Aaron is currently working towards completing his undergraduate degree in Environmental Geography at Simon Fraser University. In his spare time Aaron can be found cruising the coastline on his sailboat, surfing, or hiking. Aaron is passionate about outdoor learning, and one day hopes to teach at an outdoor school.
We have all seen the ads for Valentines Day and they all tell the same story: buy her chocolates and she’ll love you forever; flowers are a good choice, and you can never go wrong with jewelry (the more expensive the better). I have many friends who believe that this is true. The other day, one of them said to me, “I’m going to buy my girlfriend chocolates. It’s failsafe, dude.” He might be right, but I am going to purpose another option. This Valentines Day, try giving your special someone a gift that is sustainably sourced, locally produced, and if you can manage it, free! I won’t lie, this is not going to be easy but it is possible. You can do it! And to prove it to you, I’m going to do it with you. But first, let me back up a bit.
This past summer, my girlfriend of six years and I broke up. It was tough; I cried and I made a couple of bad decisions. But mostly, I went through a process of rediscovering who I was as an individual. What did I want to do with my life? What were my hobbies? I made some big changes in my life: I stopped smoking weed, I set myself the goal of becoming a teacher, and I plan on running a half marathon in April. I also set myself some smaller short-term goals: I wanted to learn how to play Mad World on the piano, I wanted to hike the highest mountain on Vancouver Island, and most importantly I wanted to learn how to make blackberry wine.
The first step I took to make blackberry wine was to pick blackberries. I was living on Vancouver Island for the summer, and for two weeks I woke up early every morning to go blackberry picking. At first I found the process quite tedious, but as the days went by it slowly started to become a therapeutic experience. There was something calming about methodically picking the blackberries. It allowed my mind the chance to process my breakup while simultaneously getting me outside into nature. There was a social element to the picking that I liked too; I met fellow “pickers” both young and old, male and female, and everything in-between. Sometimes I chatted with them for a bit, and sometimes we said nothing at all, but there was a sense of a community among all the “pickers” that made me feel less alone. However, there was one downside to this experience: I got a lot of scratches from their thorny branches. At the end of the two weeks I had cuts on my arms, legs back, and even one particularly nasty one on my right eyelid. The scratches were well worth it though because the trade off was that during that time I picked close to 70 pounds of blackberries.
Now it was time for me to make blackberry wine! All I had to do was figure out how to do it… Like I said, I had never made blackberry wine before. I perused the Internet and after a couple of hours researching, I had all the information I needed. It was a pretty easy process. I boiled the berries, added water, then sugar, and lastly, yeast. Then I poured it all into a fermenter and waited. It would take 6-8 months before I could drink my blackberry wine.
Fast-forward six months and two things in my life have changed:
1) My blackberry wine is almost ready to drink
2) I met a really great girl.
So for Valentines Day, I decided it would be perfect if I gave her a bottle of my blackberry wine. It meets all of my criteria for a Valentines gift: it’s sustainable, it’s local, and it’s free! With this in mind I went back to the island last week to pick up the wine, but to my disappointment it had gone mouldy! My amazing Valentines Day gift was ruined and I was back at square one. I had nothing. No gift.
Now trust me, there is a big part of me that wants to go the store and buy my date chocolates, flowers, and/or jewelry. It would easy, but I wouldn’t be practicing what I’m preaching so instead, I am going to try binding her a book, and writing a poem on the first page. Once again the Internet will help a lot. I have never binded a book. If the homemade book is a complete fail, and the poem is super corny then I’m not sure what I’ll do. Maybe we’ll go for a hike? Maybe I’ll write her a song? Heck, maybe I’ll just buy her flowers, and some chocolate, but the flowers will be from an organic farm in Pemberton, and chocolate will be sustainably made on Denman Island. It is not ideal because it does not meet all my Valentines Day gift criteria, but it is a step in the right direction, and being sustainable, like being in a new relationship, is all about taking it slow and making little improvements.