounter…

Joanne and I were living in Nova Scotia in 2003 and one evening – at dusk – I drove our Jeep into Wolfville to pick Jo’ up from the pub where she was working. I turned a corner to enter into a public parking lot and I noticed a lot of people standing around looking up. I parked and joined them.

It looked like a black disc of swirling shapes – at first I thought that they were bats. Then suddenly, one of the shapes broke away from the disc and started plummeting towards the ground and then it seemed to just vanish. Then another shape dropped and then another. Suddenly the entire black disc disintegrated and all the shapes fell. During this time I could see more clearly and I realized that they were vanishing into the chimney stack.

After chatting with some folks I learned that I had witnessed the daily return to home of the Chimney Swift. I was told that the town of Wolfville had preserved this old chimney, and had built a small display around it to tell the story of the Swift.

The lady in the downtown parking lot thought that it was good that I had heard of and seen the Chimney Swift before. Then we picked up our conversation about insects again…

We talked about how the insect population is steadily declining. I mentioned that when I was young, my mom used to drive me and a few friends to soccer practice and that it was a bit of a game to make comments every time a bug squashed on the windshield. I said, “You just don’t see that anymore. Even after a three hour drive through the country, to visit my parents, my car has only a few splat marks where 20 years ago the entire front of the car would have been a mess.”

We both agreed that this was a very serious matter.

So, this all brings my story to the present, as I continue on, talking about the bean plants that I am growing along the handrailing at the front of my house.

These are called Scarlet Runners and as you can see they grow like a vine. I hope you like the funky effects I used to make this image a little more interesting. All summer long I have been carefully feeding the vines in and out of the staircase handrailing to make a small wall of green…with sprinkles of red dots.

What I’ve been noticing is that the plants are producing very few beans, although I am seeing lots and lots of flowers all the time. I started noticing that when the flowers were not pollinated by the bees that the plant would grow another set of flowers, a little further along the vine. If these flowers were not pollinated then this cycle would continue.

It’s gotten to the point that sometimes up to ten rows of flowers were being produced with no flowers being pollinated thus no beans being produced. I have seen an occasional bee visiting these plants but I’m thinking that the normal routine would be to see many bees on these flowers at the same time.

I mentioned this to a friend who told me that sometimes she has pollinated her plants herself, using a feather from her duster. I had heard about this before but I had never tried it… until recently. I don’t have a feather duster, so after a bit of searching and thinking I thought that I could use a Qtip – I just had to pull the cotton off of the stick to make it a bit more ‘feathery’.

By lightly touching the insides of each flower I was able to spread pollen to many flowers. Incredibly this has actually worked. For the last two weeks I’ve watched my bean crop more than triple. I’ve even gotten into the habit of using this technique on my squash and zucchini plants with great results.

Now, I realize that environmental conditions are always different from season to season and from year to year – that’s why one year we will see an enormous amount of one kind of bug when the next year (maybe it’s a cooler year) we’ll hardly see any of the same kind of bug – so I’m not panicking about the less than normal bee activity I’ve seen this year. But it is something that I will be watching a bit more closely over the next several years.

I do think that it is important for all of us to start recognizing all of these seemingly small and subtle changes in our world. It will help us to understand Nature’s patterns a bit more intimately and hopefully this new relationship will help us make the needed changes that will allow our species to flourish on Earth instead of existing in fear of our future.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I love growing vegetables! Lots and lots of different kinds of vegetables! There is nothing more satisfying than watching the seeds that I so carefully bury beneath the soil turn into plants that provide my family with healthy foods.

This spring was a very busy time for me. The house that Joanne and I bought didn’t come with any vegetable gardens so I had to dig them in by hand. This took a lot of effort and when it came time to do the planting I realized that I still did not have enough space in my garden for all the vegetables that I wanted to plant.

I decided to use some of the available spaces that I found in a few of my flowerbeds. This small area was filled with many spring flowers, like Tulips and Daffodils, and by mid May they had all bloomed and died. I figured that this would be a great location for my squash and zucchini plants. I made sure that I created the planting locations where there were no flower bulbs hiding underneath the soil.

You can see that I created mini volcano-like holes in the soil to plant my seeds. I do this to conserve water. Water for these veggies is poured into these craters and soaks downwards directly to the roots of the plants.

I must have done something right, cuz this is what this garden looks like, now! I’ve harvested many zucchinis, so far, and I expect many more of the next two months. The Butternut Squash plants are also doing very well. I like the small purple flowers that have added a splash of colour to this garden, too!

For story telling purposes I find that it is necessary to take – what I call – pictures, like the ones above. But when I’m inspired, I like to be a bit more creative with my camera to capture photographs, images that capture a mood and a texture, with heavy concentration on the composition for an enjoyable photograph…

Photography starts by first getting close to the subject matter.

And then you get a little closer, still. This can allow you to use macro settings on your camera.

Whenever possible, do not put your subject matter in the middle of your composition and remember to think about what’s in the background.

With zucchini season upon us, many people are looking for yummy recipes. I found one recipe – through the power of ‘google’ – and I’m going to share it with you…

Zucchini Loaf a la Jimbo


3 cups all purpose organic flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup chopped nuts (walnut, almond, etc)

3 local farmed organic eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

2 ¼ cups white sugar

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 grated zucchini


Grease and flour 2 regular sized loaf pans and 1 mini pan

In a large bowl mix flour, salt, baking soda and powder, cinnamon and nuts

In a larger bowl beat eggs, oil and sugar together until creamy

To the liquid mixture add vanilla and grated zucchini

Turn oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C)

Add the dry ingredients to the liquid and mix thoroughly

Pour batter into the 3 pans and bake for 40 – 60 minutes (or until tester inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean)

Cool in pans for 20 minutes

Remove from pans to cool completely

Eat and enjoy!!!

I’ve gotten into the habit of freezing the two larger loafs so that I can enjoy them through the winter while I eat the small loaf over the next few days.

And don’t forget to share! With you neighbours, friends or co-workers – they’ll be very happy to learn that you can actually cook!!!

Here’s something so simple that you can also do with your zucchinis…

BBQ them!!!! That’s right! Just slice them about ¾ inch, sprinkle (in a bowl) with a bit of oil, add salt, pepper and other spices or herbs and toss them on the grill – about 3 or 4 minutes each side. Yum! Great with mushrooms and peppers, too.

Grow vegetables, eat healthy, bake happy and enjoy life!!!!


PS – Growing your own food also helps our environment. Think of all the transportation trucks that WILL NOT be needed to transport food, if you and your neighbours all grew a little something and shared with each other. :)

Here’s another Earth saving tip…

Many people think that just by turning off appliances that are not in use, that they are saving electricity and our environment. This does help, but any electrical appliance will still be drawing electricity simply by being plugged in. A computer scanner plug in actually gets warm, just by being plugged in. Think how much energy is needed to actually warm up a plug! So… when you are not watching TV, or not using your computer or stereo unplug!!!!

‘Nuf said

Friday, August 13, 2010

Negatives, Positives and Moon Cycles

I’d like to be able to say that all my moments driving The Peacebus were enjoyable, but I can’t. Although, all my moments with my elementary school students were enjoyable, I found that at times I would have difficulty dealing with my high school students. For the most part, most of the high school students were pleasant, but there always seemed to be a handful of about 8-10 students who acted with little or no respect while on my bus.

I learned a lot during each situation… mostly what not to do again!!!! I had some success, but (and I’m not ashamed to admit it) most of my failures stemmed from the mistakes that I made while I was trying to gain their cooperation. Like I said, I learned a lot.

For many months, the same situations arose again and again, and for the most part this continuous negative behaviour baffled me. The bus ride was only twenty minutes long and I couldn’t understand why some of these students couldn’t act respectful for such a short period of time.

I had polite chats with these students, asking them not make a mess of the bus, as I had other people who rode the bus, as well. “Believe it or not, my elementary students don’t really like getting on this bus to find ham sandwiches opened and smeared across the back of the seats, or great wads of spit on the floor, or seats littered with wrappers and melted chocolate chips. You know you’re not supposed to be eating anything on the bus anyway!”

There was a small handful of students who just didn’t care what I had to say, or how I said it. The messes continued continuously!

After a few months of this, I really started to wonder about the minds in these young adults. What kinds of decisions would they be making in a few more years, as the future leaders of the world? I shook my head with a bit of sadness.

Then, one week, there was a tremendous uproar on my bus… both negative and positive. I’ve often thought about writing a book about this experience entitled, “The Lollipop Wars!”

It was time that I clamped down on this negative, disrespectful nature to restore a sense of values. The high school students didn’t like this one bit. The tension that began to arise became great!

On the total flip-side of this coin, my elementary students became monsters of a totally different nature… they were becoming peaceful art monsters! This was a truly interesting and fabulous experience for me to live through.

The students are always handing in their peace art to me. I usually receive one or two artworks in a three day period. The Monday of this week, I arrived at the school with a small stack of twelve artworks!!! My mind was blown – this was a Peacebus record!!!

The next day I received a total of eighteen peace artworks.

The next day… even more!

By the end of the week I had collected close to seventy original artworks from almost every student on my bus! I’m showcasing my favourite ones throughout this blog story. I hope that you are enjoying them!

I felt like I was living in a total yin-yang world – twenty minutes of torture balanced with forty minutes of heavenly delights!

The attitudes of the small handful of high school troublemakers really frightened me. They believed that they had the right to make a mess and disrespect the safety rules of the bus and that I had no right to do anything about this.

This became totally clear when I reassigned a few of their seats.

One of these students actually said to me, “You have no right to make me sit at the front of the bus cuz you’re just a stupid bus driver!” I had to impress on him, the hard way, that I did indeed have that right, and a few others.

I used all of this negativity in positive ways. That afternoon, after I had picked up my art angels I told them all, “that you don’t have to listen to anything that I say anymore cuz I’m just a stupid bus driver.”

The students started an uproar, “You’re not stupid, Mr. Jim.” “You’re the greatest bus driver in the whole world!” “We love you, Mr. Jim!” They were all very upset that I had been treated this way by another student.

Our conversation continued on this thread of thought, as we discussed how it is not right to think that you are better than someone else because of the job that someone may have. The students did most of the talking.

“We have to treat each person that we meet with respect, because it’s the only right thing to do.” “It’s not right to think little of other people.”

“Think about all the poor people in the world. They are not poor because they are stupid or lazy, they’re poor because maybe they didn’t get a chance to be better.” “Everyone should work together to make this world a happy place for everybody.”

These are very smart children.

I discussed this situation with some other drivers and I was given some thoughtful advice. One driver told me that she had had a similar situation, once before, and later she had noticed that her week of ‘terror’ had begun at the height of one the moon cycles. When I got home I looked at a calendar and indeed, my week had started with a full moon!

Although most people believe that humans are not animals and that we are supreme rulers of our Earth, living as separate entities as compared to trees and plants and even other animals, many others are becoming aware that this is a false belief. Not only are humans intricately entwined with all life forces that ebb and flow through our world, I believe that we are also entwined with the life forces and gravitational pulls of moons, planets and even the stars!