Commercial Chicken (meat) Operation

So last week or perhaps the week before (where does the time go?) I had the opportunity to visit a commercial chicken (meat) operation in Abbotsford, BC. It was a field trip as part of my animal welfare class. I knew that it would not be a pleasant experience for me however I also recognize the importance of ‘seeing things for yourself.’ I now feel that I can make a somewhat more informed opinion in regards to my feelings towards “factory” farms.

I’m going to keep this as straightforward as possible, without inserting any connotations… at least until the end. Any wording I use is not meant to insinuate, for example I use the word “warehouse” to describe the large facility where the chickens live, not to make it sound bleak, but simply for lack of a better word, and rather than use industry terms I would rather use my own vernacular. I don’t like to use words like “poultry” (although I do) because like “beef,” “veal” and “pork” they desensitize us to the reality. I am simply describing my experience. Use your own judgement.

Furthermore this was my experience in ONE operation. This may or may not be representative of the industry. In fact I would argue (as would my TA who did her masters in poultry welfare, that this was a BEST case scenario.) In some regards I was pleasantly surprised, as were my classmates as many of the welfare concerns commonly associated with these operations did not apply. For example dermatitis and debeaking (the burning/clipping off of beaks to prevent cannibalism) can be avoided using proper air ventilation and controlled lighting, respectively.

This operation was a “family farm,” though I use the term lightly as I feel it is simply a buzzword with no definition or implications in regards to practice. In other words, this farm was owned by a man, rather than a corporation and he happened to be a father. Let’s not get all idealistic about “family farms.”

This man was extremely knowledgable about poultry farming. He was a veterinarian, taught classes on good practice and consulted governments/interest groups internationally.

He said that if it were not for the fact that he travels regularly, he could manage the entire operation himself. Since he does, he had a few (as in 2 or 3 if I’m not mistaken) employees.

The operation consisted of approximately 50,000 birds. The facility was one large building, divided into (3 or 5?) separate warehouses.

I asked a lot of questions and wish I could of recorded the answers, but here is what I remember (according to my notes written the next day.)

Chickens are hatched in a highly mechanized factory which inserts a vaccine for Marek’s disease into the eggs three days before they are about to hatch. Marek’s disease used to be a major cause of mortality.

After hatching they may be sprayed with various things such as to prevent bronchitis, among other common infections.

Mortality during this stage is below %1. Birds that are taken from the assembly line are killed in machines called “macerators.”

Day olds are then sorted into batches, each batch consisting of 102 chicks (batch of 100 contains 2 extras in case of mortality) and put into big temperature controlled trucks to be shipped.

Once at the poultry operation…

– 0.8 square feet per bird

-50000 birds total (divided into a couple warehouses)

-38-39 days average (shorter for KFC since they sell by the piece)

-feed consists of small crumbles made of wheat, soy, canola and sometimes meat meal (such as pig and cow byproducts)

-the higher the quality of protein, the less they require

-constant access to feed and water (via nipple drinkers, which limit moisture getting into the litter). Height of drinkers is adjusted based on size/age.

-litter may consist of wood chips, chopped up newspaper or other such substrate

-good ventilation dries out poop and prevents excess moisture from causing feet problems (ex: dermatitis).

-ventilation, proper heating and static pressure of incoming air are very important for lowering mortality.

-mortality at this operation was below 5%.

-a person walked through the warehouses minimum twice a day to remove dead and unhealthy birds (necks broken on the spot.) Dead birds were burned. Main cause of death was e coli if I remember correctly….

-chicken breeding advancements over the past few years have resulted in “robust” breeds that do not have problems such as out growing their leg strength… i.e. getting so fat so quickly they cannot walk, as is well documented in other breeds

-cannibalism and pecking are not a problem (if I remember, due to controlled lighting.) No debeaking required.

-birds were not sexed. Males and females both raised together, though males are “more efficient.”

-new breeds are highly efficient in terms of energy efficiency i.e. 150lbs of grain will yield almost 150lbs of meat.

-lighting carefully measured (using fancy equipment): included 4 hours of darkness per night, with the lights gradually coming on and off.

-hormones are illegal in Canada for poultry

-Some acid administered to the water to lower the PH (not sure what this does…?)

-All operations in BC require a back-up power generator. In other Provinces, when power is lost, many animals die. For example power outages during a Quebecois winter as are prone to happen are very fatal.

-Water must be administered at a certain temperature. Chicks will die from drinking water that is too cold (no ability to warm it.) Additionally ambient temperature is important for young chicks as they have no ability to keep themselves warm.

-When chickens are ready to be slaughtered, chicken catchers come and push in a long row of attached crates to run the length of the warehouse. Chickens are picked up manually and put into the drawers. Another method is the automatic chicken picker upper (not the real name… I believe they refer to it as a chicken harvester) which is essentially a big zambonie which uses rubber fingers to pick up the chickens and deposit them into the truck.

-chicken catching used to be (and probably still is in most places) a highly unregulated profession which exploited foreign workers. Now they have fair wages and health plans etc.

At the slaughtering facility the birds are sprayed with electrified water to stun them (not sure if they are hanging up side down on a conveyor… most likely) and then their throats are slit.

-In Canada we have a supply management system for poultry much like the Dairy industry. (i.e. limit supply so as to keep prices higher.)

-At this facility, antibiotics were only used when absolutely necessary, for example during the salmonella outbreak which occured a few years ago. Otherwise antibiotics are not widely administered. (i.e. not used preventively but perhaps used on individual sick birds.)

After each batch of chickens, the warehouses are cleaned out (all litter removed, sent to some guy who composts and sells it), sterilized and must sit empty for 10-12 days. Total cycle is about 8 weeks.

So that’s all I can think of off the top of my head. Once again I want to say that this is information gleaned from one individual and observed at a single operation. Nevertheless it is interesting.

He also had a strong opinion in terms of marketing, particularly in regards to “good welfare” such as in advertised in Whole Foods. He said he had been to WF and noticed one of the farms they were advertising as good welfare. He had been to said farm and was appalled. Nevertheless this meat being sold HIGH above the market price. In other words these “cage free” (all meat birds are cage free) operations being touted as welfare friendly are not necessarily any better (and possible worse) that “conventionally produced” chicken.

Not that I’m promoting either.

Okay time to let it out.

Let’s be serious 0.8 square feet per bird? Like…actually? This is acceptable? When I was there they were at about two weeks and still quite small so they appeared to have room to move, but soon they will “pop up like popcorn.”

Never see the light of day.

Sure, they’re healthy. No predators to worry about. But is this a real tradeoff? You could never leave your house to minimize being killed in a car accident but is it worth it to NEVER GO OUTSIDE. Live your whole life without seeing the sky. Or a tree or…. you get it.

And 39 days to live? Excuse me? Normal chickens (i.e. not intensively bred) can live 5-7 years. So in 5 years a chicken will live 1825 days meaning these chickens live 2.1% of their potential lifespan. For a human with a life expectancy of 80 years, that’s the equivalent of living less than 2 years (1.68). That’s fucked.

Not that these chickens would live that long given the chance. They would grow to be about 15lbs (I’m not making this shit up, that’s what he said.) So who knows how long they’d actually live before their immune systems poop out some other adverse affect of their selective breeding.

In other words, we’ve fucked them over.

I’m swearing more because it’s hard not to become emotionally involved. People always ask me what would happen if everyone stopped eating meat. For example the chickens and cows wouldn’t get to live at all because they, in their current commercially bred state, never existed in the wild and probably cannot exist without human intervention. So we fucked them over. Turned them into machines for our use.

So the truth is yes, if we were not breeding them they would not be alive. Despite popular belief, there would not be a massacre if we suddenly all went vegan and didn’t have use for them. If demand declines, so does supply. Prices fall so producers produce less. I could draw you a diagram if you like but I think you get the point. Less animals bred, yes less animals get to live, but also less animals get to suffer. The unborn cannot regret their lack of existance but those who suffer. . . well what is a life of suffering? Are these animals suffering? How do we measure it? Pain can be measured via blood cortisol levels but what about affective states? How do we measure their happiness?


That’s all for now.


p.s. I’m working on a website for my term paper on commercial housing for laying hens so that should be up by Tuesday.

Yo! (gurt) …. of the vegan variety…

For the past few months I’ve been experimenting with making my own non-dairy yogurts.

Actually I take that back. I’ve been experimenting over the past few YEARS but only had success until recently.

This is due to the fact that despite my voracious appetite for food blogs I never realized that store bought almond milks contain emulsifiers that prevent it from yogurtifying.

Thanks Food Science!

One of the biggest staples in my diet before forgoing dairy, along with cottage cheese, was yogurt. A lot of people have a hard time giving up cheese, but for me yogurt was the solemnest goodbye.

Despite all the advancements in the food processing world, soy yogurt… just didn’t cut it to say the least. Recently, almond and coconut yogurt have become widely delicious and I must say I am a fan of both.

Buuutttt. It still means buying unnecessary plastic. And why just take the easy, convenient route of buying it in a store when I can procrastinate school work?

Soy yogurt turned out to be surprisingly simple to make. I originally found the “recipe” (if you can call two ingredients a recipe) in Chickpea.

All you need to do is go out and buy some plain (organic! this ain’t GMOgurt) soy yogurt (one of ’em single serving thangs will do great if you can find it.) You don’t want to use flavoured yogurt such as those containing fruit as they could cause mould and junk. Preheat your oven.

Heat up a litre or so of soy milk on your stove to about room temperate. Turn off stove. Turn off oven.

Whisk in the yogurt (at least a couple tablespoons.)

Decant into jars or glass bowl or whatever the heck you got. Place in warm (but turned off!) oven with a kitchen towel over top. Alternatively you could put it in any warm spot in your house, but here in Raincouver I find the oven is an appropriate womb.

Now let it do its thing for 8 or so hours. I usually do it before bed so I have an awesome surprise in the morning. If you like a more “sour” yogurt, leave it longer!

The yogurt should have thickened up a fair bit but probably not like what you’re used to. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and drip out some of the water until you’ve reached your desired consistency. You could also thicken it by using a tablespoon or so of a starch such as tapioca (but not corn, as I mentioned- this ain’t GMOgurt….do you really want Monsanto to have autonomy over your fermented non-dairy yogurt baby?)

Don’t forget to set aside some yogurt for your next batch.

Now make it delicious! I like to add some stevia, vanilla and cinnamon… maybe some nutmeg when I’m in the mood. I also blended in some strawberries once and MY MY was I converted forever.

I’m still perfecting that almond recipe. If you have homemade almond milk on hand, you can just use your soy starter and follow the above directions. My main problem is getting it thick, it just seems like I have to strain it so much, there’s barely any left! Yes, I could use a thickener, but that feels like cheating. In any case I am currently enjoying a delicious probiotic “drink” with my morning fruit.

Eventually I will edit this post with some pictures…. but tata for now.


So there’s been this article going around from the Guardian that highlights how the rapid rise in popularity of quinoa has driven up prices in Bolivia and now they can no longer afford their staple grain.

Interesting, though to be frank, nothing we haven’t seen time and time again. Western world decides they like something. Err’body starts growing it like mad and next thing you know you have a monocrop and a major loss of diversity.

This particular article slams vegans and vegetarians for driving this unfortunate case as clearly vegans are the only people who eat quinoa and clearly we represent such a significant sample of the population that our tastes drive global change.

So I’m not going to post the article; you’ll have to find it yourself. Not because I believe in censorship, but because misinformation is very frustrating. For example saying that a tofu eating veg is driving deforestation of the amazon, but FAILING to mention (other than in the footnotes) that 97% of  all soy is used to feed cattle (and other livestock.) The other main cause of amazonian deforestation is cattle grazing.

True story.

I could go on about greenhouse gas emissions, water use and the massive amounts of grain being diverted from human use in order to feed livestock, but we’re talking about Bolivia here.

So let’s not get TOO side tracked.

Anyway it really sucks for Bolivia that junk food is becoming cheaper than their nutritious, locally grown eats.

Wait…. sounds like somewhere I know.

Welcome to the first world! Where a head of lettuce grown down the road will cost you double a big mac.

Next up. Obesity.

But before this post gets too cynical, I’d like to highlight something REALLY COOL that Bolivia is doing. Talk about looking ahead.

Click that link. Read about how cool they are.

I wish my government was that cool.

I debated which contentious issue to bring up, but it’s late. I don’t have all night.

Speaking of cool governments! I learned in my animal welfare class today today that Astrid Lindgren- who wrote all the Pippy Longstocking books- was sort of this mother theresa type figure in Sweden and she became very interested in animal welfare. She started writing about it and everyone got upset and next thing you know the minister of agriculture is phoning her up for advice on how to word their animal welfare laws. Now Sweden has some of the most progressive animal welfare laws in the land.

The land being earth.

I have yet to research what their laws entail but I’m super intrigued and I thought it was a cool story. Yay for engaged public figures!

That’s all for now. Glad I got that out of my system.


Oh So Chewy Ginger Cookies (vegan)

This recipe needs to be shared.

Every Christmas as a child I would make a huge batch of fantastically chewy ginger cookies. I would cut them into christmasy shapes and give them away as gifts. The recipe was from ‘Company’s Coming Kids Cooking’ and my secret was I added a butt load of extra corn syrup and molasses to make them….


Did I mention they were chewy?

They became my trademark. In my ten-year-old head I was famous for them, and it wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

But alas, now that I don’t eat eggs or butter the recipe is a no go. Not to mention a food sustainability major such as myself wouldn’t be caught red handed pouring out GMO corn syrup.

And did I mention I’m wheat intolerant?

So much for my go-to recipe.


After several rounds of failure last year I have achieved perfection. Truly. I know this because my mother approves.

And she ain’t no lax critic.

SO without further ado.

Oh So Chewy Ginger Cookies 

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan “butter”
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 Tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp Egg Replacer (I used EnerG brand)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup raw (dark) sugar (Muscovado, demerara or coconut sugar)
  • 1 cup light cane sugar (Turbinado)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups light spelt flour
  • 1 cup whole spelt flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • light cane sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 375°F or 350° convection.
Allow ‘butter’ to soften to room temp. Melt coconut oil in microwave.
Whisk together egg replacer + water
Add first 6 ingredients together and beat until smooth and whipped-looking.
In separate bowl, whisk together the rest. Add to wet and gently fold until combined.
Roll into 2 inch balls and roll in cane sugar. Press lightly onto baking sheet (nonstick or parchment lined.)
Bake for 6-8 minutes. Do not over-bake! They should still look puffy and underdone when you take them out- do not be fooled!
Allow to cool then transfer to wire rack.
Eat them all!

Ethical Xmas Eats – A Vegan Holiday Menu

Firstly I’d like to commend CTV W5 for this awesome (horrific) feature:

This is nothing new, but rarely does it come into the mainstream. Great job CTV.

And now that you’re sufficiently turned off the holiday pork roast…

I’ve done some comprehensive menu planning just for you. You’re welcome. So rest snug as a bug on xmas knowing no harm came to anyone as a result of your delicious christmas festivities. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have baking to do.

Start the day right:

I use a recipe from Sarah Kramer’s ‘How it All Vegan.’ nom nom.

Ooey gooey cinnamon buns

Eggnog Pancakes

Afternoon coffee/tea:


Gingerbread latte

Swedish Lucia buns 

Side dishes:

Stuffed Mushrooms with Tofu and Herbs

Scalloped Potatoes

Sage and Onion Stuffing

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Wild Mushroom Gravy

Spiced Winter Squash w/ Fennel

Kale Slaw with Curried Almond Dressing

Roast Brussel Sprouts


Stuffed Seitan

Holiday Loaf with Apricot Glaze



Ginger Cookies

Eggnog Cheesecake 

Bliss Balls:

Bliss balls are my go to all year round. This season I opted for chocolate hazelnut (read: nutella!) and coconut lime. Super duper easy for the baking impaired. In a food processor just throw together some of the following to taste.

Chocolate Hazelnut:

Roasted hazelnuts (bake at 400 for about 10)




shredded coconut

brown rice syrup/maple syrup/agave nectar


Roll in coconut, cocoa or cinnamon.

Coconut Lime:


Shredded coconut


brown rice syrup/maple syrup/agave nectar

lime zest/juice

Grand Marnier or citrus liqueur of choice

Roll in coconut.


Bliss balls, date squares and ginger cookies oh my!

Since my Grandma passed away a few years ago, I’ve been in charge of the Christmas pudding. Honestly I don’t think I ever really ate the Christmas pudding until then, but now I think it’s the most glorious dessert ever in invention. Here is my version, made up based on my Grandma’s original recipe. Don’t forget to douse it in rum and light it on fire before serving.

Kristina’s Christmas Carrot Pudding

(fills large mould PLUS a leftovers)

7/8 C oil (grape seed, coconut…)

1 C organic cane sugar

1 C maple syrup

2 C carrot – grated

2 1/2 C potato – grated (2 large russet)

1 1/2 C Spelt flour (or wheat)

2/3 C other flour (Garfava, Brown rice…)

1 C dates – chopped

1 C raisins

1 C dried cherries

2/3 C currants

2/3 C dried blueberries

1 C nuts- chopped (almonds, pecans)

1 tsp cloves

1 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp Baking Soda

3 tsp tapioca starch (or potato starch)

Beat together oils & sugar + maple syrup

Add carrots and 1 1/2 C potato; mix well

Sprinkle fruit with some flour and add to mixture

Add flour + spices + tapioca starch

Dissolve baking soda into remaining 1 C potato then add to mixture

Pour into greased pudding mold and steam for 3 hours

Steaming instructions: fill mold 2/3 (will expand) and fit with lid. Fill a large pot with with water and lower in mold (water should reach halfway up mold.) Keep mold from bottom so water can circulate (place on canning rings?) Put pot lid on and boil water for 3 hours.

This recipe is LARGE. Extra pudding can be steamed the same way in a glass jar with lid.


Garfava/Brown rice flour: Can replace with more spelt and omit tapioca starch

Field trip!

Dear Santa,

For xmas I would like a pet turkey.

Please and thank-you,


So a couple weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting two animal Sanctuaries in Mission BC.

The first was called SAINTS (Senior Animal in Need Today) and is home to about 150 animals from dogs and cats to goats, cows and even an alpaca. Saints was started to provide an alternative for animals in shelters who would otherwise be put down simply because nobody wants them. For example old dogs, or special needs dogs such as those with paralyzation or blindness.

The “farm” animals are usually products of factory farming such as the hen who ended up at the processing factory still alive among the corpses and thanks to the workers eventually found herself at Saints where she will live what is left of her short life (commercial hens, bred for productivity, have such compromised immune systems that they rarely live past a year. Heritage breeds will live up to 7.)

Paraplegic Max: the most friendly and enthusiastic dog I’ve ever met!

Emily the Sterile Dairy Cow As a sterile cow born into the dairy industry Emily was sent to the auction to become veal where she was bought by the sanctuary…. We had a moment….


Gilbert the Goat

The second sanctuary was Hearts on Noses and was specifically for pigs. The majority were pot-bellied pigs but there were also a handful yorkshire (meat breed) pigs. Just like dog breeders perpetuate the problem of homeless dogs, pig breeders have created an excess of pot-belly pigs. Unlike dogs, shelters will not take them.

As the 4th most intelligent animal pigs can make awesome pets but they can also be a handful- with the intelligence of a 3 year old child, you can imagine the mischief they get up to. So they end up homeless. Lucky ones find themselves at Heart on Noses.

I LOVE pigs. Probably my favourite animal. Maybe second after chickens.


We’ll get to that.

Pigs have human-like eyes and cry tears.

Comet and I. I tried to do a selfy with him and dropped my phone in the mud.

There were also two horses.

What happens to thoroughbreds who don’t want to be ridden?


Piggy playing with horses!

Shout out to UBC Activists for Animals for organizing this awesome field trip!

But seriously Santa. Turkey. He will be named Arnold. Or Gladys if she’s a girl.



I need to rant. I’m in one of those raving lunatic kind of moods, and since nobody is home, it’s the internet’s lucky day. What’s got me so worked up? Asks nobody.

WELL. Today as a class field trip I went to a dairy farm. And first of all I would like to put out a disclaimer that the family who owns the venture is lovely and very generous for letting us tour their farm. As far as the industry goes they are ethical and yadayada… you get it.

But I’m just not down with it. Here’s how it goes.

The cows live in barns. They do not go out to pasture. Much of the feed is grown on the farm including round up ready corn which is used to make silage (fermented grain-kind of smells like sauerkraut.)

The cows are usually artificially inseminated (they wear tags and a computer keeps track of their movement to figure out when they are in heat) and the gestation period, like humans, is 9 months. Cows, in case you didn’t know, don’t make milk unless they just had a baby (duh). The cow is milked for 7 months while she’s preggers and then gets a two month break when she’s about to burst. Then after she has the babe she goes back into the system and is soon impregnated again, that way there is a constant cycle with only 2 months that she will not be giving milk.

So the cows have their baby and then that baby is taken away in under 24 hours and put in a single stall in another barn. At this particular farm (like most in Canada) the females are kept and the males are sent to auction to become either veal or raised for beef.

The female cows who are kept are dehorned so that they won’t hurt the workers or each other. They are sent to a ranch to be raised for about 15-17 months until they are ready to get preggers. At 4 months, elastic bands are put on their tails so that they eventually go numb and fall off. This is for ease of access since they are milked from behind.

Mama cows have about 4 babes per life, averaging a 5-6 year life span. Typically by this point they’ll start having some health issue or another and it’s time to send them off to the auction. (For example, injuries related to slipping on the concrete floor such as torn ligaments. Mastitis is also common.)  In case you were wondering (yeah, you were) cows live 20-25 years left to their own devices.

The cows are milked 3 times a day, producing on average 40kg of milk a day. They are milked using this giant mechanized “milking carousel” that essentially slowly spins around and the cows get on the ride and are hooked up to these teet sucker things and a computer keeps track of which cow it is based on it’s tag and moniters all the data etc. That way one person can milk hundreds of cows, three times a day.

In their barn, an automatic poop scraper drags across the floor and pushes away the poop. A fancy machine then separates the fibre from said poop and the fibre is then used for bedding. The rest is drained into a manure pit that emits a butt load of methane before being used in the fields as fertilizer.

Alright. Those are the facts. So why am I so worked up?

Maybe Denise (hypothetical cow) doesn’t want to live in an indoor poop paddock her whole life. Maybe Denise doesn’t want to have 4 babies taken away from her before she’s even finished licking them clean. Maybe she’d rather not spend her life being herded back and forth from the poop paddock to the milking machine only to be killed at the age of 5. Which in human years works out to be about 20.

My age.

And it’s all so we can drink something that, from an evolutionary stand point, humans are not meant to drink. Something that we don’t need. (I don’t care what the yogurt commercials tell you.)

I have done a lot of research in the nutrition end of things and stopped consuming dairy for health reasons initially. Since I am no epidemiologist, I will not start preaching, but I just thought I’d throw that out there. It makes me rather angry that dairy is marketed so heavily as a necessary part of a “balanced diet.”


K I’m done.

So where does this leave me. Ranting against my own uni program? No. I am very grateful for having the opportunity to visit the farm and develop my opinions first hand. But clearly my path is being laid out for me. I am still undecided whether I will include animal welfare as an overt part of my university degree, since I often feel that the research leans towards… how do I put this… making the animals we exploit more comfortable in their short life and (hopefully) quick death rather than not exploiting them in the first place. Whether this be within the food industry or animal testing (in which UBC takes part, yet refuses to release any details…. don’t get me started.)

In any case, if you’re still reading, and especially Alisha if you’re marking this, I guess I just wanted to say that I know where my “niche” is. In my program we have to choose a “resource specialization,” so I guess this is it. Whatever “this” is. My life is tumulting is some direction and maybe it’s frustrating as hell but I’ve never felt so revved.

Orlando at Farm Sanctuary in New York

To end on a positive note, here is a picture of a cute calve who will not be killed or exploited for any human purposes….other than awareness….. and adorable pictures. Photo and video courtesy of Farm Sanctuary.

I’m thankful for…


Too much of it.

This weekend has been a gastromarathon. Three thanksgiving dinners to be exact. But more on that later. Lettuce start from the beginning.

Firstly. Welcome to my new blog. For my program (Global Resource Systems) in Uni (UBC) I am required to keep a blog. I’m sure they did not realize what they were getting themselves into when they encouraged me to unleash my ranting onto the internet. Oh dear. Here I go.

I’m not sure what this space will look like, but for now I will talk, and you will read, and maybe, MAYBE, be interested. I’d like to talk about the awkward conundrum of living sustainably in a modern world. Mostly I’ll talk about food.


This week was particularly exciting because I received my first Sprouts box. Sprouts is a super rad volunteer nonprofit food co-op cafe thang at UBC that I am involved with (making food.) A Sprouts box is basically a CSA box program, but from no one farm in particular, just whatever is local/organic/in season.

If y’all aren’t signed up for a CSA box yet. Stop reading! Head on down to your local farmer! Seriously. It’s like a weekly lottery, that you always win! You never know what you’re going to get, but that’s half the fun! What does one do with 3 rutabagas? Jerusalem artichoke?

So on Monday I packed a butt tonne of fruit/veg into my bike basket and cycled on home feeling all fancy and european.

Local organic bounty=yum

Horray for purple carrots!

The problem however, was that on the weekend before said Monday I had galavanted home and thought it a good idea to bring an ENTIRE SUITCASE full of fruit and kale back from the family farm. Why wouldn’t that be a brilliant idea? Well, dear reader, because I share a refrigerator and, much to my chagrin, my roommate also needs to eat.

But no matter! What else is Thanksgiving weekend for if not to eat yourself sick? (And giving thanks and all that jazz etc.)

Since my parental unit is currently sipping champagne on a boat somewhere in the Mediterranean (I know, right?) it was up to me and my gentleman caller to whip up a masterpiece.

Some field trips were made to the UBC farm market (pumpkin! squash, herbs, beets, yums) as well as whole foods (boy insisted it would not be a proper vegan thanksgiving without a store bought tofurkey.)

I would have liked to have kept the whole thing local, but alas I am unaware of a local quinoa grower and I make a MEAN quinoa lentil loaf. I discovered.

I was very proud of myself for making pumpkin pie from a pumpkin grown literally a stones throw (assuming someone besides myself is doing the throwing) from my apartment. The pie was delicious. It looked like butt. No pictures will be posted. But take my word for it.

And almond coconut ice “cream”!

A lot of wine was drank. A BIG mess was made. It’s a good thing my mother is on another continent. She would have had a heart attack.

Mushroom gravy looks like poop, but MAN was it good. Who says vegans only eat salad? Actually I would have appreciated a salad. Too much comfort food. We had to lay on the floor in between courses. True story.

We forgot to eat the tofurkey.

The good news was we only had to wait 24 hours to do it all again at a delightful potluck with friends, and then again tonight! I can’t thank enough the lovely people who invited me into their homes. In my program (and life) we talk a lot about community, sometimes it’s tougher to find in the city, but if you look a little harder it’s there.

So I guess I’m thankful for the bounty, whether it came from my garden or someone else’s. Taking the time to cook, eat and appreciate our food together is truly… [insert something heartwarming here.]


We’re coming home. In a sleep deprived stupor we have managed to waste the past 11 hours in the Seoul  Airport, too weary to make the effort to actually SEE Korea (though they have a nice airport.) One hour to go before another 12 hour flight to Vancouver. It’s the home stretch; we are quite literally tired, hungry and (Keegan is) broke.
But what have we done with all our time, money and energy this past month?
Well we last wrote from Koh Lanta. Our beach bungalow served us well in passing the days sipping coconut mango smoothies while taking in the vivid sunsets and spectacular lightning storms. Keegan acquired his diving licence with help from scuba Steve, a funny English school teacher. We dove Koh Ha and then took a deep dive course in order to go to 30m to dive at Hin Muang and Hin Daeng. Red rock and purple rock. Supposedly world class dive sites appropriately named for the coral. Keegan breathes a lot. Luckily on the 2nd dive they gave him a bigger tank!
My cooking class turned out to be excellent (lemongrass margarita anyone?) with ALL the profits going to Lanta Animal Welfare. Apparently the cats and dogs of the island are used to luer tourists but when unwanted are fed fishhooks, burned with boiling oil, drowned etc. etc.
On a lighter note, our next stop was Khao Lak. Apparently the Similan Islands, a national marine park were supposed to be closed the week prior (because our timing is impeccable) BUT it seems in Thailand there is always ‘leeway’ (I think we have a Canadian word for it- corruption?) so we were able to do a 1 night live aboard cruise and dove 6 times at (again) world class Similan islands and Koh Bon. The boat wasn’t too shabby either!
We saw a GIANT Manta Ray (5m across), 2 hawksbill turtles, 1 green turtle, squid feeding (albeit from the boat) and countless strange and indescribable fish, anenomes, corals and generally odd creatures. I have to say my favourite part is simply zoning out breathing underwater and then looking up to see hundreds of fish swirling above you glowing in the light of the surface far above.
Next stop, (our bank accounts now significantly reduced) Khao Sok National park. An inland jungle supposedly older than the Amazon with dramatic limestone cliffs piercing out of the green. We went for a hike to some waterfalls (which turned out to be some water flowing over some rocks) and along the way discussed the election with a separatist Quebecois.
Up to Bangkok we headed, being scammed along the way (of course) but also encountering a very genuine hotel owner in Chumpon (who told us we might be better off staying at her uncle’s hotel because he had a cheaper room rate.) The train being full, we discovered Thai ‘VIP’ buses are rather cushy.
I’m going to wake up Keegan and let him take it from here.
Sleepy. Ughhhhhh. Bangkok in brief, let’s go! We arrived late in the day and took our time making it to the Khao Son Road area and the first thing I did was eat pad thai. SO GOOD! We spent nigh on a week meandering through the streets, tracking down souvenirs, eating mangoes, and settling down in general. It felt admittedly good to make it to our home base, or at least the base that would get us home. We saw the grand palace, we ate good food, Kristina took a cooking class and I got to come later and eat it all (she’s doing a top notch job on Thai food, to bad I’ll be sick of it by the time I get home…). We watched movies, wandered in the rain, listened to hilarious taxi drivers. Heard about the terrible epidemic that Thai men face from one animated taxi driver about how Thai men’s penises just can’t add up to the rest of the worlds… apparently once a woman has some romping time with a “euro man” they never go back. My favourite quote being “it my dream to upgrade to negro size!”  We also discussed wise things, but that guy was just too funny. He continuously used his pinky finger as an indicator to his size and woes in the world of Thai sex. Battled Korean air for plane ticket home.
Eventually we met up with my dad’s cousin who lives in Bangkok and owns the legendary Q-Bar. Andrew was an amazing host, taking us out on the town two days over. Kristina and I spent two nights at the club, moving to the beats spun by renowned dj’s, and doing a number on the offer of free drinks once provided the largest drink list in Thailand. Literally the most alcohol I’ve ever seen, ever had a Bangkok Ice Tea? It’s Andrew’s. We even spent one day watching my popstar cousin Waii perform in front of mob of enamoured fans. Sleep has vacated me for the past two days… so forgive me for a ramble. Now sitting at an airport waiting to go home it’s strange to think of what we’ve seen. How to describe it is beyond me, it wasn’t just a quick one activity trip. It was four months of living. If I was to ask you what you did for the last four months what would you say?
So in the end it wasn’t the trip I expected or even necessarily wanted initially, but it became the trip I needed. And for that travelling has to be the best education I’ve ever received.
The plane is boarding.
Twelve more hours in the sky.
And then home to that sweet cold crisp air that is our own.
Here’s a funny list to make you giggle.
112 days, 16 weeks, 4 months, way too many dinners out (I don’t know how we can ever have a dinner date again… man), Kristina immeasurably improving her solitaire skills, five ukuleles, two pairs of under wear to seven (guess who was who!), 1 new pair of shoes, 1 soccer ball, 4 pairs of flipflops, 2 many Indian overnight train rides, 4 chopper knives, 2 cookbooks, a hoard of stolen menus, 17 Indian mens phone numbers, 3 proposed marriages for Kristina, 1 giant manta, 3 sea turtles, 2 days skiing, 11-13 dives apiece,  8 plane rides (9 for me!), 1 stolen wallet, 20 lost pounds, innumerable amounts of toilet paper used, innumerable amounts of toilet paper not found, 3 scooters, seven accounts of bodily smells so bad I had to leave the room, monsoons, 1 tsunami scare, 6 ferry rides, 3 nuns and 1 monk taught, 1 military faced, 1 airport bribed, 1 coral scar, “ten million bug bights” –Kristina, 3 or 4 bug bites for Keegan,  4 local alcohol induced “mega” hangovers, several “comfort food nights”.
Pee break.
1 death threat, 1 cancelled credit card, 1 lost debit card, 1 lost sock, 1 new pair of shorts, 7890 bag hoists for Kristina, final score in Rumi 4785-3750 points, 1 Thai massage (paid by me for the latter defeat), 2 monkey attacks,  a gagillion stray dogs, 17 cats that acted like dogs in Malaysia, 1.7 million lady boys, 1000-7000km travelled by train, 10-30 vegan restaurants, 1 scuba test, 1 ear infection, 1 Super Speedy Shiela, 1 bad haircut and 3 good chops, 4 five dollar pedicures (Kristina), 2 massages, 3 magic man sessions, 1 male model visited in malaymalay (Callum), 1 male Malyasian unbelievably infatuated with the latter, 1 denied night club, 1 Thai popstar cousin, 2 glasses of weasel poop coffee, 1 BIG TREE, 2 volcanoes, 1 Taj Mahal, 1300 pictures taken, 700 deleted, 1 destroyed camera, 2 pair of fake ray bands, 0 pairs of fake ray bands that survived, 1 communal tank top, 2 new back packs bought, one last mango and sticky rice, and a final one of two sunsets watched in Korea.
Lastly, one flight home.
I’m going back to sleep.


Uluwatu, Bali

“Should I feel bad, I just hit a monkey.” –Keegan
“Keegan let’s go!” –Kristina
“No! I’m staring down this monkey…”-Keegan
You know when you’re struggling for that opener, like when can’t find a can opener which means you can’t open your can of beans which means you can’t roll your burrito which means you won’t smell funny later which means said loved one will still love you in the morning but it still feels like the end world because you just really, really wanted that can of beans? See sometimes I like to throw my can of beans on the ground and that’s how I open it.
Random eh? Kristina asked me to summarize again, so look to the end of this for the full story.
The past while has consisted of two relaxing stays, one marathon, one plane ride, breathing underwater and one really, really, big tree.
So in short, we spent a grand total of ten days on Nusa Lembongan, a few in Kuta trying to get a visa we never got, a week in Ubud  where I learned yoga colonialists have moved overseas, five days on a motor bike, and like I said, a plane ride. It’s safe to say we’re in another country but we’ll get to that.
Nusa Lembongan, surfing and one death threat. Summary complete.
Ubud, a lot of good health food, one stylish (Valentine’s day consisted of a rose found in Delhi on an early morning rickshaw rampage with the promise to get something better than Indian old fashion gold later) bracelet designed by me and unable to be completed… bummed (it was too complicated or something?), one girlfriend who bought all her souvenirs a month early, and an abusive monkey.
Summary complete.
Round island tour, this will take longer. Mostly I’ll be talking about a Big Tree.
In Ubud we rented a bike whom we christened with the sexy name of Shiela. Super Speedy Sheila. She was quick. North was the direction of choice, up towards Kintamani. Driving in Asia has reinforced the stereotype that all Asian drivers carry with pride… bad. Through sun, rain, one hundred percent white out, over what seemed like a land bridge through the sky it was so misty, and into a glorious opening of the clouds to reveal a massive lake lined crater stretched out before us, volcano rearing high in the center. From there to the coast, west west north up the coast and then back into the jungle to find Munduk. Munduk was signed for a while but then it got elusive. Kristina had a sore bum.
Felt like we were in a green version of Nepal. Steep mountains everywhere and rice paddies stretched out and carved into the slopes nigh on everywhere you looked. Got a posh place. Next day we got on the stair climber and found three water falls. Didn’t find the kitty shit coffee we were looking for though.
Then on to Big Tree.  Abstabloodylutelyfantasmatically HUGE. Anybody who’s seen James Cameron’s “Avatar”, this thing was home tree. We saw it from miles away across the valley from our place the night before. So we both climbed in every kid’s dream jungle gym for a while until the beckoning rain clouds forced us onwards. A few hours later we were in Pemuteran, scuba dive central. I took an intro course with a funny British bloke with bad teeth and Kristina swam with the big boys out on the reef. She had fun, I got an ear infection and attacked by Nemo’s black distant cousin Bubba. A bum squishing day later and we were in Medewi.
I was too fried from putting up with other drivers (Sheila seemed to be one of the fastest on the road, we were passing everything. I now know how to fully utilize the inside shoulder the outside shoulder and opposing lanes for passing), and sunburnt to do anything other than lie there. Next day we were back in Ubud: dropped off the bike, picked up our bags, and headed to the airport. I bribed my first airport official. Money handshake.
As a man will do I’ve given you the What and Where. Kristina will now catch you up on the Who, How, When and Why.
au revoir
Kristina here.
Time flies.
It’s mango season.
In what country you ask?
…again, I’ll get to that.
It’s also pineapple season. I should know because yesterday I cut my lips quite brutally while trying to maw the remaining juice from a husk.
The last I wrote we were headed off our island sanctuary back to the real world… or Bali at least. Keegan mentioned  something of a death threat: I’ll leave the details vague for the sake of the impressionable, but let’s just say that when a member of the Lembongan mafia tells you: “If I drunk, I kill you!” and “If I have cellphone, I call my friend be here no time,” it’s time to kiss ass. All a misunderstanding of course-  rest assured no harm inflicted save a few feelings!
So off we jaunted early the next morning to acquire visa extensions, having already whiled away almost half of our allotted 30 days without managing to see much of Indonesia. (In our defense: it is quite large.)
Story of our lives, it was closed- for the second time I might add. It being Saturday we were forced to kill the weekend in Kuta until Monday.
Monday came around and guess what?
Wrong hours.
Third time was not the charm but enough to get our asses into gear and book our ticket to…
I’ll get to that.
In Kuta we had discovered 2 scrumptious nearby macrobiotic organic vegan restaurants (score!) and indulgence trend continued inland to Ubud where several trendy health cafes had us mowing raw chocolate pies like they were bananas. Yum.
Ubud bares the reputation as the handicraft town. The hotspot for Balinese silver, art, woodwork and other such knickknacks and has become something of a trendy yoga-posing expat colony, possibly due to a mention in Eat, Pray, Love (I’m guessing?) Nevertheless it has funky charm and the nourishing food was irresistable.  We stayed a week.
…during which time I did a tad spot of shopping.
…more than a tad.
Let’s just say my backpack (whom I’ve named Olivia) was growing a bit stout.
We also took a cooking class. Quite official, the spread of herbs and produce they artfully displayed could only be deemed as picture worthy. Us being the only students we had quite a bit of eating to do when all was said and done. Keegan, not being a huge fan of some of the flavours, left this mammoth of a task to me. Yum. I miss kitchens. We made all the curry pastes and sauces from scratch, utilizing the biggest mortar and pestal I’ve ever seen (the pestal was up to my waste- it’s a blender with a work out!)
After running into (for about the ninth time) another young couple from Nelson whom we had previously befriended, we were inspired to rent a scooter and utilise that last dwindling days of our visa exploring a little more liberally. So we ditched nearly everything with our homestay (a lovely authentic family compound with a four poster bed and bath(!) for $12) and headed off into the mountains aboard Sheila, our trusty red automatic.
In SE Asia, when it rains, it pours.
So we got a tad wet, and a tad cold but came out on a ridge town overlooking a gorgeous volcano cascading down into a lake. We rode high through the mountains though eerily dense fog, but eventually popping out on the other coast. Not liking the “vibe” we ventured back up the hills, following the rain apparently and getting thoroughly lost amongst the terraced rice paddies and lush jungle. Eventually we found the mountain village of Munduk and stayed in somewhat regal place with and even more regal view of the valley.
A super early start the next morning (the days were a ticking!) saw us on a somewhat arduous (for our out of shape selves) hike to a waterfall and a hunt to find a café that was not in fact 348m down the path but more like 1246m and did not have the advertised cat poop coffee. Gross right? Google it. But apparently at home it costs about 35 bucks a cup. We were curious.
We popped back to the coast to check out the world famous Mengangan Marine Park. Keegan did an “Intro to Scuba Diving” but discovered the hard way he had an ear infection. I dove a site called Close Encounters with beautiful delicate pink soft coral that could inspire a couture gown; unfortunately the visibility was not spectacular, c’est la vie.
After 2 days we rounded the North West tip of the island, following the coast to the surf town of Medewi, stopping along the way to discover some gorgeous untouched stretches of beach- save a few cows and fisherman. I was less than impressed with Keegan’s little “detours.” Long full days on the back of a motor bike does not make for a pleased exterior nor a patient girlfriend.
I also got a little dirty. Unlike Keegan’s my helmet did not have a face mask so I sported the caveman. But at the least I’m sure an inch of grease and grime protected me from the sun’s rays. Keegan got scorched.
Medewi had the gentle surf break Keegan had been looking for but alas we had not the time (nor a good ear!). Our somewhat less posh hotel (a single pillow between the 2 of us?) had us up almost at the crack of dawn and on the road in time for the rain. We raced back to Ubud to return the bike and onwards to Kuta, our flight the next day.
Okay time to let the cat out of the bag. We flew to Phuket.
Not all that exciting, but there are 2 cats in this bag. The other kept (particularly from my mother) simply for shame  of being ridiculously untravel-saavy. As some of you may know Keegan and I are both travelling with a ukulele each. (Somewhat of a nuisance at times but ultimately worth it both for a past time and a means by which we have met people.) While in Kuta the first time we happened upon a music shop with an amiable shop keeper named Rafi and a beautiful solid mahogany ukulele- the neck and body all one piece (which is unheard of.) We could not get over the tone. It was hand carved in central Java and he was getting a shipment in on the 9th.
Cut to the chase.
We came back.
He had picked out the best ones for us.
We bought three.
…I am imagining will be my mother’s reaction.
Yes. Because you see I promised my brother a badass instrument- and let’s just say we won’t be able to afford (let alone find!) instruments of this quality for some time to come. PLUS NOW WE HAVE UKES FROM INDONESIA. Badass? We thought so.
Where does this lead me?
Well I boarded a plane to Phuket with no less than 3 ukuleles…  as my carry on.
5 between the two of us. Whichever sounds more ridiculous.
Hassle? Yes.
Worth it? Heck yes. Thankfully Keegan has an Uncle in Bangkok to whom, for very little money we were able to mail 2 large boxes of our extraneous purchases (just a wee box… 23kg). I am now travelling with 2 tank tops and a pair of shorts- Olivia has never looked more svelte. And yes we are in Thailand. I have had more green curry and phad thai in the past couple days than I can fathom. I’ve also manage to scorch my mouth unfathomably on dishes not even labeled spicy.
We spent a night on the reputable island of Koh Phi Phi, and visited where “The Beach” was filmed. Unfortunately, although the beaches there are indeed sandy and ideal, they are so overrun by tourists it is rather comical.
When you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. We partied on a Wednesday night. $5 buys you a mickey of awful Thai whisky, a pop and a red bull plus a BUCKET to mix them in.
Then on to Koh Lanta, where I now sit and what a rather burning sunset. Where the vibe is almost deserted feeling but leaves the beaches long, sandy and trance music free. It’s more chill. Though we can’t quite figure out why so quiet compared to Phi Phi- but hey, we aren’t complaining. World class diving is to be had as soon as Keeg’s ear is happy and tomorrow, a thai cooking class! J
If you’ve made it to the end- Congratulations! I’ll shut up now and get back to the sunset.