Friday, October 21, 2011

A Turtle’s Great Adventure

I love turtles! They are a most beautiful and unique animal and they bring joy to so many people’s lives. I will be sharing a few ‘turtley’ blogs over the next little while and I’m very excited to jump right into this one…

The Peacebus just finished its first art competition of the year and it was a great success. I had a lot of fun and I know that the students did too!

The subject of this competition was… turtles!!!! All of the artworks were amazing, but I’m going to focus on just one group of art creations for this story.

Ava is a student in grade 4. She has been one of my star artists since the beginning of the school year. During this competition she became a ‘Turtle Art Monster’ – LOL – creating close to 25 unique artworks!!! Way to go, Ava!

Yesterday, after I had arrived home after my morning bus runs, Joanne and I spent the morning looking at all of Ava’s drawings. As we were enjoying them, I began to shuffle the drawings around, organizing them in a way. While I was doing this a story began forming in my mind. It was a spontaneous moment of inspiration.

Three hours later, I had completed writing my first ever book, using Ava’s drawings as my inspiration.

Later that evening, I went to a local printing centre and one hour later ‘A Turtle’s Great Adventure’ was complete. I made three copies: 1 copy for me to read to my soon to be born son, 1 copy for Ava and 1 copy for Ava’s school.

Just an hour ago, I went to visit Ava’s principal, to show her our book. I asked the principal to visit Ava’s classroom to present this book to her teacher. This will be such a delightful surprise because Ava does not know – yet – what I have done with her artworks. I can’t wait to see her smiling face at the end of today!!!!

So… with no further adieu… I am honoured to share with all of you….

Wasn’t that a great read?!!!

I’ll be sharing this book with my son many many times over the next few years and I’m sure that he will enjoy this story too!

If you would like to find out what other kind of ‘turtley’ adventures I’m involved in then I will ask you to join my first Facebook group – Turtle Book Ink!!/groups/turtlebookink/

Until next time… have a turtley day y’all!!!!

Mr. Jim

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Own Foodstock!

Last Sunday’s Foodstock event in Honeywood, Ontario was a great success! Over the last couple of days, people have been sending me photos from their experience at this event cuz they knew that I was unable to attend.

My sister joined in the fun and had a plate of food for me! Thanks Sandra!!!!!

CBC radio had been promoting this affair and I’m sure that they were there to get some first hand interviews from the many who were there to enjoy all the great food as well as to learn more about what can be done to halt the destructive plans to turn my homeland into North America’s second largest open-pit mine!

Here’s a story from the Toronto Star newspaper –

The struggle to halt this quarry will be continuing over the next year or so, I would suspect, and be assured that I will do my best to keep you updated.

Foodstock was a celebration of the land and the food that this land provides. Since Joanne and I had to stay close to home cuz our son could be born at any time now, we decided to have a Foodstock of our very own! A celebration of our own small peace of land and the food that we grew this year…

… like this pumpkin! This was just one of the eight pumpkins that we grew this year and the best thing about this is that if was free!! In the spring, I emptied our composter onto one small patch of our garden and all sorts of free food started growing from it.

The first thing to do with your pumpkin is to cut away the top centre stock. Make sure your knife is very sharp.

Using the same knife, cut your pumpkin in half, lengthwise. I find that an ice cream scoop is the perfect tool for scooping out all the seeds and innards of the pumpkin. Later, these seeds will be towel dried and sprinkled with a dash of salt and a drop of oil and using cookie sheets, we’ll bake them until golden. What a great little snack!!!

But, before we do that, the pumpkin halves are placed onto the cookie sheets and baked at 350 degrees for a little over an hour. When we first started learning how to cook squashes, we would steam the squash instead of baking it. We learned that a baked squash is much more flavourful and that it retains a lot more nutrients.

We let the baked pumpkin sit and cool for a couple of hours and then I use the ice cream scoop, again, to separate the pumpkin meat from the skin.

You can do quite a lot with just one pumpkin. As I mentioned, we grew eight of them this year, so you can imagine how much of this yummy stuff we’ve got in our freezer to enjoy over the cold winter to come.

I read that a baby’s first solid foods should be vegetables that are coloured orange and yellow. So, along with the many bags of pumpkin that we’ve stored in our freezer, we’ve got yellow beans and carrots that also grew in our garden, ready to be mashed into baby food.

To prepare a creamy pumpkin soup that will warm your house as well as your spirit, begin by sautéing 3 large onions and lots of garlic. We used a super tasty wild garlic that I stole from my mom’s garden several years ago and transplanted into my garden.

Once the onions become translucent – just before they brown – add 900 ml of vegetable soup stock and let simmer for 30 minutes. Then you add 4 cups of the baked pumpkin and simmer for another 30 minutes. Toss in several generous tablespoons of Rosemary during the last few minutes of this process.

I find that the Rosemary really seals to deal for this soup recipe. I’ll have to add this herb to my veggie garden next year cuz I love it so much!

We use a hand-held blender to create a nice even texture for our soup.

Now you remove the soup pot from the heat, add 2 cups of a light cream, stirring thoroughly and you are ready to enjoy!!!!

I love it when Jo’ makes this soup even better by baking a loaf of Beer Cheese Bread to go along with it!!!! Super Yum!

Our freezer now has many a container filled with this simple yet delightful soup and we’ll be enjoying these flavours throughout the coming winter!

I’m glad to share this recipe with you and I hope that I’ve inspired you to think about planting your own vegetable garden next spring.

As our societies begin to understand that humanity must undergo many profound changes over the years to come to ensure a habitable planet for future generations, the first questions that we all ask is, “What can I do?” The simplest step is learning how fulfilling it is to take care of our most primal need – food! After that, most other actions for change seem to just fall into place.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Wow! What a view!! Considering how flat the land looks in this photo, one may think that this image was taken from a plane or a hot air balloon, but that’s not the case. This photo was taken somewhere along the edges of The Niagara Escarpment.

This natural phenomenon was created during the last ice age and it stretches from the southern portion of Ontario to very far north. While the surrounding lands remain hollowed out by the receding glaciers, the escarpment reaches up to some extreme heights.

Just a few minutes from where I grew up, in the valleys and hills of the escarpment, there is an area where one can see the night lights of Barrie and Toronto at the same time! This peak is thought to be the second highest landmark in Southern Ontario. This is my backyard!

But, lately the views and vistas have been filled with images of a different concern…

Ahhh – yes… the mega-quarry! Many of you may have read my detailed blog about this issue earlier this summer - . I’m not going repeat myself with all of the reasons why this proposed quarry will be the demise of this region, affecting six major rivers that flow through the Toronto and Niagara region of Ontario, cuz I already did that. I’m going to continue this story sharing the many things that the citizens of Southern Ontario are doing to preserve these lands for future generations…

It was mid July, in Orangeville, Ontario and I was going to a rally to support the halting of the mega-quarry. It didn’t take me long until I saw the first signs…

… telling me I was in the right area!!!

Just behind the town hall, groups of people were gathering to learn more about this issue and to find ways to help local organizations gather strength to challenge the American Industrialists who want to reap profit from Canadian soil.

It was a hot day, and many people found a small corner of shade to stand in while speakers took the stage to share with us.

I was extremely impressed with the caliber of all the speakers. We listened to farmers retell the stories of how they were tricked into selling their farmland. We listened to environmentalists detail the impact that this quarry will have on this land as well as neighbouring areas. We listened to local government officials as they encouraged us to continue fighting to preserve these unique lands.

I was most impressed with one of the speakers who told us that his goal was not to put a halt to just this quarry, but to set legislative precedence so that future proposals of this nature will require the environmental assessments that are now non existent. That’s right! This proposal to create North America’s second largest open-pit mine does NOT have to prepare an environmental assessment! That’s just wrong!!

There were booths where one could purchase signs of opposition to post onto front lawns, to help spread awareness. There were booths filled with petitions that were signed by all attendees. And there were booths filled with local chefs who had simple foods available for the crowds, to highlight the crop diversity from this region that would become spoiled if the plans for the mega-quarry cannot be halted.

I liked how the chefs had arranged a unique way to get the hungry people involved in making their own food. This is a bike-powered flourmill! If you wanted a homemade soft-shell taco for lunch you had to dedicate a few minutes of your time to grind the flour that would be used to make your taco shell!! Everyone thought that this was great!

It sure would have been a boring event if all we did was stand around and listen to people talk all day, so a variety of local musicians took to the stage between speakers. Coming from an area that has annual fiddling events, we were entertained with a few fiddlers, and a short while later these drummers entertained us.

Another event that happened this summer was the ‘Paint In’, which was hosted by The Artists United Against The Mega-Quarry.

30 artists had gathered to create a unique series of paintings depicting the beauty that these landscapes have to offer. Now that this issue had been building so much positive publicity, many people came to view these dedicated craftsmen in action!

Sandi Wong is the person who I’ve been in contact with to learn more about these art events. This is one of her creations. Absolutely gorgeous!

Just two weeks ago, Sandi organized the first of several art exhibits that will be taking place over the next year. Her paintings highlight both the rolling hills of the area and the ‘big sky’ that fills our heart while strolling along these country sideroads. I’m hoping to create another original landscape over this winter so that I can personally support this cause.

Sandi is compiling a large email list to keep interested people up to speed with these events, so if you would like to learn more please visit her website -

Over the years, I have created many landscape paintings inspired this region of Southern Ontario. This painting was also the inspiration for a song that I wrote about a walk through the hills during a Thanksgiving visit to my parents’ - who still live in this area.

This region has always been an inspiration to me – it is the most beautiful region in all of Southern Ontario. I grew up here. This is the place that I call home! It will be interesting to see how my ambition to save my homeland affects my future art creations depicting this area.

So… these are some of the events that have happened in our recent history.

Now… I want to share one event that is going to be happening this coming weekend. I would love to learn that this blog inspired some people to visit this area and attend this event.

The following has been edited from an article appearing in the Toronto Star newspaper…

Chef Michael Stadtlander is the driving force behind Foodstock, an Oct. 16 fundraiser in support of the movement to Stop The Mega Quarry. He's in the potato field of Dave Vanderzaag, who is one of four farmers who didn't sell to an American-backed company that wants to develop one of Canada's biggest rock quarries. JASON VAN BRUGGEN PHOTO (from Toronto Star)
Activist chef Michael Stadtländer is spearheading a farm-based food protest and hopes 20,000 people will join him.

The Oct. 16 event is called Foodstock and it’s a pay-what-you-can culinary and musical rally against a proposed limestone mega quarry on prime agricultural land next to the Niagara Escarpment. The project’s opponents fear for the region’s water, farming and quality of life.

“We have to protect land that can grow food,” Stadtländer said Thursday. “We’re just at the dawn of localism, and after seeing the drought, hurricanes and floods that have happened in the United States, I think we had better secure where our food comes from.”

Most of the chefs are from southern Ontario, but at least three are coming from Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. Each will create a dish using locally grown or procured items like potatoes, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, apples, smoked lake trout, beef and pork.

“In a way, you will taste the land that is in jeopardy,” promised Stadtländer, a longtime supporter of organic food and localism.

The article continues to mention that some prominent Canadian musicians will also be in attendance. Wouldn’t it be the coolest thing to spend the day winding your way through these hills at the height of the Autumn colours before settling down to the greatest meal you’ll ever have and while your on your way to the donation jar you shake hands with Jim Cuddy or Sarah Harmer!!!!?

Last Friday, I was at a library, researching news articles, and checking my emails for more information for this very blog, when a ‘chat’ bubble popped up on my Facebook page. It was from someone who used to be my neighbour. Jeremy Taggart asked me if I was going to be attending this event. I told him that I would love to go but since my wife is due to give birth to our son near that date, I just couldn’t take the risk.

Later, my wife joked and said that if we did go, and she did have our baby that it would be like Woodstock!!!

By this time, I figured that Jeremy was going to be there and I asked him about his plans for the day. He told me that he was to be the host for this event. Very cool, indeed!

I haven’t seen Jeremy since we were teenagers, right about the time when he decided to go out into the world to become the drummer for Our Lady Peace! It would have been great to see him again, so I could give him some of my peace Stik-ers to share with the band!!!

So… there ya go! One day! 20, 000 people! 70 Canadian chefs! And a handful of Canada’s finest musicians! Let’s make the Canadian government witness our united effort as we make a glorious stand to preserve our food and our land for our children and theirs!!!!!

‘Nuf said! I’m hungry… where does the food line start?


Can’t make it to Foodstock – then keep up to date on the ‘No Mega-Quarry’ Facebook page -