Why I love the Kamloops Farmer’s Market

It’s that time of year again, when the farmer’s market is in full swing. They’re open in May but it’s not until the weather warms up and the produce has begun to flourish that the variety and richness of local growers and artisans become really visible.

succulents and cacti, kamloops

There is produce galore – the spinach from the little truck of the East Indian farmers, the little fruit pies to die for from the Spanish lady, the super wide variety of lettuces and little cacti from the truck near the entrance of the market.  Then there’s the aromatherapy headache remedy from the yoga lady, the gorgeous hair accessories for little girls from the korean lady (my friend Sharie), kettlecorn, locally roasted coffee and bannock!

Not to mention the school playground where we’ve met at least 4 families who have become more-than-acquaintances, and a half-dozen who have become regular familiar faces.

Yesterday, I had a wonderful encounter that reminded of why the farmer’s market is also a hub for community-building and expansion. I was looking for a plant for my friends who had just opened a new Japanese restaurant, Nishino, up in Westsyde, and considered buying them lavender, which they could grow at home if they wished. I found a bunch of lavender plants at this one truck. I started talking to the lady, and BOY, did she know lavender. She spoke with such assertion and JOY, about the varieties and heartiness of lavender, and the hollows to avoid when planting it, and about which varieties were so hearty they could grow in Edmonton. Then I moved on to ask about chick-and-hen plants. And she knew all about them, too.

Her name is Shirley, and she looks like how I imagine the ideal gardener: weathered hair and skin from the time spent outdoors, strong hands, a kind, wide smile and a down-to-earth aura of common sense and time-earned wisdom. She and Ken, who helped us with the actual purchase of the potted chick-and-hen plants, were so kind, so genuine and obviously so passionate about their greens. She actually said, “Gardening is my passion,” and it was her mother’s and her mother ‘s before that. It runs in the blood and it was obvious she loved it.

Shirley and Ken Wells

Together with Ken, they run Laughing Swan Farm, mostly wholesale plants, grasses and shrubs and trees, but it turns out they are open to the public on Sundays from 11-3. We will have to visit one Sunday afternoon.

I love the market for introducing me to folks like Shirley and Ken, whom I might not ever have met otherwise.

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Being an intentional member of virtual communities

telephone booth, analog

I’ve started so many posts for the month of April that I never got around to posting.  As someone who wants to take blogging more seriously, I need to work on FINISHING WHAT I START (…WRITING, in this case).

Something that’s been a lot on my mind this past month especially, but for a while now, is how to organize and share my photos in more meaningful ways – that is, that takes part in a community of people/gazers/observers and noticers – instead of just posting them into the ether (what’s the point, then beyond the creation of our personal archive, which as important goal but not enough for me).

That’s why I’m more active on Instagram now, and that’s what had motivated me to start participating more on Flickr. It’s also why I signed up for EyeEm, and Juxt, and AMPt – all very active, rich communities centred around photography, phone photography specifically…. and I ended up in this complicated social web of all these places, all these sites, all these sign-ups, and SO LITTLE TIME. Just keeping up with the emails and feed updates from these communities took real chunks out of the hours of the day.

So I’ve shifted my thinking to treat virtual communities like physical communities, at least in some ways: we can only commit to so much in real life activities before we burn out or fail at our commitments. I hear things, and sometimes have said things, like “stretched too thin” or “bit off more than I can chew” at work and from friends and so why wouldn’t the same apply to online commitments?  I think that’s how I want to treat my online community participation from now on – like commitments that need serious intention and consideration and yes, some investment of time, if I am to be a TRUE participating member of the community.

Which led me to think long and hard, without yet a truly satisfactory conclusion about Instagram. Even with all the hoopla over Instagram and its terms of service and the way they supposedly treat the photographic works of people, I can’t quit it, I can’t (“I can’t quit you…” rings in my head). There are SO MANY amazing photographers and creative people participating in the network that I would not have otherwise discovered without a serious amount of net-surfing and searching. I’ve had to justify to myself why I’m staying with Instagram and the biggest part is discovery, and subsequently, the ease in connecting and communicating with those you discover.

(I really did try to like EyeEm, another rich community that opened the door to Android users way before Instagram did. But the UI is clunky for me, and I can’t filter out the hundreds of ordinary and some really junky shots against the few really really good ones. And it always takes a long long time to load. But I still recommend it for people looking for an Instagram alternative – tons of terrific iPhoneography fans are part of that community. It’s just not for me, after trying three times to like it.)

So I’ve taken 2 steps recently to firm up my commitment to photographic communities, in a small, intentional way that works for my life:

  1. I’ve joined ProjectLife365 and am posting daily to the project hashtag whereever I might post (though I’ve committed to posting these pics in Instagram). In the 3 weeks since I’ve started, I’ve come across about 15 other project members with whom some kind of dialogue has started, and stumbled across some amazing women (it’s mostly been women) who are moms, business women, artists, students just sharing snippets of their lives or their perpectives on life through #projectlife365. It’s the neatest thing. I’m so so glad I joined up.
  2. I backed a Kickstarter project called Pressgram, the brainchild of John Saddington. When I first heard about it, my mind gave a tiny little groan, “Not another photo app.” But then the developer’s TRULY open attitude, perpective and sincerity about what an open community that values and respects the individual’s creative works caught my attention, and then my respect. The initial project blurb, and subsequent project update posts, are really worth reading. Ironically, it’s really different in terms and intention of what Instagram is about, but there it is: we are all paradoxical creatures.

I look forward to seeing how the Pressgram app and its resulting community shakes out. It’s particularly of interest because the plan is to be integrated into the WordPress community so it will be neat to see how that network and this blogging platform connect.

So, here’s to meaningful interactions in virtual spaces out of mutual respect and interest in photography and capturing life!

tractor, farm, kamloops

Visiting the Lang residence in Cherry Creek

This past Sunday, we drove 15 minutes outside our city limits and entered a whole new world of sheep farming, milking, farm machinery. It was also familiar territory of warm-hearted people opening their home and life to others. The people were Josey, Todd and Jensen Lang, folks I’d seen a lot of Sundays a couple of pews down from us, and Josey was le Petit’s Sunday school teacher sometimes, but you never know about the people you casually see: I never would have imagined they were people who raise sheep and care for 20 acres! (But then, I could never imagine anyone of my personal acquaintances living a farm life – we’ve just always been city dwellers.)

So it was a fantastic opportunity and experience to visit with them, along with a whole whack of other families on Sunday afternoon, on their “homestead,” which included: farm animals – sheep, chicken, guard dogs, horses nearby; a drum set; a trailer ride on a rickety tractor; a marshmallow and hot dog roast and tons a homemade sweets. The children had hours of discovery and running around, le Petit included.

Both Josey and Todd have day jobs, but they chose to raise and breed sheep, and some chickens as a “hobby.” They work so hard, morning till night, and I could see that they care deeply about the kind of life they want to live, and to give their daughter.

Visiting the farm showed me a glimpse of a life a bit off the beaten path, one not typical in the circle of friends that le Mari and I interact with. It’s a life a bit closer to the ground – one of working directly with hands close to the earth, seeing the product of one’s work more directly, eating the resulting food one actually grows (reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, one of my favorite reads of 2009). It’s not an easy life, I can see that, but there is a value there, a quality of life that is different and I think, worthwhile to pursue.

We had an amazing time and I’m grateful for their generosity and openness in welcoming us, and a whole lot of other people, into their home.


What community spirit can be like

We’re just not a sports family.

In my Korean and Mari’s Quebecois family backgrounds, we just don’t have a history of sports love. We’re not like that family in The Blind Side where both the husband and wife, and later, the tutor, had college and town affiliations and thus a generations-old and bone-deep loyalty to one particular football team.

Friends in Canada and in town are more likely to demonstrate such devotion to hockey: our friends have put their 2 sons, ages 3 and 6, into hockey now, and a colleague of mine has 4 grown sons in hockey, a choice that required her family to take a second mortgage on the house to support all their activities.

I just can’t see us going that far in any sports training or activities in which we would encourage le Petit.

But then, I love love love movies where individuals, families, dreams, schools and sometimes, entire towns are crushed and invariably – since we’re watching a film – able to be uplifted by a sports event or team: Friday Night Lights and Mystery, Alaska are two films that come to mind.

So, a couple of weeks ago, all three of us attended a Blazers home game.

It was really fun to be surrounding by FANS: people who have seasons’ tickets, who bring their own scorecards and keep track of stats, who wear Blazers’ swag – jerseys, hats, scarves, a giant foamy hand, coming out to cheer (and sometimes boo) the home team, people who are committed to these players and who know them.

It was my fourth Blazers game, the boys’ second one. We loved it all.

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Waiting for the sports blimp that distributes prizes from the air

Connections near and far

You don’t have to be local

I came across this most fascinating take on the tension between local and global by Derek Sivers. It’s something I’ve been looking into and thinking about in my research studies.

Sivers defines the two as such:

If you’re local, then you’re probably social, doing a lot of things in-person, and being a part of your community. But this means you’ll have less time to focus on creating things for the world.

If you’re global, then you want to focus on creating things that can reach out through distribution to the whole world. But this means you’ll have less time to be part of your local community.

In his conclusion, he strongly affirms that he is more global than local, that he prefers the global connections and work. Consequently, he spends less time in his immediate, physical community.

This post resonated with me because for a while, I’ve had some guilt about not being able to invest more in our local community here. Time really was a scarcity and some of it I chose to spend on my online work and projects and thus had this feeling of “losing out” on local opportunities and relationships.

It’s almost a new kind of normal to be as connected with folks far away as much as we are with people in our immediate physical environment. As Sivers points out, it’s highly possible to be MORE connected with those afar than near.

Can you even imagine this in a world 10 years ago? Even 5 years ago, smartphones and tablets, and more to the point, the social apps that they host, were not nearly as common as they have become in the past couple of years. They probably have a lot to do with enabling us to be connected the way that we can with those far away from us.

The thing to remember, though, is that the quality of that connection, of those relationships, are key. I know that having a lot of online friends is not the same as having deep, thoughtful relationships worked out over years of shared wine and story telling. That’s not to say that you can’t cultivate that kind of friendship with people far away online. But it really takes work and personal investment – of time, commitment, and sometimes, emotion – to make those global connections into something of value. This isn’t any different than what we do with people in our local community, it’s just that the nature of “meeting together” is different by way of location.

Best summer weekend so far

Sometimes unexpected plans make for the best experiences. I planned to work really hard on my thesis this past weekend, but that didn’t happen very much.

children parkOne element of this small(er) city life that has really bowled us over is toddler birthday parties. So. Many. Really. How many parties can a 2 year old get invited to? It was ridiculous last year when we had been invited to 3 parties in one month, and 2 the next.  I have a big rant stored up about kiddie parties, but that’s for another day. What struck me this past weekend, though, is that the birthday party, expectations and obligations aside, can actually turn out to be very neat occasions to celebrate friendships and companionships. How had a forgotten this basic fact in my snobby disdain for toddler parties?

Our neighbor, whose home we actually rented for a short 3 months before moving 2 houses over, had a baby who turned 2, and the celebratory gathering at Riverside Park was a blast. I got the chance to actually converse with our direct next-door neighbor, and to meet a wonderful family from Mexico, where the mom, it turns out, has worked and travelled with a number of my work colleagues (two degrees of separation in a small town? SO true.)

Birthday kids

Happy days at the park

Other than the party, the three of us hung out on Friday, stopping in at The Marble Slab for a cool treat, my first one there, and the yogurt there is the best ever.

ice cream

And we ended the weekend with a jaunt to Sun Peaks, where, like a typical small community, we ran into tons of people we knew (from the office, from parties, friends of friends), including 2 families with kids who were le Petit’s buddies.  There was an Abba cover band, impromptu brunch on the street with produce from the local farmer’s market, friends running into friends, a visit to some friends’ condo up there, and all around terrific company.

troublemakersI didn’t expect to meet so many people through our toddler (now little boy) and his friends, but that’s exactly what’s happened. It’s made me rethink birthday parties. Now we have friends, too. I’m grateful.

On the brain…

Oh how I’ve been struggling to find that balance between work, my school work, house work, and getting in my 2 shows and fiction in between. In general, I’ve been lacking sleep and not really uber-productive or efficient in anything.

It’s a bum feeling, but it’s the truth.

What it means is, to do better at all the things I want to improve on, it will take real streamlining of wants, tasks and priorities. That’s harder to do when there are a lotta things taking up brain space. These days, there are a lot of things that come up again and again, that I’m pondering, above and beyond what I’m grappling with for my school work.

So, with no further delay, here are some of the primary objects of last month’s ponderings:

1. Easily the top one is Michael Scofield and Prison Break.

prison break team

Prison Break

 There’s just something about a highly intelligent (engineer) man motivated by love for his brother and the desire to help the underdog, plus lean good looks, plus wonderful (and wonderfully wicked and dark) supporting characters that makes for a wonderful show. 4 years after it was released but hey, we don’t have to wait for another week or months for the next episode.

2. VSCO Cam

Have you seen this app? It renders really gorgeous photos without being gimmicky. Speed is a small issue now, but the app is in its first iteration now and hopefully the developers will continue to update and improve this lovely camera app. Here is its promo video:

  3. Blues

As in, the music. Thanks to this awesome Martin Scorcese series on the blues, the music for which I found at our local library, I’ve been sort of entranced with the history and lyrics of the blues.

4. Caramel

Whether it’s sauce, latte topping, toffee, cheesecake, creme brulee or Werther’s, we love this stuff at our house. I’m saddened by the disappearance of Starbuck’s Caramel Sauce from store shelves.

caramel

5. Kamloops Farmer’s Market

Yay, it’s that time of year again. And the Kamloops Farmer’s Market is in full swing. Love getting salad stuff there every Saturday. There is this awesome Indian woman who sells spinach, fresh and crisp, in this pretty huge bag for $3. She’s just one of the staples I’m relying on this summer for some of our greens. Plus, Petit is older and making friends left and right, so after a market stroll we usually end up at the local schoolyard/park and socialize with parents+kids.

farmers market produce

Collaboration and commiseration with the cohort

Ah, breakfast.

All the better for the company of my fellow students. This time it was at The Loop in Calgary’s Myrtle Loop community and double delight in the fact that it wasn’t too cold venturing out earlier than usual on a Saturday morning.

Img_1789

One piece of advice we heard a couple of times during our orientation week last fall was to really make the most of the relationships at grad school. It’s easier and harder than it was in undergrad: easier because it’s such a small cohort (less than 15 for this year’s PhDs and MAs together) and harder because everyone is so. dang. busy. Between reading, being a teaching/research assistant, writing papers, journal entries, articles and proposals, it’s hard to make time to meet, let alone coordinate getting together. 

But it’s so worth it. 

Conversation topics on this Saturday morning, other than food and shopping and goings-on in the city, consisted of:

  • hashing it out about the professors – who’s demanding, who was unfair, who has good advice, who doesn’t, who’s helpful, who isn’t (and it was all relative and personal)
  • assignment expectations
  • the stages of our writing (which pretty much we were all agreed on: nowhere yet)
  • the stages of our thinking about writing (lots of progress, different stages, there)
  • WTF about readings and theory

No one was really (yet) at the bitching stage and it was the best Saturday morning social gathering I’d been to in a while. 

I really don’t want to sound cliche, but it was really really good to know that none of us were truly alone in this master’s degree process: we were on similar pages with similar, yet different, struggles and cares and there was a true sense of encouragement and support amongst the group. 

If anyone ever asks me for advice about going on to graduate studies after a bachelor’s degree, I’m now going to include that same advice: get to know your peers and make relationships with them. 

Old and new media: photography and hashtag projects

Media_httpmediatumblr_ixqlg

There are so many of these photo hashtag projects or challenges emerging with the increase in the number of networked photography apps. I take real delight in seeing the results of such a project, and even more in sometimes contributing to one.

The invention of the #hashtag has influenced and made easier the task of crowd-sourcing. It’s funny how one tiny symbol can make such a difference.

Instagram posts a photo challenge every weekend and this past one was #somethingoldsomethingnew. The app blog always posts a few selected photos and one of this week’s submissions totally caught my attention.

The photo above by user markweaver represents so many of my research interests:

  • new media
  • old media
  • music
  • photography
  • representation
  • the visual

Love it.

The digital experience and public spaces

I’ve been thinking about public spaces, identity and mobile technology a lot lately, especially with the exercise of narrowing down a paper topic in mind.

So it was neat to come across this post this morning about one little experiement in integrating a public space, Twitter, and photography. It’s not quite how I envisioned the interaction between the people with each other and within a public space they inhabit through or mediated by digital technologies, so maybe that’s why it quite captured by attention.

TweetingSeat by Chris McNicholl is an interactive public bench which links the physical and digital worlds by tweeting photos of its users and the environment wherever it’s placed. Still confused? Watch the video below…

via unplggd.com

 

Other than the HUGE privacy issues arising from the TweetingSeat (what if you DON’T want your photograph to be tweeted to the world?!), it’s a neat little project.

Designer and TweetingSeat inventor Chris McNicoll gives the aim of this project “is for people and communitiesi to form their own rtelationship with the object though the way in which they choose to use it.” 

More information is available on the designer Chris McNicoll’s website and its project blog.