Saturday, February 25, 2023

Shea Butter, The Environment and Saskatchewan Ingenuity

 Russia's genocidal war on Ukraine is now in its second year. The media is full of stories about the war and I am sure you can find them if you wish. So this post is about some good news for a change, turning a miniature environmental problem into a win-win situation.

Shea Butter is a rich emollient produced from the nuts of the Shea or Karité trees that grow all across the African Sahel. The top shea nut–producing countries are Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin and Togo. Shea Butter has been called “women’s gold” because it provides employment and income directly and indirectly to some three million women across the continent. Shea butter exports from West Africa garner between $90 million and $200 million a year.

Using traditional methods, women, often organized in cooperatives, harvest Shea fruit. They then crush the nuts inside to extract the precious butter, which is boiled, cleaned, and sold as raw or unrefined, at the local markets or exported. They may also sell unprocessed nuts to large commercial companies which use expellers and solvents to produce a refined product which is colorless and odorless, and lacks the natural skin regenerating benefits of unrefined Shea Butter.

Shea Butter production is roughly 1/3 unrefined, 2/3 refined, with 65% going into food and beverage (chocolate and confectionary eg Kit Kat and Milky Way), and 30% into cosmetics and skin care. Ghana is the largest exporter of unrefined shea butter. The most effective body creams and lotions will contain at least 20% of Unrefined Shea Butter in their formulas.

My friend of many years, Wayne Dunn, a farm boy from Big River, Saskatchewan, married a woman from Wa in Northern Ghana, whom he met in Ottawa. In 2011, during a visit to Northern Ghana, one of the women leaders said to Wayne, “Can you help us earn income?” Those words launched Baraka Impact which began buying unrefined Shea Butter from village women and exporting it to Canada for resale. Demand steadily grew, largely due to the story of the hardworking women who made Shea Butter and the dignity of income it gave them. You can read about the company, the products and the people at the above link.

After Shea Nuts are roasted, pounded, then boiled, the solution is manually whipped to coagulate the shea butter. This leaves behind a solution which is 60% solids. Normally this is just dumped on the ground, creating a huge mess, though it eventually dries. In the meantime, the women are buying firewood usually from chopped down Shea Trees to roast and boil the shea nuts.

So this year, Wayne, the farmer, logger and fisherman that he was, thought there has to be a better way. With lots of input from the local women making the Shea Butter, he and they came up with a process to turn the waste product into fuel. The women love it as it burns hotter and cleaner than wood. It saves trees. It cleans up a mess. It requires no fancy equipment.

The wastewater is dumped into a settling pond where it dries out. The solid waste is dug out of the settling pond, transported by wheelbarrow to a level piece of ground and formed into bricks or balls which then dry in the sun. It isn’t perfect, is labour intensive, and requires a rethink for the rainy season. But it is an environmental blessing.

I will post some pictures and videos here to illustrate but for the real professional explanation see the Baraka Impact blog post here:


Roasting shea nuts
the residue bricks burn hot and clean

Wayne always sends me pictures of cows, which are in the background of this video.

Our family use Baraka African black soap which is a mild version of Grandma's lye soap. We love it as it not only gets us clean, if you rub it on really grimy areas like greasy collars before washing, they come out spotless. We also use Kombo Butter rubbed on sore muscles and aching backs or knees which brings long lasting relief. It is now available as a premixed cream in a fancy jar.

Friday, February 17, 2023

An odd assortment of memes

 Found a folder the other day called 'Other" with a bunch of unrelated memes and photos. So here we go, some with explanations.

Pieces of rockets launched against Kharkiv

Other than Pyongyang, Korea is dark at night

Sent this to my son's partner for my young grandson's benefit

Hingston Harbour. Genealogists have not figured out
which Hingston nor why  the harbour was named after him

I have the entire old book scanned as PDF
When Stalin deported whole peoples, this is where they were sent

Europe c 1300

Kyivan Rus c1015-1113. Long before Muscovy existed

Ukraine in the time of the Cossacks c1600?

When the Black Sea was a Greek Lake

Ukraine 1919 during a brief independence

The birth of conspiracy theories

Projectile Dysfunction

Pony Express Route 

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Joyce Olivia (May) McLachlan Sept 5, 1947 - February 5, 2023

 Back in the day, when cousins lived close enough to be your friends, Joyce was one of my best friends. Three weeks and three days older than me, she lorded that over me until we were old enough for it to be my turn to tell her how much younger I was.

We celebrated our 50th birthdays together with my other best friend cousin on the other side of my family, Lorne Dale, born Dec 1, 1947, who died of cancer in 2005. 

Joyce and I celebrating 75 Years
For our 75th, her sister Judy organized a small party for the two of us in late November after Tanya and I returned from Ukraine with Lucky. She and Judy had lived together after Joyce retired and when Judy retired, the two of them moved to Saskatoon. 

Joyce was not well at the time of our party, with symptoms similar to Congestive Heart Failure, though it was not that. She spent several weeks in hospital before they were finally able to diagnose as something on her heart that they could not operate on as she would not survive the operation. She was sent home with oxygen and heavy meds to alleviate the fluid on her legs and some of the associated pain. 

Judy looked after Joyce the last few months of her life. She was not prepared for Joyce's death to be so sudden nor were any of us, for that matter.  But Joyce is no longer in pain and is at peace so Judy said in a way it was a relief. 

I first met Joyce when we were very young. My grandparents who had a reliable car, drove my folks, my brother Ross who was a toddler, and I, to Beverly, near Swift Current, where my Uncle Vince was a grain buyer at the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevator. A few years later he transferred to run the Pool elevator at Merid which is west of Kindersley, close to the Alberta border. We got to see each other more often then and even spend a week at their place sometimes. How Aunt Betty kept her sanity while we were there is beyond me. 

Joyce 1961 age 13
Uncle Vince's next Pool elevator was at Fiske west of Rosetown where the family spent many years. Aunt Betty worked at Miller's General Store.  Joyce and her sisters Helen and Judy grew up in Fiske, finished elementary school and went to high school in Rosetown. Ross and I used to spend a week there every summer before we were in our teens.

The families of the three Johnson sisters got together for meals several times a year, especially when our grandparents were alive. There were 10 cousins in all and there were great times. One time when Joyce was at our place, we took the old car up to the pasture to check the cattle. I got out, opened the gate and was so tired I got back in to the car in the backseat. There is a joke about a drunk who did that and thought someone had stolen the steering wheel. Joyce was going to make my life miserable over that I could tell. Anyway, she wanted to drive. So I let her. She put it in forward not reverse and not only drove into a tree but drove up the tree. I had to cut the tree down to release the car. Neither of us told anyone about anything.

Uncle Vince had been offered the Pool elevator in Kindersley a few times and turned it down but eventually gave in. The family moved to Kindersley in 1967. Joyce graduated from highschool in 1965 and her first job was with SaskTel as a switchboard operator in Rosetown. Her Uncle Frank said she was a "call girl". Joyce married in 1968 because all her highschool friends were getting married. That marriage lasted 10 years which was sort of the average length of the marriages of all her highschool friends, too. She did not make that mistake again.

Helen married Dick Preston, a farmer from the community of Brock which is about half way between Rosetown and Kindersley. They have a daughter, Amber. Judy married John Holland and they had two sons, Shane and Chris. Shane followed in his grandfather's footsteps and became a grain buyer at Flaxcombe. John passed away several years ago.

Joyce 2008
Joyce moved to Edmonton and worked there many years, I did visit her there once as I recall but that was it. Then she moved back to Kindersley in about 1999. She worked at several different jobs and cared for her parents who were not getting any younger. Uncle Vince passed away in 2006 and Aunt Betty in 2011. The house was too much for her and she sold it and moved into an apartment until she retired and moved to Lloydminster to live with Judy.

I'm sure my two best friend cousins, Joyce and Lorne will share a couple of laughs on the other side and Joyce will reunite with our cousin Sandy (Baker) Parsons who passed away only a couple of years ago. I will sure miss you, Joyce. That I know.