Playing Chicken

In the past few years I have become obsessed with real food. Gone are the days of Flakey’s and Jolt. I am now a hip mama shopping at farmers markets and making as much as I can from scratch. I am fascinated by growing food, even though I am just learning to garden (unless you count potted herbs). I was really excited when I found Path to Freedom and I even blogged about it. I also found an awesome bed and breakfast in Kitchener that grows their own food and has their own hens.
Finally, we have reached THE POINT of this post. There are a lot of awesome people in Kingston trying to legalize backyard hens. It seems that it is really going to happen, and because that is so exciting and important to me, I want to make sure that it does. So, if you are in Kingston, go to the meetings, sign the petitions etc. And if you are not, then at least read THIS…unless you’re chicken…brooock brooack.
And just in case you are too lazy (or busy or what ever) to go to the link, here’s some of it:
Benefits of Backyard Hens

Affordable Food:

The cost eggs for backyard hens are between $1-$3/dozen depending on the season and the amount of kitchen scraps supplementing purchased feed. Cost also depends on if the feed is organic, and upon the size and breed hen. A final variable is what type of bedding is used and how it is procured (straw, wood shavings, etc). (info sourced from forums on, accessed April 9th, 2010)

According to a 2005 study of grade 5 students in Nova Scotia, 73.7% of the children did not meet the minimum recommendations of Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating for meat and alternatives (eggs) ( accessed April 9, 2010).

Accessible Food:

True free range eggs are only available at the farm gate of a farmer whose operation you can see. If people want to buy farm fresh free range eggs, they need a car, and will have to pay at least $4/dozen. Those who keep hens in backyards can easily be car-free and receive delivery of bags of feed. Carless people can buy free range eggs at upmarket stores for $4-$6/dozen, but are they really free range? According to the Chicken Farmers of Canada, “The term has not been legally defined in either Canada or the U.S” ( April 9th, 2010).

Reduced Solid Waste:

Those who wish to can enhance their food-waste-food cycle at home. Composted hen manure provides an excellent source of garden fertilizer: higher in N-P-K, phosphorus, and calcium than any other animal (Rodale Guide to Composting).

There is no hard data on how much of an impact allowing backyard hens would have on Kingston’s solid waste volume: we expect a small but measurable (on a household level) reduction in waste. Mouscron, a small city in Belgium has twice distributed laying hens to willing residents, as part of a multi-faceted campaign to reduce waste (, accessed April 9th 2010).

A Community-Building Food Source:

There are a variety of ways in which hens build community. In almost all cities that allow hens, there are henning societies that provide knowledge-sharing venues on-line and in groups. They often form buying clubs to secure better pricing and delivery arrangements. Like dog-owners, henners like to get together and talk shop.


Children will see where their food comes from and have the chance to eat healthy, ethical food.

A Sustainable pet:

Many owners report taking delight in the behavior and character of their hens. Most continue to care for them when they stop laying after around five years (they might still live another two years). Eight hens would weigh about half of a Labrador retriever, the most popular pet in North America. Eight hens would produce about 240g/day of feces, all of which can be used to make excellent fertilizer (;jsessionid=3F5C48821BFEF99A572D92B6FD803481.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=606984 accessed April 9th, 2010). A typical dog produces about 340g/day of feces that must be landfilled (…/dogwastecomposting2.pdf accessed April 9th, 2010).

Humane Food:

Backyard hens allow people to detach from the industrial-egg machine. It is not feasible for most to go to a farm in the countryside each week, and the claims that free-range supermarket eggs come from hens with good lives are overstated. They are not in cages, but still live 20,000 to a barn, and though there is an open door in their barn, they never go outside.

An April 7, 2010 video from the Humane Society of the US which depicts the typical treatment of conventionally raised egg laying hens :

Canada has 25 million hens are kept in battery cages:

Food of High Quality:

There can be no substitute for a fresh egg that comes from a healthy hen eating a variety of green leafy matter. The yolks are bright yellow/orange and are much better for cooking and baking.

Healthy Food:

Eggs are a good source of dietary protein (Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating). There is a small but building body of evidence showing that pastured free-range hens that eat a variety of leafy greens (ie grass and carrot tops) are more healthy than barn-raised free-range eggs organic or otherwise. Aside from being free of pesticides and antibiotics, pastured poultry eggs have:

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

( accessed April 9, 2010).
Animal Rescue

Unlike other pets, which can be bought on impulse because they look cute and are kept indoors, hens require significant input of time and money before they can be brought home. Coops cost upwards of $500 and must be delivered, and home construction is more time-consuming and can not likely be done for less than $200. Furthermore, hens are usually ordered, also requiring forethought.

We are taking steps to ensure that anyone who hens will be prepared and informed of best management practices. Based on this and the experiences of other communities, there seems no reason to anticipate a problem of abandoned hens.

Already there are henners in Kingston raising hens rescued from slaughter at local egg farms. We expect that there would be willing adopters for any hens that are abandoned.

Local veterinarians have expressed a capability to offer full service to hens: treatment, euthanizing, disposal.


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Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Yesterday Aurora and I made granola bars from the site I recommended, but I altered the recipe (for no bake granola bars) so much that I thought I better post it as we made it. It’s not totally garbage free because we used ground up rice cakes, and the rice cakes come in plastic. You could use any sort of cereal, purchased in bulk-I Just used what we had.They stir together in just a few minutes and require no baking.
• 1 cup peanut butter
• 1 cup honey
• 3/4 cup chopped peanuts
• 1 cup peanut butter
• 3 cups crushed (in food processor)rice cakes
• 3/4 cup sunflower seeds
• 1/3 cup oats flakes

1. Lightly coat a 13×9-inch pan with oil
2. In a large saucepan, heat pb and honey over low heat until bubbles begin to form.
3. Quickly stir in everything else.
4. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, press into the prepared pan and cool completely.
5. Cut bars into desired size and shape and wrap pan tightly ( I actually just threw a reused bag over top and that worked).

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Chitter Chatter Let’s get at’er

OK I have a few minutes to update you on what I’ve been doing, and I have no idea where to start!
As you know from the last post, I just gave a talk at St.Lawrence College. It went fairly well but there was a lot I wished I had said so perhaps I’ll start there. I wish I had talked about:
Plastic bags– how they reproduce like bunnies
-how we try really hard to get rid of them by bringing are own cotton produce bags but still have none
-we know it’s unhealthy but we do wash and reuse them until they are gross or broken and then recycle them, though I’m not positive if they actually get recycled once they are all cloudy and yellowed.
Household Cleaners
I have a big post on this somewhere in the past but it has changed somewhat since moving to Kingston. We have a hard time finding Borax we like here so we clean with Vinegar and Baking Soda almost solely. We also use Hydrogen Peroxide Bleach for somethings. We can no longer get theses products in bulk (except if we go to Toronto), so we get the largest containers possible and then reuse or recycle them.
I can’t actually remember what else I wish I had said, but no I remember some things I want to say to you.
Our garden isn’t doing very well, but we are buying local organic, package free produce at the Kingston Farmers Market (the oldest active Market in Canada).
We had a little break from worrying about garbage at all, and got a lot of prepackaged goods. I am now making our own granola bars to try and get out of that cycle.The recipes I have tried are from best ever cookie collection.
One of the reasons I haven’t posted in forever is that I have been busy sewing and making home made body products for my business Hip Hip Horrah. There are interesting challenges with packaging now that I am making things to sell. Mason jars are awesome because they only come in a cardboard box, whihc I can reuse to transport my product. I need smaller sizes than they offer though, so I order smaller glass containers from New Directions Aromatics. Every lid has a Styrofoam part inside that needs to stay there fro the container to shut properly. Plus they all come in plastic and bubble wrap. The bubble wrap we reuse for paintings, packing or play, but the plastic is trash. I put a deposit into my prices which I return if the container comes back to me, but only a few people seem to use that system. If anyone has suggestions on how I can eliminate waste and still sell my product, my ears are open.
We now have an air conditioner, which we were quite torn about but it means we can now function and eat. We cook again, so we buy less packaged goods. We are saving water by not taking constant baths and showers to cool down, and we use it as little as possible.
And as a closing note, yesterday I asked my 2 year old to please open the door and move a bit so I could get out of the room, and she said ” No I can’t because it’s a waste of water.” LOL so apparently we are raising her to tread lightly on the earth, even if she is a bit mixed up about it right now.


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I think I broke my own record for longest time between posts. I’m not going to even explain myself, or make excuses but I will try to post about some of the things I have been doing, very soon.
On Monday I am speaking to a St.Lawrence College Sustainability Class. I was asked to write a bio and I thought I would post it here, just in case you have forgotten who I am and what I am about.
Sarah McGaughey is an artist and mother who only begrudgingly accepts the label environmentalist. She feels it is obvious and necessary to care for “the environment” and thinks only people that don’t should be labeled.
From a very young age, Sarah refused to use Styrofoam, started and joined reusing and recycling clubs and brought environmental and other activism into her art work, school work and social life. In 1999 she graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Regina and began working as an artist/activist in the mediums of performance and installation.
From 2004-2007, she and her husband embarked on an art in life project to not produce ANY garbage for 31 days consecutively. Because she started the clock back every time they obtained one piece of garbage (even if it was as small as a sticker on a piece of fruit), it took them years to achieve their goal. She and her husband, Kyle Glover had a weekly article in the Globe and Mail as well as interviews in various magazines (Glow, Today’s Parent, Modern Babies and Children, Urbanite, Organic Earth). They also appeared on several Canadian TV and radio shows (Canada AM, the Gill Deacon Show, News Talk, The Paula and Carole Mott Show, The National, Toronto Living, the Hour), and in schools and community centers to explain what they were doing and what the average person could do to make a change in garbage production.
She stresses that this project was an Art in Life project, rather than an environmental project because some of the choices they made in order to produce zero garbage were not necessarily the most ecologically sound ones.
She is now focusing on being ecologically sound in her family life and home, as a whole. Her three person family throws out approximately one small grocery bag of garbage every 3 weeks.

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Beauty and the Beast

A friend was recently talking about a website that rates products on their healthfulness and environmental accountability. She was talking about the fact (which is another reason I make my own products) that what we put on our skin goes directly into our body so we should be as careful about that as we are with food. I can’t find the specific site she was referring to ( I will ask her and post more later) but I did find a lot of information about ingredients that are harmful to living things. I knew about most of these before-that’s why I make as much of my own body and skin care as possible. The problem is that I am really forgetful, so while I retain the knowledge that many products should be avoided, I often forget the exact things I should be avoiding. I found many sites with lists, and this is the one that I found most helpful . They are all very similar but this one seems to have the most information and sources to back it up.
One of the chemicals I cam across on the top of every list was Sodium Lauryl Sulphate. Laboratories actually use this to irritate skin so they can them test healing products. It delivers nitrates straight into the body, which have been proven to cause cancer. Greeeeaaat. I was pretty sure my products were safe, but I decided to check. My Shampoo, is in a bottle I keep refilling and the ingredients have worn off. Kingston Soap Company doesn’t have an ingredients list on their website so I will have to ask them on Saturday when I go to the Farmer’s Market. The conditioner I have is Green Beaver and it seems to be good across the board-though it makes me head really itchy so I’m not going to buy more. I will try their other products though because they do seem to be actually healthy and “green”
I just dyed my hair with “Ice Cream professional dye” that I somehow convinced myself was a natural product. Ha ha ha. It has almost all of the EVIL CHEMICALS TO AVOID in it. Oh Dear! It has Ceateryl Alcohol, Glycerol Stearate Se, Ammonium Hydroxide, Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, Sodium Cocoyl Sulphite, Propylene Glycol , synthetic fragrance and more! EEEEK! OK no more hair dye for me (wipes tear from eye).
It amazes me how we ( I) can put vanity in front of so many things. The other day I rode my bike in high heels just because I got them for free and wanted to wear them. It was so stupid. My foot kept slipping off all over the place. Fortunately I didn’t have an accident. Dying my hair is kind of like that but way worse. With the bike scenario, I was really only hurting myself and maybe one other person (if I ran into someone, but that would. be unlikely as I couldn’t even get going!) The chemicals however, have consequences that far surpass my own body. What exactly are these compounds doing to the water and the fish, the air, etc.? And now that I have it in my home, how do I get rid of it. this is not the first time I have been faced with this type of conundrum (once it was Ritz crackers). I accidentally buy something terrible, and I don’t want to use it but I don’t know how to dispose of it.
So now what? The simplest solution would be to go without shampoo or conditioner and use simple things on your skin, like olive oil. Soap nuts are another option, as is making your own products or buying from me:) There are a growing number of products out there that are environmentally sound. Farmer’s Markets and Etsy or Hyena cart are a good place to look (though I suspect that the shampoo I get from the farmer’s market has SLS in it and that’s why my head is itchy).
As for hair dye, pure Henna seems to be the only good one and you have to look at labels carefully to make sure there are no synthetics added. Or we could all just be happy with the way we looked in the first place. Did I just say that? GASP? What about the economy!?!?!


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Money Money Money

When I started my first blog, it was a place to vent because Kyle was tired of hearing all my Eco-rants, but when I started this one I wanted it to be POSITIVE. I wanted it to be my story but also an example of how things can work-how environmentalism can be happy. I think the reason I have been having trouble posting lately is because I want to be ranting! Rather than not post at all, I will veer a bit from my goal of only saying positive things, because in this case the saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is keeping me silent.
When I was doing a lot of speaking about the ZERO garbage project, some people asked about the cost, and said it was a middle class project. I replied that we didn’t have much money, and anyone could do it but now I’m seeing otherwise. Although we felt “poor” at the time we were the exact bottom of middle class by Canadian standards. Because of this (being a middle income family) we weren’t eligible for funding or even very much loan money when we moved to Kingston for Kyle to go to school. This year we are definitely in the lower income bracket. It has been really hard to make the “greenest”choices because often they are the most expensive.
For example: we used to get a box of organic produce delivered weekly in the winter (when it was harder to get to farmers markets) but we had to cancel it near the end of winter due to lack of funds.
I used to choose package free goods at all costs, but I just can’t anymore. When I’m standing at the grocery store looking at a singe avocado for $1 or a bag of 5 for $2, I now choose the second. It is so frustrating how often consumers are awarded for going with the more packaged item.
We have always gotten toilet paper wrapped in paper only, from Grassroots. We can order it from here but only in cases. We can’t spare that kind of money all at once, not to mention the shipping cost. So today I got my first package of toilet paper from the grocery store, wrapped in plastic. Oh sad day . Perhaps it is time to try going without?

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Goodbye old friend

After 15 years of use, my reusable razor has died. Since I do occasionally shave my legs (quite frequently in the summer) and even more occasionally shave my armpits, I need a new one.
The obvious choice for me, as I am way too clumsy to try out a straight razor, is PRESERVE. They make personal products and kitchen ware out of yogurt containers and accept all their products back for recycling. Some of the products now come in postage paid mail in packages to send back when you are done with them.
We already use and love their toothbrushes. In fact, I just printed out a postage paid mail in form to mail in our growing pile of used toothbrushes to be recycled. I’ll keep you posted once I receive my razor.


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Garden Update

I went to an
Oak Street Garden Meeting. I can’t get a plot this year, but I did sign up to do some volunteering (including blogging for them) and there may be other opportunities around town for me this year. I was really blown away by all the urban agriculture and grass roots community activity happening at the garden and in Kingston in general. It’s really exciting. I will write more another time, but for now you should check out their website (link above, click on Oak street gardens) and Loving Spoonful, and Urban Agriculture Kingston and this post about the cities impending garden policy ( a bit scary but is being reworked for the better.

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Hoppity Hoppity Hop

We decided to celebrate Easter this year because I love celebrations and I loved Easter as a kid. The problem is I care about over packaging and what is going in our bodies so the mainstream Easter goodies are not cutting it. Green and Blacks has organic fair trade Easter chocolate but we can’t get it here in Kingston (plus it’s still packaged).
I didn’t do any Easter egg dying, because I ran out of time. Next year, I think we’ll do it up Colborne Lodge style with white crayon under natural dyes and vinegar.
I purchased some chocolate covered almonds from the health food store, as well as yogurt covered raisins, regular raisins and chocolate chips (bunny dropping). We hid the above mentioned goodies around the apartment-at first I thought just loose but then I remembered our cat…so I bought little plastic eggs to put them in. This is not ideal because: they came in a package and I want to get away from plastic, but I figured at least we reuse them year after year until we find a better solution. Our daughter loves eggs in general so I probably would have been fine hiding hard boiled eggs, but I love chocolate so I couldn’t resist.
We made an Easter basket from pieces of a painting that Aurora did and cardboard, and on Sunday morning we hunted for eggs and put them in the basket. We also made a bunny picture with coloured paper and cotton batting. I’ll try to post a photo.

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I wanted to post more about food and recipes, but I thought I should explain why I’m doing so and how you can make things at home to avoid trash. If you just go to the grocery store and buy all the ingredients packaged, you may end up with more garbage than if you just bought the thing you wanted (though likely the product you made would be healthier). When I post recipes, they are from ingredients that I have found in bulk, so this time, I’ll tell you where and how.
I’ve posted this recipe for crackers before but only tried it out awhile ago. It was a big success, but I tweaked it because I thought the original recipe sounded really bland.

So here is the new and improved recipe (with comments in italics about how to do it without packaging).

4 cups flour
1 cup butter (or margarine)
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
lots more salt and fresh rosemary cut small
honey and cinnamon

In Toronto there are many places you can bring your own bag (nylon works great for flours and grains) to get Bulk Flour, A few of them are -any bulk store in Kensington Market,   Etherea on Davenport and  Ossington, The Big Carrot. In Kingston, it’s a bit trickier. BULK BARN is the only option, kind of. There is a rule that shoppers cannot bring their own bags, but many of the staff overlook it (Unfortunately some of them don’t-they’ll ring you in anyway but probably scold you). You can also buy the biggest possible bag of flour you can in a paper bag, so you have less packaging over all and it’s recycle-able at least.

Butter Foil, you can save and use for crafts, or you can reuse margarine containers if you are not concerned about extra estrogen-you will likely still have a plastic seal on the top to deal with).

Milk, get Harmony Organics in a glass jar and you’ll only have the little plastic cap to contend with. Everything else can be bought fairly easily in bulk (in Kingston at Tara Foods).


Work the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or fork. Next, stir the vinegar, baking soda, and salt into the milk, and add this to the butter-flour mixture.

Form the dough into a ball. Roll out very thin. Lightly score the dough in the size of the cracker you desire. (I’ve come up with an easy way to do this. I roll out the dough directly onto a flat baking sheet. Next, placing a ruler on the dough, I perforate the dough along the side of the ruler with a fork. Sometimes I make squares, sometimes diamonds. I think you could cut out the crackers with cookie cutters for special occasions, but you will have a lot of waste unless you gather up the fragments and re-roll and re-cut them.)

Now bake the crackers at 375 degrees F for about 10 to 15 minutes or until crisp. The crackers should not get too brown, just a sprinkling of brown on top.


The best bread I’ve made all comes from Unsweetened Cocoa. Our favorite is the sunflower seed one.

I finally made the No Knead bread every one is raving about and it wasn’t very good. It didn’t really rise and was way too chewy-very disappointing!

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