Tuesday, 14 January 2014

let them eat cake

We may no longer feed bananas to monkeys
  in captivity
A travesty
  for too long we have let them eat cake

freed mink reek havok
  in unfree ecosystems
Intervention got it wrong

liberation may come in the form of
Test rabbits up in flames
  going out with a bang may be better than
  prison + torture

I am trapped
  by money
  by gender
  by law
And escape may be the death of me
  when the earthquake (tsunami, flood, ice-age, heat-wave, drought, extinction)

honouring the spider in our kitchen
we don't swing our arms too high
observe her each day
she may be the most free
  may we learn from her web

Friday, 8 November 2013

de/institutionalizing children in an institutional world

As a young adult who was raised without school, and who has remained a life-long unschooler, I am beginning to notice that my ability to handle institutional violence is very low. I'm interested in considering the bigger meaning of this, in terms of how we can best support children to function within this institutional (fucked up!) world, without simply requiring them to get used to institutionalization. While unschoolers aren't saved from all forms of oppression (systems of oppression can play out in the home, or in other institutions such as hospitals, or like, pretty much anywhere), we do have the privilege of skipping out on the every day institutionalization that the majority of children experience. I've always thought of this as a net-positive, hands down. Skipping violence? Good! I've wished to pass on these experiences to other children and I still dream of this. I've started to notice, though, that I am exceedingly, sometimes incapacitatingly sensitive to institutional violence, which makes functioning in this world really fucking difficult. Could this be related to the relative little experience with (educational, particularly) institutions that I've grown up with? I'm not about to say we should keep institutionalizing kids so that they're equipped to handle institutions later in their lives, as they inevitably will have to (until the revolution, of course!). I am looking for a way to deal with this as an adult unschooler, committed to anti-institutional values, interacting with work place institutions and 'higher education' which, while elective, is hard to get by without at times. To deal both with my own experience in the world (crying every time I interact with an institution is unsustainable) and with questions of how to support children who will grow up in a similar world.

My path at this time seems to be leading in the direction of working with children, and I still don't know what that will look like in the long run (most likely it will look like many different things). I must balance my values and goals for positively impacting the lives of children and families with the reality of my abilities/desires/protective needs. There may be spaces where I can seemingly be most useful, or impact the lives of 'average' kids, but which will destroy me. There may be other spaces which fit my ideals at face value, but fail to engage with the children most at risk of institutional violence. How can I (and we) manage these complexities?
I've done a lot of "this is radical, that's not radical, you can only do any good in this environment, that environment, blah blah blah..." and I'm bored of that. I've devalued my own work and trials and have dismissed the work of others. I've had huge defensive fights with people who've had different experiences than me and thus see different problems and different solutions. I'm working really hard now to value my own efforts and that of others. We're all fucking trying, and it's all imperfect, and we need well intentioned folks in all sorts of environments, institutional or alternative or what the fuck ever. Above all, I think that any of us trying to work with young'uns (or in any work, actually) gotta base it on what we can do without crushing our own fucking souls. If we try to be self-less, we will end up soul-less. Luckily, we each need and want different things and thrive in different environments, so rad folks do end up everywhere.

Okay, back to my experience as an unschooler.
It's important I don't generalize that my experience of extreme sensitivity is shared by all or even any unschoolers. I don't know enough life-long unschoolers to really survey this. I do see, though, that many of my friends, peers and comrades who have been in 'educational' institutions for most of their lives, while sharing anti-institutional sentiment, can manage this contradiction (participating in something which they have deep critical analysis of) much more smoothly than I can. Having been forced to do very little, really, in my life, I freak the fuck out when I am in coercive environments (even if I'm choosing to be there). Perhaps the world would be better off if more of us had a deep visceral reaction to the injustices inherent in institutions, but we do live in this world, and does it serve us to not be able to function in it?

When I complain of the violence I witness or experience in the institutions I now interact with to folks who have been schooled most of their lives, I come off something like an upper-middle class art school kid complaining to his working class friends that he is broke. Boofuckinghoo, I'm getting a taste of what others chew and partly by my own choice? But because my reactions are congruent with my (and my friends') politics, I easily feel justified in my complaints. Yes, we all wish these institutions didn't exist, so yes, we are all critical. But how useful is it for me, as someone in this regard privileged, to just crumble under the stress that many face their entire lives, and subsequently expect the sympathy of those with more experience of ('educational') institutions?

I've been thinking about this, fretting about it, fighting about it, talking about it with a lot of people and these are all just questions and realizations I've come to with a lot of help. Certain people very close to me deserve huge props for tolerating it and immensely aiding in my development of ideas. When it comes down to it, I can't tell if I'm just really sensitive, or if having been unschooled has something to do with it. There's no perfect way to raise kids in a fucked up world, or to function as an adult in a fucked up world. I'm just trying my darndest, and I guess I hope that the more I understand my own experiences, the better I can move forward inevitably impacting the experiences of little folks (for better and worse).

Saturday, 26 October 2013


home is a fruit fly fortress, a slow-cooker cave
we want wild and slow, unplugged connections
there is broth boiling, there are herbs drying
aroma seeps into my dreams

we operate on warmth, avoid burn-out
following our hearts as they lead us homeward, always homeward
homebody hearts and defiant souls ask
Are the streets the only places for struggle?

there is a yearning for more
collectivity, interconnection
in the comfort of our fortress we are safe

where is the in between? where care and combat come together?
i dream of warmth from the ashes of this city
and home cooked meals to share

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Fermenting Revolution, Culturing Care

A lot of response to my last piece touched on the idea of "self-care."
It would seem that this is what I was writing about, or at least what ended up being read. I am disappointed by this, not because I disdain all elements of self-care culture/rhetoric or because I don't factor that into my life, but because the fact that self-care ended up being the topic of what I wrote tells me a lot about why, though I am feeling much better, I'm still feeling hints of depression in odd moments. It is the reason why "My life is meaningful because..." isn't enough to keep me out of a funk.

Don't get me wrong, I respect people that practice (non-consumption based) self-care and I certainly practice it myself. I am not trying to write (yet another) critique of the concept. The reality is, however, that the revolutionary spirit that drives me is towards cultural shift, not private well-being. I want to blur these lines because for me to really be well, caring for others is integral. I cannot take care of myself alone, and without taking care of others (or a broader "community") my self-care goals are unattainable. While I recognize the importance of crediting myself for living the way that I do, it's just not radical if it is individual. Yes, the personal is political, and we should all strive to live our ideals in our personal lives, but if we aren't bringing our ideals into the public sphere, it's not revolutionary.
ALL THAT SAID, there are times and places for focusing inward! I have gotten to this place because I have needed it, my personal life has felt unstable enough that I must focus on righting it before I could look outward again.  There is no shame in this, and we must respect each others' choices and reasons for doing such.
For myself, though, I am tired of focusing only inward. I feel an urge and an impulse to live my ideals in another direction. I want to create care culture, not just self-care accepting culture. My utopia does not consist of a bunch of people cooking their meals, meditating, reading, writing, or making sauerkraut- alone.

When I wrote about how our focus on "action" can be really dismissive of those who do not "act," I suppose I was looking primarily at action that builds a culture of resistance. I am so happy that there are tons of people building this culture! I am equally excited about action towards solidarity culture (maybe this is a vague umbrella), and a culture of consent (for me, this action usually looks like setting good boundaries in all areas of life and handling the discomfort created). What I think is missing in focus, is culture of care. Maybe it's there to some extent, and we don't talk about it. Maybe we don't talk about it because patriarchy teaches us it's not worth noting. Maybe we don't talk about it because we've all been trained that (once we are adults) it is the role of a) ourselves, b) institutions/profesionals, and c) our monogamous partners to care for us. All of us who are involved in radical cultural struggle are doing it because we "care" at an emotional or intellectual level (hopefully both), but not all of us consider the direct and social labour of caring.

So I am looking for feedback, for what people think creating a culture of care (outside of self-care or even 1 to 1 relationship care) would take. What kinds of public "action" demonstrates radical generousity, mutual aid, and caring culture?

For now, I am fermenting.

Here's my recipe for self-fermentation:

Step 1: Harvest
As soon as a vegetable is separated from it's roots, certain organisms (heterofermentative bacteria!) begin to flourish. To take advantage of this, I must accept I am no longer rooted. I do not have what I once did, I am not connected in the ways I used to be. My identity must shift from plant to food. It's hard to accept that I am no longer what I once was, that what built me (in this case, as an anarchist) is no longer in my life. What I have depended on to feel useful, what others still point to when they say "you do lots of rad stuff," I no longer do. This is okay. Let the next phase begin.

Step 2: Chop
Need I say more?

Step 3: Salt and massage
This part still stings. I think it's where I'm at right now. Salting and massaging chopped cabbage breaks down the cell walls, lets the moisture out. I am raw, vulnerable, aware that my state is shifting but it's hard to know what into. It's a scary place to be, one that works best if not rushed, and pretty uncomfortable.

Step 4: Submerge (heterofermentation begins)
This part stinks. Literally. Heterofermentative bacteria produce carbon dioxide, acetic acid, lactic acid and more, and smells like rot. It's bubbly, it's messy. It serves to create the environment (acidic) for homofermentative lactic acid bacteria, which is what creates the desired result. So it's a messy phase, and a necessary one. It produces many products, one of which turns out to be particularly useful.

Step 5: Lacto-fermentation
The fizzing dies down some, the colour brightens, and what seemed like rot has turned into something super tasty and nutritious. What started as one thing has become another, related thing. A new version of oneself. Through fermentation, a sustainable (preserved), thriving (with bacteria) and extra healthy (vitamin B!) being has been created. The process hurt, but it was worth it.

Step 6: Eat me
I'm better than raw cabbage.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Work and Value. Y'know, the little things.

I've been looking for work for about 2 months, and have become increasingly discouraged. What's been hard to explain though, to myself as well as those around me, is that the primary problem is not a lack of jobs. Granted, I haven't been offered much and the jobs I have found have had so few hours (or such insulting wage) that they don't solve the paying rent problem (the constant problem!), but still, it's something else that is even more discouraging.
I am seeking community, communality, collectivity, and mutual aid. I am seeking these in a job because I am not experiencing them in my life. Until last winter, I had always experienced these things to some degree, but when some shit fell apart, and spaces where I thought I'd find those things proved to be less thriving than I'd hoped, I was left with a distinct lack of belonging. For someone whose anarchistic values are founded on ideals of collectivity and who has been privileged enough to always have it, this is a pretty awful position to find myself in.

Yesterday my mother asked me what job I would have in my dream world, realism aside. Well, first we had to amend the obvious problem with that question which is that in my ideal world jobs wouldn't exist. Work*, of course, would.
So what kind of work would I be doing? I'd be doing the work of every day life. I would be looking after people, cooking food for myself and hopefully many others, as well as contributing to the rest of the things that make things go. Not go towards progress, or capital, just go, to the next minute and the next.
I sobbed as I pictured my ideal world but spoke quite simple words. When I've told people what I would be doing without capitalism, often the response is "Well great, those are employable things!"
And I shut down, because we obviously aren't understanding each other.
Why was I crying when I told my mom about my dream life? Because all I am trying for right now is a toxic mimic of that dream. I will go to school so that I can get better jobs taking care of children. My work and my home will still be separate things, I will remain an isolated individual struggling to get by in a system I can't stand.
Though it is capitalism that is suffocating me, I feel drowned in my own ideals. The more idealistic I am, the harder it is to live with the world as it is.

I have always been someone who has a hard time getting over things if I don't feel like I have changed the situation. When the situation is the world as we know it, things start looking mighty dire.

*I make a distinction between jobs and work. While I know many anarchists deplore the idea of work altogether, with the idea that the stuff of life outside of capitalism shouldn't be associated with the words we use now for job-work, for ease I prefer to simply think of work as getting things done, which can be a super positive thing to go along with play, love, etc if we take capitalism out of the equation.


It's been about two weeks since I wrote the above, and things have changed a little.

1. Through choices, support (professional and personal), and a whole lot of effort put in to functioning/coping, I have gotten out of the pit of depression, for now.
2. I decided to go to school as soon as possible in order to get better* work sooner than later.
3. I found pretty decent temporary work until school starts. In fact, it's pretty ideal as far as jobs go.

*What is good work??
The more I think, talk, read and cry about it, the more I am finding hope or at least solace in the idea that work (job-work) is meaningless (and that this is okay).
My priorities for jobs are currently as follows:
-Do work that doesn't make me miserable
-Make enough money to feel comfortable and safe, and save a little so I can stop working sometimes or eventually
-Get paid enough that I don't feel terribly resentful (see first point) and undervalued, and so that I can work very little to earn the money I need to get by

That last point has been difficult to come to, as my anti-capitalist ideals make wanting a higher wage feel really weird. The reality is, though, that we live in a capitalist society. Job-work is inherently within this framework, and we are not doing ourselves or our fellow workers any favours by accepting unfair pay. Obviously, the whole system is unfair, but allowing our employers to profit off of our labour without struggling together for our share of it just fuckin' sucks. Many people work for exceedingly low wages and in awful conditions, and I am privileged to be choosy about making more than minimum wage, but this doesn't make me a capitalist. Like I said, it helps no one (except the capitalists) to accept unfair wages. If our culture equates money with value, then our labour and time is being undervalued when we are paid poorly. In the realm of work, we have to see value like this or get exploited.

Outside of work, however, we get to decide what creates value. What makes my life valuable is not my job, or even what I do (in so much as what is typically considered action is limited to a patriarchal and dis/ableist idea of such). I don't think it's my place to say what makes life, objectively, valuable. Make your own meaning! To get out of my own aforementioned pit, though, I'm deeply considering the meaning that I make.

My life is meaningful because I share laughter, food, space and time with people. My life has value because I am learning, and because I share what I have learned.  Every time I ask for help, I am doing something radical. I open space for others to be equally vulnerable, and we create the much sought after mutual-aid by just extending generousity. When I am honest and imperfect, I am being generous. When I set boundaries, I am doing radical action. Living my queer fucking life, dancing, creating home, and loving my mom a whole fuck of a lot are all actions in defiance of dominant culture. Every step I take towards solidarity, away from the isolation that capitalism imposes on us, is radical.

I found that, in my depression (and this is a pattern), I become very stubbornly defiant against politics of love, happiness, or hope. These are all things I believe in, but so often, as radicals, we are told by more dominant left-wingers (and just about everyone) to look on the bright side, that love will heal all, blah blah blah and it's really fucking dismissive and often bullshit. This outlook is used to silence dissent, further silence oppressed folks, and shut down any ideas that involve destroying what destroys us. In the face of this, I tend to swing to the extreme which similarly lacks complexity. Fuck you, the world is getting worse a lot faster than it's getting better, and it's hopeful fuckers like you who are ruining everything.
And so I convince myself that if I have hope, if I look for silver linings, or if I believe that joy and love can heal and even destroy what destroys me, I am on the side of the enemy who seeks to sustain the current systems by silencing unrest. No, no, no.

Neither of these positions reflect the complexity of the world, the complexity with which I believe we MUST perceive the world if we have any fucking chance at changing things for the better.

So I'm going to go to work cooking for people and supporting families. I'm going to acknowledge the privilege of making more than minimum wage, and know that if within my work life my value is made up by how much money I make then yes, I am still being undervalued. I'm going to go to fucking school so I can get higher paid work, work which might bring me some joy and that I don't think will make me miserable, or at least not very. And I'm going to keep resisting the idea that meaningful work is the fucking be all end all. No! The work I hope to have after school isn't going to make my life meaningful, just like the work I haven't had the last few months hasn't made my existence meaningless. I'm going to keep fighting patriarchal notions of what valuable participation in resistance communities looks like, and I'm going to keep participating in the ways that bring me joy and that don't feel like work. I don't want to work for a non-profit making bullshit wages, work my life away, and feel fucking righteous about it. I don't want to do work that hurts my body or soul if I can avoid it, and it wouldn't make me more radical to do so in order to not exercise my privileges. When people ask me what I do I'm going to keep telling them what I really do ("well, today I cooked all the meals I ate, tomorrow I am going to go to work, and right now I'm reading a really good book") and exploring the discomfort this brings out in myself as well as the asker. I'm going to work on deconstructing the identity I've created which says I'm valuable because of the groups I'm part of, the activist work I do, or my work and how it's like, somehow better than service work (which I was doing not so long ago) and somehow better than high-wage career work like "ooh aren't I radical for refusing to be valued in capitalist terms?"

And I'm going to keep hurting from the blows that capitalism throws my way on a daily basis. I'm going to keep trying really hard to ask for help when I need it. I'm going to see beauty and ugliness in the same gaze, and keep fighting (which usually looks like making lunch).

Monday, 15 April 2013

Oat Milk and Oat Pulp Breakfast Muffins

i've recently started making oat milk, and, other than oatmeal porridge, i've been looking for things to do with the leftover "oat pulp" that results from the process (and which would be an awful shame to waste).

so here's a recipe! i know that food blog culture would say i really need to take pictures, but i just don't feel like it. i'm not doin' this fer your entertainment!

oat milk is a great non-dairy milk, as it is fairly creamy and tastes nice, and you can make so much more for way cheaper than almond milk. using organic, local oats it was still about a quarter of the price of making home-made almond milk. it's also pretty high in iron and probably other things too.
it's not as popular as almond milk though, so it's hard to find recipes for what to do with the pulp. this morning i made pretty good oat pulp muffins with no flour at all, and i figured other's might appreciate the tips. i recommend you try other things too, just basically imagine you're making your favourite muffin recipe, but you're flour already has milk mixed in, so you will need less liquid. experiment!

my experiment worked out pretty nice. it's definitely a moist oatty breakfast muffin, not light and fluffy but very tasty and filling. especially good with some coconut butter on top.


2 cups whole oats
4 cups water
a pinch of salt

soak overnight or longer. drain and rinse and drain, then add 6-8 cups water (depending how thick you like your milk).
in a blender or with a stick blender, blend for a few minutes until the pulp seems pretty smooth. strain through a fine strainer and press as much moister out as possible. add vanilla to the milk if you like. set milk aside.

your strainer will now be full of wet oat pulp, about 2 cups worth... now it's muffin time!

squash cranberry almond oat quinoa flourless muffins. catchy, right?

2 cups oat pulp
1/2 cup oat milk
1 tsp vanilla extract/flavour
1 beaten egg
1 cup mashed cooked sweet winter squash

2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
dash nutmeg
sprinkle cardamon
pinch clove
shake stevia powder
1/4 cup xylitol
1/2 cup quinoa flakes

1/2 cup frozen coarsely chopped cranberries
1/2 cup almonds (i used ones i'd soaked in salt water for 24 hours and peeled, cause that's the only way i can do almonds)

preheat to 375f
mix the wetz, mix the dryz, mix them together. grease a muffin pan. fill the cups all the way up (this is a pretty dense muffin, doesn't rise too much). bake for 25-35 minutes (i made 18 smaller muffins and they took about 25 minutes, but full size ones will take a little longer). let cool in pan at least 15 minutes before moving to cooling rack.
delicious with a big dollop of coconut oil on top.
also would likely work without the egg, or with an egg substitute (like ground chia seed) if you're wanting a vegan version.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Nettles for breakfast!

It's nettle season, buds!
i haven't had a chance to go foraging yet (but i can't wait!), but i did splurge on some nettles at the farmers market this week and have been enjoying them daily.

so, with plenty of time for you to snag some before the seasons over, i'll share the two recipes i've enjoyed the past 2 mornings. thanks to those who i experimented off of.

if you have a favourite thing to do with nettles, a favourite nettley experience, or favourite place to find them, leave a comment!

1. NETTLE ONION GREEN PANCAKES (gluten and potentially dairy freeee!)

serves one quite hungry person or two just peckish people as a main dish.

2/3 C quinoa or brown rice flour, or a mix
1/8 C quinoa flakes
3/4 TB baking powder (i use a gluten and corn free organic one)
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
3/4 C water, milk or broth (i used leftover nettle blanching water from when i was blanching nettles to freeze)
1 1/2 TB coconut oil (or butter) melted and cooled slighty
1/2 C fresh nettle leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 C fresh onion greens/sprouts, chives (chopped), or green onions (diced)
2 cloves garlic, minced and sauteed slightly (if you want, fine raw too)

in your cooking pan (i <3 cast iron) melt coconut oil until just liquid and then take off heat. mix dry ingredients in larger bowl. mix wet ingredients together, careful to cool oil/butter enough that it won't cook the egg. in your nicely greased pan from melting your oil, saute garlic a few minutes before setting aside (don't wash the pan, it's nicely oiled to cook the pancakes on!). mix wet into dry and let sit for quinoa flakes to absorb moister while you chop up your veggies (i wear a glove on my left hand to avoid stings while i chop nettles with my right, just sayin').
add veggies and garlic and fold in. if dough seems too liquid, sprinkle a little extra flour and mix gently (but a little wet is just fine).

heat your pan til it makes water fizzle if flicked on, then start frying up your pancakes in whatever size you like! make sure to wait until bubbles are popping through before you flip 'em, otherwise they may fall apart.

super delish with yogurt or sour cream, extra onion greens, ground black pepper, sauerkraut, or feta cheese... or whatever you like!

this recipe was adapted to meet my dietary needs from this other blog, check it!


adapted from this "crustless spanakopita" recipe that made my mouth water.

feeds 2 moderately hungry folks

4 large eggs
1/4 C broth or water (or nettle blanching water)

teaspoon dried dill
sprinkle dried oregano
teaspoon salt (less if your broth is salty)
a bit o' ground pepper

1 large handful of nettles
1 handful of spinach, chard or young kale
1 little onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
a bit o' coconut oil
a big hunk of feta (i love goat or sheep feta the best)
handful onion sprouts (if you got 'em)

preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
bring about a cup of water to boil in a pot with a lid. when it is boiled, add nettles and submerge, put the lid on for about 60 seconds and then scoop into a colander. repeat with additional greens. set aside left over water to cool.
in a small-mid size cast iron pan, heat oil and lightly saute onions and garlic, then pop the pan into the hot oven (onions and garlic and all).
beat eggs and add (cooled) blanching water, salt, and herbs.
press excess moisture from blanched greens and chop - don't worry about getting stung by the nettles now, as the blanching has domesticated them.
carefully remove hot pan from the over and immediately pour in egg mixture - the hot pan will make the eggs turn into a self-made crust - awesome!
distribute greens and press them in a bit, add onion greens on top and the chunk the feta all about. i like to use lots, but it's up to you.
return the pan o' goodness to the hot oven and bake about 30 minutes, or until the top centre egginess is no longer runny. turn oven up to broil for 5-7 minutes to crisp the top a bit, then remove and serve. don't burn your tongue, it is tempting to scarf it.

i ate all these things to fast to take pictures, so you'll have to make 'em yourself to see the beauty!