Penny Bottle

To continue my apparent obsession with pennies…I accepted an invitation to submit a piece to an art show entitled “Dirt”, at the Lobby Gallery at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, UBC.

It is an interesting word, dirt. A lot of people use the word to refer to soil. Which if you are gardener or otherwise appreciator of soil, you might cringe at. Soil is full of life!

Think of the word ‘dirty’ and how we use it.

The call for submissions said this about the topic of dirt: the rude, out-of-place, “foreign”, unwanted, yucky, smutty, unnerving, filthy, freaky poo that you have been hiding (or not). One can also choose to muddy those constructs with concepts of groundedness, warmth, darkness, richness and fecundity. Anthropologist Mary Douglas in “Purity and Danger” (1966) analyses pollution and taboo as sociocultural constructs in which dirt is a “matter out of place”.

So I thought of pennies. Coins are inherently dirty as they pass from hand to hand. And money itself can be considered dirty in the sinful sense. And in Canada we recently stopped producing the penny and began phasing it out of use – treating it like unwanted dirt.

Then I thought of glass bottles, as I have heard the recycling of glass bottles is being removed from municipal programs – and bottles will be treated like dirt and tossed out.

And as a gardener…I thought of how people refer to soil as dirt. And so…


Growing with Pennies

PENNY BOTTLE  Coins are dirty, yet they have monetary value – in opposition to the lack of value commonly associated with ‘dirt’. In 2013, Canadian pennies were removed from circulation, demoting them to uselessness. Here, out of the penny-dirt grows a glass bottle, alive in the sense that it is repeatedly recyclable. However, the last facility in BC that recycles glass into new containers closed in 2008. Recycled glass is now typically used for road aggregate or cover at landfills. Glass bottles in curbside collection are unwanted in some municipalities: “the glass breaks and contaminates other higher value recyclables”. Will glass be discarded as if it were ‘dirt’?

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5 tips to eating local year-round and not wasting food

If you have a way to compost and a garden to use that compost in, you might not be as concerned with this. But as an urban dweller in an apartment, I get hives at the idea of throwing veggies into the landfill. So. Wrong. It’s probably a bit clinical, but I could have worse obsessions I suppose.

So in order to avoid the wasted food blues, I have several strategies for saving food (mostly fruit and vegetables) from the garbage. This also will save you money. And if buying produce is an unusual event for you, this might help you too.

1) Make Soups and Stirfries: Soups and stirfries are amazing because anything goes and they are fast and nutritious! Especially soups & stews. One of my favourites is ‘orange soup’ which features carrots, yams and orange lentils. Somehow it seems easier to me if everything is the same colour. And soups are even better when use stock that you made (see below…)

2) Plan your Meals: I need to mention this one, just because I know my tendency – when I go to the Farmers Market and there is so much beautiful produce. I get so excited that I buy more than I can use – and ignore the fact that I have plans for the next few evenings and won’t have time to make dinner. That’s a waste of money and food. Double boo-urns.

3) Make Your Own Veggie Stock: One trick is to gather end bits when you chop veggies. Another is to rescue slightly wilted veggies before they demise. With this rescued veg bits you can either make stock right away or freeze them til you have enough to make stock. Don’t worry if they ain’t pretty – as long as they are not rotten. Use the ends of carrots, ends of onions, and even onion skin (it gives stock that rich colour). When you have enough to make veggie stock, throw it all into a big pot with water and some kombu. Include a couple tomatoes! Cook for 45 minutes or so, then strain. Freeze or can the stock in appropriate sizes (I find 2 cups is good for 2 person household). Now you only need to remember to add them to future soups and stews (see tip 1 😉

4) Freeze it Realistic: Consider portion sizes – think about what you would like to be able to pull out of the freezer? This also is where labelling is important, and having a way to remember to use those things you freeze. This might mean you blanch that extra swiss chard before packaging it in portion sizes. Or chop the rhubarb so it is ready to be compiled into a fruit crumble. This works well with budget conscious folks – buy when something is on sale, and preserve it. Buying something out of season tends to be 1) from FAAAAR away (thus not sustainable) and 2) more expensive. On the topic of freezing – I like to freeze single portions of the extra soups/stews to take for lunch.

5) Bread’s next Role: When that bread gets dry and you don’t want to use it in the traditional bread way (sandwiches, toast), don’t throw it out yet! As long as it isn’t moldy, that is. Green fuzzy lifeforms may or may not be good for your health. That bread can have a new future as either Breadcrumbs or Bread Pudding. Breadcrumbs – just bust up in blender/food processor/hammer and sturdy bag and freeze. Label it! Alternatively, Bread Pudding: cut that bread into cubes and throw it into the freezer if you aren’t ready to use it yet. To make bread pudding (savoury or sweet) you mix 2 eggs : 1/3 cup of milk, add salt/pepper or sugar, and mix with couple cups or so of bread cubes. Let sit for at least 1 hour in the fridge, or overnight. The bread should get all soaked in the egg/milk mixture. You can add other things like cheese/meat/sundried tomatoes or chocolate chips/berries/raisins. Smoosh it into a dish and bake until the middle springs back nicely (30mins – 1hr depending on size of dish)

That’s all for now!

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6 Amazing Things You Might Not Know About Vancouver

I’m gonna jump on the bandwagon here with my own “Six (or 3 or 10) ____ (amazing/crazy/scary/weird) Things you Might Not Know About ___”. I grew up around here and that gave me some time to notice a thing or few about Vancouver. So here are Six Amazing Things You Might Not Know About Vancouver…

#1 Amazing Thing You Might Not Know About Vancouver

Every evening as the sun sets, the skies darken…with thousands and thousands of crows. They all fly east to their collective roost in the neighbouring municipality of Burnaby. They go out every morning and return home at night. My friend who works by their roost says it’s pretty creepy in the winter mornings when they are just getting up and she’s arriving for work. Never mind the smell when rain and crow poo mingle. But it’s a stunning sight overhead all across Vancouver, a steady stream of cawing crows.

As Crows Fly By

# 2 Amazing Thing You Might Not Know About Vancouver

Jimi Hendrix used to stay and play here in Vancouver. More specifically his grandparents lived here (Jimi was born in Seattle cuz his dad left Vancouver and met Jimi’s mom in Seattle). There’s a shrine to Jimi, in what used to be part of the building where his grandmother ran a restaurant called Vie’s Chicken and Steak House. It was in a predominately African-Canadian neighbourhood called Hogan’s Alley – full of jazz music and soul food. Like Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong. For real! That neighbourhood was destroyed with the excuse that the government needed to build giant concrete overpasses to connect to a highway through Vancouver…which funnily enough was never built, because the politicos changed their minds later about that. Why is there a shrine? So the story goes…years later after Jimi Hendrix died, there’s this Italian guy who is a huge fan of the late Jimi. He visits a museum on Jimi down in Seattle and sees a letter from Jimi addressed to the apartment building the Italian guy owns…in Vancouver’s now-Chinatown. Why would Jimi Hendrix mail to his building? He dug a little deeper and learned about the connection. And made a shrine.He still maintains part of it as housing for students, and keeps one part as a shrine, which is run by volunteers.

IMG_31801Jimi Hendrix Lives On In Vancouver!


#3 Amazing Thing You Might Not Know About Vancouver

When there was a gold rush near Vancouver (up in the Fraser River canyon), the common language was not English or French – it was something often called “Chinook Jargon”. When the City of Vancouver was starting to call itself as such, in the late 1800s, the language generally spoken there for both for social and business reasons among all the different peoples was Chinook Jargon, also called Chinuk Wawa or the old trade language.  It originated from the Chinook language, but also was influenced by other languages and spread across the Pacific Northwest. The height of use of this language was the 1800s, and many Europeans adopted the Chinook Jargon as the language at home and work. This was back in the day when there was a gold rush in BC, following the gold rush in California. People went cray cray for that stuff.

Hard work, panning for gold! Many people died following the gold rush dream.

Hard work, panning for gold! Many people died following the gold rush dream.











#4 Amazing Thing You Might Not Know About Vancouver

Cypress is not a mountain. Yes, there is a snow sports resort called Cypress Mountain, but there is no mountain called Cypress. The resort, where people ski, snowboard, snowshoe, and sled, is in between three mountains, none of which are named Cypress – they are Mount Strachan, Black Mountain, and Hollyburn Mountain.

Cypress "Mountain"

Cypress “Mountain” has natural features such as a parking lot

#5 Amazing Thing You Might Not Know About Vancouver

Vancouver has fewer rainy days than Abbotsford. Vancouver has the reputation of being a very rainy place (and it does rain a fair bit here, and that means beautiful rainforest!) But while the City of Vancouver averages 168 days of precipitation, the nearby City of Abbotsford averages 179. If it rains less than .2 mm it doesn’t count as a rainy day, in this measure, and this number includes snow, but that’s pretty rare on the west coast. Abbotsford is about an hour to 1.5 hour drive in light traffic to Vancouver. It’s eastwards into the Fraser Valley (the valley of the Fraser River).

Wet rainforest hikes are pretty awesome

Wet rainforest hikes are pretty awesome

6) Okay, admittedly this list of things is getting less interesting. I can only think of five right now. The sixth amazing thing is for you to discover! But, catchy title, right?

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Practically Complete: Penny Project

Time to catch up with the Penny Project! It has been awhile. The penny-adding action was swift in the beginning, but then slowed down as the missing ones became fewer and fewer. What’s still missing: 1970, 1968, 1967, 1966, 1963, 1961 and earlier. I admit, no one is trying very hard to find these. I figure they will come my way, when they come my way. Or I move and dismantle this, whatever comes first!


penny project

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yay for duck duck go! plus, always use a fake name on the internet.

Someone told me about Duck Duck Go awhile ago.  It’s a kindly search engine that doesn’t save your personal information along with performing the search. This is unlike most (or all?) of the others. I depend on geeks, like i would on car mechanics and heart specialists, if i need relevant information about how to navigate the crazy interwebworld. Here, try this software, this add-on, configure this, let’s just change your settings…

Don't you have something better to do? Like sit on this nice bench and smell the flowers.

Don’t you have something better to do? Like sit on this nice bench and smell the flowers.

It’s interesting, using Duck Duck Go. It works. You can find things. But with Duck duck Go, you have to work a little harder to find what you want in the massive databank of the internets.  As a former google search user, it makes me feel like Google is the wind behind your back that you can’t feel. It makes choices, virtually adds search terms for you, in a way. It knows you. In a one-way kind of way. Like an invisible therapist.

Using a private search engine such as Duck duck Go has appeal, for some basic reasons. What if I look up skydiving, but when my BFF sees all the skydiving ads that Google thinks I want to see, sh/he faints from fear? Or because I’m interested in internments and violations of international law. Either way, its my business.

Look around. Notice weird things.

Look around. Notice weird things.

I recall learning about IRC in the early 1990s – and how you had a handle. Which was not necessarily, or even usually, your real actual name.  It was CandyCane or JoeSmith or SunnyDay. In those early IRC days, i created a new persona – it was a non-me extension of myself. But I was young and immature and so was my alterego “leafthief”. I went onto poetry channels and heckled people. Sorry, IRC poets of the early ’90s.

Beyond IRC, as the internet started spreading through phone lines, the opportunities kept growing, to identify yourself…or disidentify yourself. Still, in the 1990s it was like a carnival – the internet wasn’t posing as reality. As technology developed, it started to tip in favour of being an extension of each individual. Email, web cams, smart phones.

Crazy to think about identity and how the internet distorts it. Nowadays so many people use a real name on the internet, real personal information, most folks just have it as just another part of this vacation we call life.

Game Over

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the New Penny Order

After getting so cosy with the penny, I’ve noticed how very much not the same they all are.I don’t just mean that the new ones are shiny and the older ones are dirty. So I did a little looking up info about the penny…

I learned that from 1942 to 1996, pennies were made from 98% copper, plus a bit of tin (up to 1.75%) and a pinch of zinc (up to 1.5%). After that, it was a radical change to zinc with copper plating (zoweee!).  In the late 2000s, zinc gave way to steel coins with copper plating.

They vary in size too. Not a lot of variance, but a little!

Another way they vary is in shape. While the penny was usually round in shape, in the 80s and 90s, the penny was 12-sided. TWELVE! Dizzying really.

And yeah, the wall hasn’t grown much – I’ve been away and busy and haven’t invited many folks over, etc…

To be continued…but for now…see below for a sight that makes you go, why?? Seen on the ground at the park. Fruit loops with pasta. Why.



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Pennies 4ever

Since the news that the Canadian penny will slowly disappear from regular use, there’s been an increased nostalgia about the penny. It was really just an annoyance before, having to dig out more round metal disks and hardly getting much for the effort. You can’t buy nothing with one cent or two!

But now…oh sweet penny! You are different, special! Amber coloured, instead of all those other, pompous, silvery coins. Got that leaf on it. So cool.

Y’know what else is cool? My penny wall. See how it’s coming along. Now that I fixed it up, you can see some patterns. It’s funny how years that end in 4 or 9 (the far right column) are plentiful, while years that end in 5 or 0 (far left column) are scarce. Is it just us? Or is this a pattern of circulation? Curious…

the before picture. when the pennies were alll messed up

the before picture. when the pennies were alll messed up

renewed order of pennies!

renewed order of pennies!

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Penny Project Prevails

slowly getting filled in as friends contribute

Day 18 – slowly getting filled in as friends contribute

Ever since the Canadian penny started to be detained by the banking system, never to be sent out again, on Feb 4, 2013, I think more about using pennies in cash exchanges. Plus this penny project says hello to me every day —–>>

The feds say the penny costs more to produce than it is worth. It’s mostly made of steel, since early 2000s. Before that, zinc, and before that, copper. They produced the last penny back in May 2012, but non profit organizations doth protested about the immediate removal from circulation – planning time for fundraising drive to take advantage of the penny’s fall from favour.

Now that the claws of extinction are pawing at the penny, a Penny Project seems right. The penny will still remain legal tender, and no doubt be around for awhile…but don’t be surprised if one day you think, hey, I haven’t seen a penny in forever!  But we will be able to gaze at my penny wall, and say, ah yes…I remember the penny…here it is…

So a funny thing about the first month of the penny project.

nom nom nom

nom nom nom

We had some fun folks over, and were merry.

And the penny project got lots of action that night!

now it's a game of finding the penny that's missing

now it’s a game of finding the penny that’s missing

Over the next week or so, folks who came by added a penny here, a penny there.

I just took a closer look. And realized the pattern was broken in about 5 places. At least!

It should be

1950-1954 in the top row

1955-1959 in the next row down

1960-1964 in the third, and so on. It is not.

I’m gonna have to fix this!

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First Friend Penny!

Here’s a friend putting the first friend penny on! Friendpenny!First Friend contributor!

Then we ate soup with biscuits. Yum.

another wintery activity = sharing delicious soup

another wintery activity = sharing delicious soup

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DIY Canadian Penny Wall Project

In winter, when the air outside is damp cold and the daylight brief, I tend to cocoon at home more than in brighter months. Home-based activities increase, like sewing, recycled crafting, yoga, making homemade dish soap (hmm) and food projects like sprouting and fermenting. I spend more time focused on solo projects, and somewhat less time on collaborative. It’s a slower, sloggier time of year, where it takes longer to get out the door because of the layers and scarves and mittens. My energy stores tend to be lower with the sun scarcity. My sunglasses are lonely and ignored. The rain jacket gets out almost as much as I do.

What to do? It’s January 9th, 2013. Perhaps I’ve got apartment fever, but in rummaging through a box of things I came across two older Canadian pennies – one was 1950 and has a dude on the back (most pennies have the Queen of England on the back)  The other penny was from 1969. YEAH WOOOO 69!!!

This discovery of rad pennies, along with the news that the Canadian mint would soon cease producing the copper penny forever…gurgled and bubbled in my head and an idea popped out:

I shall start a penny wall project! With one penny for each year, stuck in order. A project that anybody who comes over can participate in! I stuck a few pennies on my wall in chronological order, spacing them out so there are 5 pennies per row (so 5 years). The upper left one is the 1950 one. I expect as the missing years narrow down that it will feel like quite a feat to find the penny that fits a gap! Oh, my, dead-of-winter excitement!

Pennies stuck to the wall

Pennies stuck to the wall

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