Friday Zen – “The Log Driver’s Waltz”

Log Driver's Waltz title screen. NFB short animated film. Song by Kate and Anna McGarrigle.

Over the years, there have been a ton of great animated shorts from the NFB, Canada’s National Film Board. Growing up in Canada, the songs from some of these shorts have become embedded in our brains, and few more so than the lovely, lyrical “Log Driver’s Waltz”.

It will always be one of my favorites, for its whimsy and its almost entirely Canadian style of story telling. Based on a song by Canadian Folksong writer Wade Hemsworth, it is sung by Kate and Anna McGarrigle.

Choosing a Commercial Raw Pet Food

Top quality protein is essential to a top quality raw pet food.

Over the past few years, commercial raw pet food has become so popular that some ‘shady’ companies have popped up on the market. They use crappy, cheap ingredients, held together with crappy, cheap binders. They then slap the label “Raw Holistic” on it, and charge a premium price. They’re the raw food equivalent of Old Roy, with better packaging and marketing.

Also, the term Holistic makes me suspicious, because:

a) there’re absolutely no regulation as to what this word has to mean, when applied to food
b) there’s almost never a good reason for it to be used to describe a food, other than as a market buzz term

Instead of getting caught up in what terms food manufacturers use to describe their food, I prefer to get down to brass tacks, and ask some clear questions that I believe let me decide if a food is really quality, or just masquerading as such.

I’ve created what I consider to be my own ‘wish list’ when it comes to shopping for a commercial raw food.

Things I would personally look for:

Is the company using HUMAN grade ingredients, specifically grade “a” certified meat, poultry and fish? If not, then you’re not getting top quality protein, but you’re probably paying top price.

Are they doing in house testing for Salmonella and e coli? The only answer I want to hear to that question is “yes, on every batch”.

Do they outsource, or is all their food prepared in house? Outsourcing is when you have another company make the food for you, at their plant, and then slap your label on it. Think “Menu Foods”.

Are all of their ingredients domestically sourced, if possible? ie; is all of their meat/fish/game/poultry from the USA or Canada? You can’t expect their papayas to be from here, but for most ingredients the answer should be ‘yes’.

An added bonus – do they use as much local and/or organic produce and ingredients as possible? Not necessary, but it’s a sign that the company is putting some thought into what they’re making, and how sustainable it is.

I believe that you almost always get what you pay for, and that this is doubly true for raw pet food. If one food is 50% cheaper than almost everything else on the market, I’d be asking “Why?”, instead of just rushing to buy it. A bargain is good – but a bargain that seems too good to be true, usually is.

There go more brain cells

It is almost always, always a mistake to listen to a certain friend of mine when she calls and says “You REALLY have to see this show”. Inevitably, it will be some train wreck of a reality show that leaves me feeling like I need to give my brain a bleach enema. ‘Manicurists Gone Wild’! ‘Worm Farmers – Slithering to Glory’! Is there anyone left who doesn’t have their own television show?

In this case, the show was “Jersey Shore”, and the combined rage and humiliation I was left feeling after I’d watched it was combined with relief that I now finally understood all those comedy segments on the Huffington Post. On the other hand, Sean pointed out that anyone who spends five minutes a day looking at People of Walmart and photos of Hamsters riding Subway trains is on pretty shaky moral high ground.

He’s probably got a point.

If you’ve got a few brain cells left to burn, check out Craig Ferguson’s parody clip “Jersey Shore – the Movie”.

Raw Milk Victory

Schmidt (right), is surrounded by supporters as he toasts to the queen with a glass or 'Raw Milk' at a courthouse in Newmarket, Ontario

Schmidt (right), is surrounded by supporters as he toasts to the queen with a glass or 'Raw Milk' at a courthouse in Newmarket, Ontario

Local dairy farmer Michael Schmidt finally had his day in court, and the ruling has allowed him to continue offering his raw milk co op.

From the Toronto Star

In a surprise move, a Newmarket court ruled Thursday that dairy farmer Michael Schmidt can continue his raw milk cooperative and that his venture does not break laws against selling unpasteurized milk.

Government officials had little to say about the decision Thursday. But dairy experts say the ruling will spur more cow-share programs to form and encourage the underground co-ops already operating in Ontario to surface. And, they say, it will likely force the government to change its laws to allow the sale and distribution of raw milk.

Schmidt, who operates Glencolton Farms, has been offering raw milk products to the public via a cow share program. From the crown’s case against Mr. Schmidt –

Investigations reveal that Mr. Schmidt has developed a “cow share membership” scheme whereby he sells shares of cows to the public, so that he can subsequently supply them with milk. According to Mr. Schmidt, members pay a fee to care for the milk cows, cows which the cow share owners have purchased a share in (usually 1/4 of a cow for $300.00). he denies that he is actually selling milk or milk products. He suggests that the cow share owners bought a part of the cow, and are therefore drinking their own milk.

The crown case tells us that “In June of 2006, a complaint was received by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs from the York Regional Health Unit regarding the possible distribution of unpasteurized milk”. With nothing else quite as pressing on their hands, the Ministry set up a full scale sting operation, dedicated to doing an undercover investigation in the Schmidt’s cow share program, and the possible other raw milk products which the farm might be selling. There’s no word if the operation was nicknamed “Project Sour Milk”, but wouldn’t it be awesome if it was?

Once officers were finally able to obtain a cow share membership and purchase raw milk, charges were laid against Mr. Schmidt.

Thursday’s decision will allow him to continue to sell raw milk, and raw milk products, and hopefully it will also allow him to expand his cow share membership. I’m not a milk drinker, but I’d love to get my hands on some fresh, unpasteurized cream. I’ve heard you can make gorgeous creme fraiche with it.

Glencolton Farms is just another example of why I love living near Durham. We’ve got what is quite possibly Ontario’s most eclectic community here, complete with Symphony in the Barn, The Words Aloud Festival, The Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film, the Rocky River Cycling Festival, our local Art Gallery and more organic farms than you can shake a carrot at.

Here’s a short video about Glencoulton Farms, made by Markus Schmidt. Watch it, and you won’t find it difficult to believe that animals raised and kept with this much care and respect live healthier lives, and provide us with healthier milk, eggs and dairy products.

All this, and we’ve also got the mystery of the missing cemetery, too. More on that later.

Friday Zen – Haitian Fund Raiser and Killer Whales

Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip will perform live on Friday's telethon, along with hip hop act K'naan, and a number of other musical acts.

Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip will perform live on Friday's telethon, along with hip hop act K'naan, and a number of other musical acts.

Canada’s three major networks (admit it – you didn’t know we even had one, did you?) are coming together this evening for a joint fundraiser for Haitian relief. The event will be broadcast one hour before the beginning of the major, worldwide Haitian relief telethon, “Hope for Haiti Now”.

The money raised during the Canadian portion of the telethon will be distributed evenly distributed to 10 Canadian NGOs doing hands on relief work in Haiti, including World Vision Canada, Canadian Red Cross Society, UNICEF Canada, Oxfam Canada and Save the Children Canada. You can also donate online, via this link.

Canada’s homegrown telethon features a pantheon of Canadian stars, including James Cameron, Jason Reitman, William Shatner, Joshua Jackson, Pamela Anderson, Eugene Levy, Sandra Oh, Tom Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, Michael J. Fox, Rachelle Lefevre, Will Arnett, Hugh Dillon and Brent Butt.

Musical acts appearing include Nelly Furtado, Measha Brueggergosman, Justin Bieber, Céline Dion, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, David Foster, Chantal Kreviazuk, Raine Maida and Simple Plan. Headlining is the seminal Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip.

To me, nothing says ‘zen’ like listening to Gord Downey perform his iconoclastic version of “New Orleans is Sinking”.

Downey likes to use “New Orleans is Sinking” as a sort of blank slate for new material, weaving seemingly random rants, on a variety of topics, into the middle of the song. This version is known by fans as “NOIS – Killerwhaletank”, for reasons which will become obvious once you listen to it.

After Hurrican Katrina, the Hip removed New Orleans is Sinking from their live show play lists. They’ve said that they’re not sure if they’ll ever play it again.