Small Potatoes: Rural Living in an Urban Life Part 2

Last week, we published the first of two blogs by guest contributor Suvi Tiegen, a Social Worker & Adoption Specialist who hasn’t let her passion for “living off the land” become crushed by the confines of her apartment in the city. In part two, below, Suvi shares more advice for apartment dwellers on how to maintain rural ideals in an urban lifestyle. Last week, Suvi talked about investing in a freezer, joining a meat coop, and learning how to really eat in-season. Here are a few more tips to inspire us all:

Take a field trip.   I’m currently in the process of organizing a farm tour day with some friends to determine where we’d like to purchase (for our meat coop) and talk to the producers first hand.  As a meat eater, animal welfare matters to me, so I started my search with the BCSPCA’s Farm Certification Program and went from there. The Circle Farm Tour website has some great ideas for making a day of it, mixing food producers with antiques, artisans, and eats.  Come on—an early start out in the country, finding the best of the best to feed your crew, and topping it off with a wine-paired, locally produced meal with your friends? To me, that sound like the perfect way to spend a day. (It should probably be noted here that my MO is to steal the moms in my life away from their children so we can communicate in full sentences instead of the fragments created by running interference on a two-year-old, but you could easily make this a family outing as well and take your rowdies with you.  Many of our local farms have great kids activities, too!)

Grow something.  Be not discouraged by that sad little sliver of balcony!  If urban living has taught me anything, it’s that there is always room to grow something, even if it’s just a few herbs on the windowsill.  Obviously, if you can get into one of the too few, much coveted community garden plots, go for it.  My upstairs neighbours do this with their kids and the whole family loves it!   But there are some great ideas for small outdoor spaces as well.  This year, I’m planning a palette garden with a mixture of herbs and non-edible plants.  If you’ve got a ground floor outdoor space, here’s a great potato project for the kiddos.  Or what about these great gutter gardens if you’ve got an outside wall? Give kids an opportunity to watch their food grow right before their eyes.  They’ll eat it up – so to speak.

Learn to Preserve.  One of the greatest skills I learned as a child was how to preserve.  Tomatoes and peaches and pears – oh my! Now, canning season is one of my favourite times of year.  Sure, I have to forfeit an otherwise sunny weekend to the endless chopping of tomatoes and peeling of fruit, but the rewards easily out weigh the sacrifice. Nothing makes me happier than my little army of stewed tomatoes and pasta sauces, ready for winter.  I’ve recently started recruiting friends into this process, and everyone goes home with a little something for their metaphorical cold cellar.  Here are several books I like that cater to small batch preserving as well.

Use your Farmer’s Market.  Not just for purchasing, but for the wealth of information it provides.  The producers there can tell you just about anything about their products, and there are often other hobby experts on hand (gardening consultants, for example).  They know what we’re up against living here in our small spaces, and they’ve got the know-how to give us a hand.


Shop more often in smaller stores.  Most communities in the city have a small-time local grocery store, identifiable by the produce spilling out onto the sidewalk and the dogs tied up outside (one of them is probably mine).  I find these stores generally carry a better selection of local products, often at a better price than the bigger chains.  Shopping more often requires less storage at home and ensures that what you get is fresher.  I’ve incorporated a walk up to the store into my day 3 or 4 times a week.  “Sure, Suv,” you say.  “You don’t have kids.  You don’t have any idea what it takes to rally the troops and get out the door!”  Let me assure you I know exactly how frustrating this can be (and if you doubt this, I will refer you to my family for their recounting of the 3-hour Snowshoe Preparation Episode of 2010, and the subsequent epic Aunty Suv freak out).  Aim for a once-a-week produce run and see how it goes.  You might find everyone enjoying this little part of your routine once you have your strategy nailed down.

For us city-folks, space (or the lack there of it) has a way of cramping our local eating style.  But it doesn’t have to! Believe it or not, you don’t have to forfeit your dreams of teaching your children to eat and buy locally just because you had to stack them three high in the second bedroom.  Think outside the box (and by box I do mean your apartment) and your kids will learn to do the same. 

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Thanks Suvi, for all the great ideas! 

Suvi Teigen is a full time social worker with an appreciation for all things local.  She loves tennis, travel, and a day in the wilderness with her faithful pooch, Stevie, but her heart is most full when her table is piled with good food, good wine, and surrounded by people she loves.   

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