Alison Colwell

About Alison Colwell

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Alison Colwell has created 273 blog entries.

Sheep on Galiano by Emma Luna Davis

This month, we asked some of Galiano’s sheep farmers to share a few words about their experience keeping sheep. Thanks very much to Mary Jean Elliott and Marcia DeVicque for their delightful and thoughtful submissions at the busiest (lambing) time of year!

The owners of the Page Farm raised sheep from 1905 to 1977, and Gerald and Mary Jean continued the tradition on the same acreage (Elliott Farm) from 1977 to now. There have been sheep raised on the property for 108 years. Sustainability is determined by the quality and size of the acreage and the number of sheep using the property.

Sheep can become great pets. One year we decided to castrate a ram because we heard that a two-year-old wether (castrated ram) is the best meat (what the Queen eats). After castrating, he became so tame that our children would not let us butcher him, so he ended up as a pet and died of old age on the farm.

Sheep love apples. Sheep will eat cedar and fir tree branches and leaves. They keep the grass cut and the trees trimmed. They also provide the best source of fertilizer for garlic, and wool and organic, delicious food, especially when their diet is supplemented with apples. We have lived with and enjoyed our sheep for many years. The only sad times occurred when out-of- control domestic dogs (usually belonging to visitors to the island) have trespassed on our property and chased or killed our sheep. ~ Mary Jean Elliott

Sheep are gentle and inquisitive and have distinct personalities and temperaments. They are generally good moms, usually birthing easily. (Or not!) They make me laugh and cry on a regular basis. My life is richer and way more unpredictable being a shepherd. But you don’t raise sheep thinking to make money.

We raise sheep for many reasons. We raise ethical meat for folks wishing to source their food. We raise a variety of breeds for fleece. They keep the pastures (and most everything else!) groomed.

The first thing to remember about sheep is that historically, shepherds have lived with their flocks. For good reason, as sheep have no means of defense apart from running from their predators. Therefore, one of the first considerations when pondering getting sheep is adequate fencing. Roaming dogs are a serious problem for sheep on Galiano. Also, start small, as there is a lot to learn. You need to be able to afford to feed and take care of them.

Sheep need to be sheared at least once a year. They need regular hoof attention, some breeds a lot more than others. Interestingly white hooves grow faster than black. They also require a shelter to get out of the elements. ~ Marcia DeVicque

2019-07-18T17:56:19-07:00June 18th, 2019|Categories: Food Program|0 Comments

School Garden News by Emma Luna Davis

The School Garden is one of the many Food Program projects on Galiano. Coordinators and community volunteers work with the kids, teaching them about gardening, ecology and how to grow food. Kids are involved in planning, tastings, and cooking their harvest. The Food Program also organizes a mini Nettlefest and Applefest for the kids.

The School Garden has a long and impressive lineage of Coordinators cultivating enthusiasm for gardening. Galiano students have had the opportunity to learn alongside Janice Oakley, Colleen Doty, Janna Feldman, and, most recently, Brahmi Benner.

Brahmi brought an educator’s perspective to the role, emphasizing open-ended, playful exploration of the children’s interests, as well as giving the children a safe place to practice with real tools to build skills. Brahmi is moving on and she will be much missed by the Food Program team and the kids and staff at the school for the amazing enthusiasm she brought to every event.

organic garden in my backyard. After working as a native plant nursery manager, my experience expanded to include a deep knowledge of food uses, plant propagation and seed saving of local plants.”

Patti holds a science degree and became a teacher, hoping that she would be able to work with the Galiano community. She is thrilled to have this opportunity to help with the school garden and to share what she knows with the Galiano students.

In the coming weeks, Patti will spend time getting students excited about the garden, planting seeds and doing some science. Students have begun a science experiment to study the effects of temperature on germination and will plant their results.

A school garden thrives when the coordinator is able to spend their time focusing on education and exploration, and the maintenance of the garden is shared between students and community volunteers. We invite you to join Patti at the garden and have some fun in the sun. This is also an opportunity to learn in a hands-on way. If you’re interested, please email Patti.

In the summer, the Food Program will be posting this position for a permanent Coordinator – see Facebook or email the Food Program for more information.

2019-07-18T17:50:17-07:00May 18th, 2019|Categories: Food Program, School Projects|0 Comments

Sustainable Seaweed Harvesting by Emma Luna Davis

Last June’s Seaweed Harvesting Workshop was one of the most popular we’ve run, and so we are thrilled to be able to bring Amanda Swinimer back. Participants appreciated being given the opportunity to learn both at the beach and in the classroom, as well as getting to taste many varieties of seaweed. Here’s some of what they had to say about the workshop:

“Prior to this workshop I knew little about seaweed harvesting. Now I feel confident about my abilities to forage sustainably. Thank you for this great learning opportunity.”

“Delighted that we can contribute by harvesting as much of the invasive species as possible.”

“I have been around the ocean my whole life and learned so much in the hours spent with Amanda. Thank-you!”

“Amanda was fabulous! She was so smart and knowledgeable, but made the information accessible. You could tell how passionate she is about edible seaweed.”

“All aspects were fabulous. The instructor was very knowledgeable; I learned a lot; the outdoor harvesting was meaningful, and the tastings at the end in the classroom were delicious. The day was an excellent balance of practical and technical. Well organized.”

“Learning outside with my neighbours, learning more about our shorelines and ecosystems, learning what is closely available to us to harvest sustainably and how that promotes our health.”

“I loved learning about how to ethically harvest and where, and learning about the nutritional and medicinal benefits of the tea.”


2019-07-18T17:49:10-07:00April 18th, 2019|Categories: Food Program, Workshops|0 Comments

Galiano’s Next Top Nettle Cooking Competition

Chefs, cooks and foragers: It’s time to put your “pedal to the nettle” in this year’s competition at the 12th Annual Nettlefest Community Potluck Celebration at the South Galiano Community Hall. Come “test your nettle” by entering your best nettle dish against fierce island competition. And the sting: all dishes must be in by 5:30pm.

• Dan the Man Island Style (featuring 100% ingredients grown or foraged on Galiano)
• Avant-Garde Cuisine
• Homestyle Cooking

2019-04-02T21:17:31-07:00April 2nd, 2019|Categories: Food Program, Nettlefest|0 Comments

12th Annual Nettlefest Community Potluck Celebration

Sunday, April 7th Doors open at 5:00pm
Come together to celebrate the return of Spring as we gather as a community for the 11th annual Nettlefest Potluck.   It’s all about gathering with friends and neighbours, sharing some wonderful food, and enjoying the entertainment of some amazingly-talented locals. Join us, and bring something to share with others.

2019-03-23T15:53:28-07:00March 23rd, 2019|Categories: Food Program, Nettlefest|0 Comments

Forest Foraging Walk

10:00am, Saturday April 6, Alistair Ross trailhead parking lot
with Holistic Nutritionist Cedana Bourne from the Galiano Conservancy Association

Bring your cameras and notebooks and learn about foraging in our local forests. We’ll walk through Galiano’s wild places and talk about nettles and other edible wild greens, how and when to pick them for a sustainable harvest, where they grow, and their roles in our local ecosystems. We’ll also learn about their nutritional and health-giving properties, and how best to preserve them.

Suggested donation $15-$20. Please register at

2019-03-23T15:48:57-07:00March 23rd, 2019|Categories: Food Program, Nettlefest|0 Comments

Wild Kitchen—Nettle Cooking Workshop with Alison Colwell

This Year we are holding 2 classes – Thursday April 4th and Friday April 5th at 5:30pm

Learn how to make a variety of delicious nettle dishes and how to remove the sting so that you can take advantage of all of nettle’s incredible health benefits. This hands-on class includes cooking demonstrations and is suitable for all levels of cooking skills. It’s a prime opportunity for those looking to develop their skills and incorporate wild foods into their diet. We will create a delicious meal to share around a communal table at the end of the evening. This is a chance to bring questions, and get ideas for your entry into the Galiano’s Next Top Nettle Cooking Competition at the Potluck.
Registration includes all ingredients for a meal we prepare in class, plus a copy of Alison’s Nettle Cookbook.
Please register at Sliding scale $15-$25
2019-04-01T22:02:05-07:00March 23rd, 2019|Categories: Food Program, Nettlefest|1 Comment

12th Annual Nettlefest by Alison Colwell

Whenever I’m explaining the Food Program to new people (both on island and off), I always mention Nettlefest because it’s a Galiano celebration that both mystifies and inspires!

Most people think nettles are a weed, but those of us who are lucky enough to live on Galiano know better! Stinging nettles are among the first edible plants to burst from the ground in the Pacific Northwest. Around Valentine’s Day, sometimes even earlier, green shoots start emerging from the ground, and soon the nettles are everywhere! For me nothing says spring like the arrival of this tasty green plant—free for the foraging. Plus, nettles are good for you, high in Vitamin C and calcium.

When you are picking nettles for cooking, choose the young, tender leaves, usually the top four or six on a plant. Use scissors and you won’t damage the plant. Nettles are delicious—but most first-time nettle eaters are nervous about being stung. Use rubber gloves when you are picking and until the nettles are processed in some way. Once the fresh nettles are steamed, frozen, dried or cooked, the sting is neutralized. There are lots of ways to use nettles. Some of my favourites are: soup, pizza, nettle pakora, and a green nettle ravioli pasta.


2019-07-18T17:47:19-07:00March 18th, 2019|Categories: Food Program, Nettlefest|0 Comments

Community Greenhouse by Barry New

Located behind the Galiano Library on the School grounds, the Greenhouse Growing Group grows vegetables together in the Community Greenhouse. Anyone is welcome to join. The charge is only $20 for the whole year. This fee includes all soil amendments, seeds, pots, and tools, but people are still encouraged to bring their own. Participants share the produce.

We specialise in the early Spring Starts and then roll out a program for year-round crops. We learn and share our knowledge about potting mixes and seeds, pests and problems. Over the years, we have built up a good collection of saved seeds and benefitted from the Seed Library of Galiano with a Seed Swap and sharing their collection. The group meets informally once or twice a week throughout the spring and summer. By the summer, we have a watering schedule so participants take regular (weekly) turns to keep the plants well- watered. It is a teaching and learning environment—we have knowledge and experience to share, and some resources and good links to help further the skills of participants and answer your specific gardening questions.

We specialise in tomatoes, eggplants, basil, peppers, melons, and many other seasonal vegetables. There are also raised beds (no bending!) outside the greenhouse where we have grown strawberries, runner beans, zucchinis and cucumbers.

First meeting of the 2019 Growing Season is Saturday, March 16, 11:00, at the Greenhouse. Come on out and see what it’s all about! If you have any questions, you can email Barry, the Greenhouse Coordinator.

What Perogies Mean To Us by Brahmi Benner

Join us on Sunday, January 27th for an immersive experience in Ukrainian culture and cuisine. We will pinch, cook and eat together as our workshop presenters share stories and songs from this rich traditional culture. Bring a rolling pin and a tray!

“While pyrohy were a regular part of meals in our household, they were especially important during festive events like weddings, church functions or Christmas. On Ukrainian Christmas Eve (Svyata Vechera) pyrohy were made with homemade cottage cheese, sauerkraut, potato and prune fillings as part of the twelve traditional meatless dishes. The prune filling was especially memorable to me as a child as it was made only during Christmas and it was like having a dessert during the main part of the meal. Sour cream and a sauce made from high bush cranberries (kalyna) were used as a dressing.” -Ed Andrusiak, Galiano resident, Ukrainian- Canadian

“To me, pyrohy are the ultimate comfort food from my childhood. They evoke memories of my grandmother, mother and all my female relatives in somebody’s big kitchen, laughing, singing, talking and arguing while peeling potatoes, grating cheese, chopping onions, mushrooms and sauerkraut, and making and rolling out paper-thin dough. Then we would put potato and cottage cheese or sauerkraut and mushroom filling, my two favourites, gently into each circle and finally fold and lovingly pinch it closed before plopping them—one by one—into huge pots of boiling salted water. Dining on a plateful of these precious, delicious dumplings, sliding around in butter and sour cream, is heaven on earth. – Christina Stechishin, Galiano resident and great-niece of Savella Stechishin, author of Traditional Ukrainian Cookery

I grew up eating pierogies and they are deep in my Polish soul. I love to eat them but I also really enjoy the way people gather to make them. Spreading flour on a kitchen table, making the dough, preparing filling and

boiling the water in a big pot. Everyone got their hands dirty to create a mythical half-moon shape stuffed with their favorite filling. After a few minutes in boiling water, the pierogies would land on our plates and the feast began. We shared the work together and we also shared stories about our best pierogi recipes. We reminisced about people in our lives and all the moments spent with our family and friends preparing pierogies to celebrate the beauty of life. -Konrad Dwornik, Galiano resident, born in Poland

“It was my favourite food as a child. I grew up being part of the assembly line. There would be at least three generations at the table pinching the pyrohy, cousins, aunties, grandmas, and kids. The matriarchs always bragged about how many they made. You don’t just make a few!” -Beverly Dobrinsky, founder of Zeellia, Slavic Soul and director of Barvinok Ukrainian Choir

“Homemade perogies remind me of my aunt Beverly’s kitchen, her Christmas Eve dinner and her way of bringing Ukrainian music and food together. I’ve always stuffed them too big and I still do. Before dinner, I would pester my aunt to find out how many dozen we had made this year as my mom nudged me to leave my busy, flour-dusted aunt alone. As kids, my brother, cousins and I would compete over who could eat the most. I was so greedy and just wanted to stuff as much as I could into this one magical night of the year. Maybe that’s why I love to make and share perogies now.” -Brahmi Benner, Galiano resident

2019-07-18T17:37:29-07:00January 18th, 2019|Categories: Food Program, Workshops|0 Comments
Load More Posts