Healthy Living in the North

What have I learned in the garden? 10 tips from an amateur northern gardener

Garden with a rainbow in the background.

Before any seedlings emerged, a rainbow (with hints of a double rainbow) touched down in the garden! It’s going to be a good year!

Since moving to northern B.C. from the Lower Mainland, a hobby of mine that has ramped up considerably is gardening.

What used to be one tomato plant and a few pots of herbs on a small apartment patio has grown into a full patch of dirt about the size of that same Vancouver apartment! My crop has expanded from tomatoes and herbs to zucchini, peppers, kale, potatoes, spinach, green onion, lettuce, carrots, beets, peas, beans, corn, pumpkins, cucumber, six different herbs, raspberries, and some flowers thrown in for good measure.

For me, gardening is a great way to stay active, get outside, enjoy the sun, and eat healthy, super local food!

I am most definitely an amateur in the garden, but figure there are more than a few folks like me out there, so I thought I’d share my own top ten list of things I’ve learned over the last two years of gardening. I’m not talking pro tips – chat to an experienced local or check out the most recent issue of A Healthier You for those! – I’m talking about the realizations that I’ve had while fumbling around in the garden.

Ten things I learned in the garden

Frog on zucchini plant.

Perhaps the garden’s newest protector will keep the deer at bay?

1. Deer aren’t easy to fool. My first attempt at a deer repellent was to plant a wall of sunflowers in front of my veggies. If the deer can’t see the veggies, I figured, then they won’t eat them. This hypothesis was proven to be false.

2. Get organized! Visitors may poke fun at the spreadsheet that I’ve mounted in the greenhouse telling me when to thin seedlings, how far apart to space my plants, and how to harvest and prune, but I love my spreadsheet and you should, too!

3. Speaking of thinning plants, for me, this is undeniably the hardest part of gardening. When you grow something from seed, it just feels wrong to pluck it out of the ground simply to make room for other seedlings. I feel your pain.

4. Freeze raspberries on a baking sheet before putting them in a bag or container. My raspberry crop last year was amazing. And then I thought: “Hey, I should freeze these for loaves, muffins, and smoothies all winter long.” And then I thought: “Hey, I’ll just throw this bucket of raspberries in the freezer.” This worked very well until I went to grab a raspberry or two and found a massive frozen block instead. This year, to avoid having to chisel raspberries, I’m freezing the berries on a cookie sheet first. So far, so good!

Raspberries in a colander

How to properly freeze raspberries (and which Instagram filters make raspberry pictures pop) are just two things that took a full season of fun, first-time, error-filled gardening to learn.

5. Salads rock! My summer diet consists mostly of some variation on Carly’s full-meal-deal salad. A quick trip from the kitchen to the garden to snip some lettuce, grab some tomatoes and cucumbers, and cut some herbs is about all the dinner prep time I needed.

6. Deer and gardeners can co-exist. My neighbours have suggested fences, hanging soap, motion-activated sprinklers, and sprays to keep the deer at bay. My preferred approach (after the sunflower barrier failed): plant 10 times more than I could possibly eat and let the deer eat to their hearts’ content – being sure to snap pictures, of course, since the novelty of wildlife in the garden has yet to wear off for this new northerner.

7. Gardening can be great physical activity! Often when I’m in the garden, I lose track of time. Also, as an amateur, I probably do things a bit slower than the seasoned pros. It’s usually the setting sun that snaps me back into focus and reminds me that I’ve been outside for 2-3 hours bending, lifting, walking, shovelling, and just generally moving around!

Gardening information on a wall

The first year garden saw a handwritten spreadsheet (pictured). This year’s upgrade is a computer printout and has more information on pruning, harvesting, and fertilizing. No word yet on what next year’s version will look like.

8. Seniors are undeniably the best go-to source for local gardening information. Why were my cucumbers bitter? Why did the pumpkin leaves turn black? How should I prune my raspberries? I could spend some time Googling the answers and find some information that may or may not be applicable to Vanderhoof or, as I’ve done a few times now, I could draw on the wisdom of a seasoned local gardening veteran and get the right answer every time!

9. Gardening makes for colourful, jealousy-inducing pictures. Take many and share widely!

10. If I can do it, so can you!

Whether you try a single pot of herbs on a windowsill or dozens of rows and beds, give gardening a shot this year! It’s not too late (I was out planting some new seeds just yesterday!) and the healthy rewards are amazing!

Do you have any tips from your gardening experiences?

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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A Healthier You (May 2015)

Cover of A Healthier You

The May 2015 issue of A Healthier You is all about local food and gardening, with tips, tricks, and insights for the north, from the north!

If you’re anything like me, this week’s sunny weather – which seems to be warming every corner of our region – has you thinking about gardening. Since moving to northern B.C. a few years ago, I’ve come to realize that for many, the May long weekend is the opening day of gardening season. The other thing I’ve noticed is that local gardening knowledge can be hard to find! Sure, there are books about patio gardening in Vancouver or kitchen gardens on Vancouver Island, but our zones seem to be forgotten!

This is why I’m so excited that the newest issue of Northern Health’s quarterly healthy living magazine, A Healthier You, is now available. The issue, available online and in print in various locations around the north, is all about local food and gardening!

For me, a few highlights in this issue include:

  • Tips on how to make the most of our short growing season.
  • How gardening, berry-picking, and farmers market visits can help me get my minimum 150 minutes of weekly physical activity.
  • Valuable information on how to stay safe while fishing this spring and summer (because, let’s be honest, while the May long weekend is the start of gardening season for me, it’s the start of boating season for others!).
  • Some insights on how my humble garden might tie into big picture issues of food security and healthy communities.
  • A jealousy-inducing look at local food on Haida Gwaii.

I hope that you enjoy the newest issue of the magazine! And remember that all past issues are also available online!

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

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Eating 9 to 5 Challenge: And the winner is…

Ross, who won a Vitamix Blender with the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge is pictured.

Congrats to Ross, who won a Vitamix Blender with the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge!

This March was National Nutrition Month and its theme was Eating 9 to 5, which focused on people’s eating habits at the office/work site and their time-strapped schedules around the work day. In support of National Nutrition Month, Northern Health held the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge, which brought four weeks of challenges to northerners who completed tasks for entries into weekly team draws, as well as an individual draw for a Vitamix blender! We truly believe that everyone who took part and experienced a positive change to their eating habits as a result of the Challenge is a winner! Based on the amazing entries that were submitted, a lot of people received a ton of great tips for eating healthier before, during, and after work, and put those tips into action! Before we announce who won prizes, we want to thank everyone who took part and wish everyone good, healthy eats (and drinks) during your 9 to 5, and beyond!

After a brief delay, we’re happy to announce that the grand prize winner of the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge is Ross Knudson! Ross took part in the challenge on his own, literally naming his team “Ross Solo” … which is close to the moniker he uses when fighting the Empire. Ross won a Vitamix blender. Congrats, Ross!

We’d also like to congratulate The Northern Healthy Eaters, who took home our Week 1 prize of four Dietitians of Canada cookbooks; Anita, who entered as an individual, winning the Week 2 draw for four Thermos lunch bags; The District Divas, winners of Week 3’s four travel mugs; and, lastly, team We Love Our Pharmacy, who won two fruit/veggie trays for their next meeting!

Throughout all four weeks, we received fantastic entries that showed how serious people were about eating healthy in the workplace, but it was the Creative Challenges that put the biggest smiles on our faces! Here are a few random highlights:

The text "Make Lunch Fun"  surrounds a pencil crayon drawing of several pieces of fruit.

The Crazy Cantaloupes sent in this lovely piece of artwork, which, ironically, does not feature a cantaloupe.

A cupcake and a doughnut say "Eat us! We are so delicious!" to which team The Steamed Veggies respond, "No thanks, meeting snacks! I will just have my apple! I'm good!"

We know cupcakes and doughnuts are unhealthy, but, according to The Steamed Veggies, they’re actually evil! Stick to those apples!

And, without a doubt, the most adorable creative entry goes to The OR Health Freaks who put one of their kids to the test with this food quiz:

Thanks again to everyone who entered the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge! Feel free to let us know if any of the tips or challenges helped you make positive changes to your eating habits in the comments below.

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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Bright ideas for conservation from Northern Health

After reviewing the survey that I shared with you on Earth Day yesterday, I learned just how committed Northern Health staff are to energy conservation! It was great to see the number and diversity of responses from all over the Northern Health region.

To move this passion into action, I recently put out a call to staff in the northwest region for “bright ideas” – any suggestions that they had for conservation improvements. The breadth and depth of ideas that we received was truly impressive and we thank everyone who participated for contributing! Staff in the northwest had some great ideas that I wanted to share to inspire your own conservation thinking! How might you conserve energy in your home or workplace?

Pie chart of survey results

The “Bright Ideas” for conservation that Les heard from Northern Health staff represented eight major themes, with ideas for action on lighting, computers, and equipment leading the way.

Here is a summary of the results:

  • 40 total entries
  • 8 major themes: lighting, computers, equipment, heating and cooling (HVAC), water, recycling, laundry and paper

Here is a sample of some of the great ideas that were submitted.

From staff in Dease Lake & Kitimat:

Replacing exterior and street lights with high efficiency LED lights.

It is estimated that lighting makes up about one-third of a typical institution’s energy consumption – think of all those thousands of dollars to save!

From Prince Rupert:

Creating a pod-based recycling system with designated spots for paper recycling and other materials.

A staff member in Houston submitted many ideas including turning off cooking equipment overnight or when not in use in kitchens and creating reminder notes to turn off taps completely to save water.

We heard great ideas from Smithers:

Looking at ways to reduce laundry use when carrying out exams, such as making gowns optional or by request, and sizing sheets to fit exam tables to reduce excess material adding to laundry generated.

Creating reminders and promotions to encourage staff to turn off lights in unused spaces to reduce energy waste.

Staff in Terrace submitted many ideas including reviewing insulation along water pipes, installing insulated foam along all water pipes to conserve energy, and installing programs to log off computers when not in use.

From Kitimat:

On a weekly basis, vacuuming registers and vents to prevent the air flow from being blocked.

From Queen Charlotte City:

Creating a comprehensive strategy to look at resource utilization at facilities focusing on heating, electricity, solid waste and water utilization, and tracking energy data across sites.

And from a staff person in Terrace:

Taking the stairs instead of the elevator to save energy and get exercise.

Stay tuned for more Bright Ideas from other regions – I’ll be launching a northeast contest in June!

Bright Ideas Contest graphic

What is your “Bright Idea” for conservation?

Les Sluggett

About Les Sluggett

Les Sluggett is Northern Health’s energy manager, which sees him supporting facility managers in Northern Health to explore and understand energy conservation through technologies and programs. His efforts help facilities personnel to be more energy efficient so that patients are comfortable in a reliable and safe environment. In his spare time, Les attends his local YMCA or heads outdoors skiing in the winter and canoeing & travelling in the summer. At home as at work, Les tries to reduce waste and be more energy efficient.

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Northern Health staff conserve energy – how about you?

Infographic with survey results.In my role as energy manager, I get to hear all about how Northern Health staff members feel about energy conservation!

Earlier this year, over 1,200 staff members from Haida Gwaii to Valemount responded to an energy conservation survey – a great response that shows just how much we northerners care about energy conservation (97% of respondents thought energy conservation was important) and protecting our beautiful environment!

Here are the top 5 insights I found valuable from the survey:

  • 87% of respondents turn off all lights when possible.
  • 79% of respondents close windows and doors when heating or air conditioning is on.
  • 75% of respondents use the stairs instead of the elevator (which is a great way to sneak in some physical activity at work, too!).
  • 96% of respondents practice energy conservation at home.
  • 72% of respondents practice energy conservation at work.

I’m excited to keep tracking our progress as we work towards improving our energy conservation through increased awareness and action. The money saved from all of Northern Health’s energy conservation efforts can be moved from heating facilities to healing patients!

How do you conserve energy in your home or workplace?

 

Les Sluggett

About Les Sluggett

Les Sluggett is Northern Health’s energy manager, which sees him supporting facility managers in Northern Health to explore and understand energy conservation through technologies and programs. His efforts help facilities personnel to be more energy efficient so that patients are comfortable in a reliable and safe environment. In his spare time, Les attends his local YMCA or heads outdoors skiing in the winter and canoeing & travelling in the summer. At home as at work, Les tries to reduce waste and be more energy efficient.

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Tips for private water systems

If you’re not on a municipal water system, private water sampling is important in ensuring your drinking water is safe to drink. Unfortunately, not all homeowners are aware that this is an important step in maintaining a safe private drinking water system. Please enjoy this short video created by Northern Health’s environmental health team for some information and tips on private water sampling!

 

Daisy Tam

About Daisy Tam

Daisy Tam is an Environmental Health Officer for Northern Health. She also has a background in nutritional science from UBC. Migrating up from southern B.C., Daisy has found the vast north to be full of fun and new winter and summer activities to stay busy. In her spare time, Daisy enjoys playing badminton, hiking, cross-country skiing, skating, baking, and reading as weather permits.

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Ts’uhoont’l Whuzhadel – Welcome – Bienvenue

Lheidli: “where the two rivers flow together”

T’enneh: “the People”

First Nations art on building depicting a heart with the words: "The Spirit of the Heart Welcomes our Canadian Athletes".

For the first time ever, the Canada Games have an Official Host First Nation. The 2015 Canada Winter Games are taking place on the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh.

It seems that Prince George is a national leader once again! For the first time ever, the First Nation on whose territory the Canada Winter Games are being held has been invited to co-host the Games and has participated fully as a true partner and Host First Nation. The flag of the Lheidli T’enneh people flies proudly alongside all of the flags that celebrate the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George; equally represented.

However, this partnership is more than just the symbolism of flags. The 2015 Canada Winter Games organizers have been immersed in the practical and nitty-gritty details of pulling off a successful winter games event – such as making sure speedskaters had the right safety bumpers and that partners like Northern Health could help ensure top-notch medical response and first aid readiness. Yet at the same time, they also worked hard in this new arena of building a meaningful relationship with the keepers of the traditional territory. In finding the proper and respectful ways to work together with a local First Nation, the 2015 Canada Winter Games Committee has made sure the first ever Host First Nation experience in Prince George has set the bar for all others to follow!

The Dakelh (Carrier) people have lived upon this land for untold centuries and were frequently hosts to gatherings. Thus, hosting an event at the place “where the two rivers flow together” is not a new experience for the local First Nation! Traditional protocols observe and respect the roles of both host and visitor. While these protocols have governed relations on the land for centuries they are still fresh and useful in the modern world. The Lheidli T’enneh have brought these ancient skills to the modern venue of the Canada Winter Games.

The story of a journey – the theme of the winter games and the heart of the opening ceremonies – also honoured the lives and history of the people of Lheidli T’enneh for their tens of centuries of living on this land. The contributions of Dakelh people are seen throughout these games. The work of Dakelh artists are evident everywhere, from the broad sweep of the shapes and colours in the official 2015 Canada Winter Games banners lining the streets to the fine details of the medals and from the wraps surrounding the pillars at the Civic Plaza to the shop windows of downtown businesses. This generous sharing of Carrier culture marked and deepened the experience of the Games for visitors and residents alike.

In the heart of downtown Prince George, often seen as a troublesome area in need of revitalization, the Lheidli T’enneh pavilion has anchored an ongoing warm winter welcome offered by Prince George and the Host First Nation. Sharing food, music and culture is the life blood here in the pavilion. The sound of drums and the performances by talented musicians and singers surrounded by food and history and culture resonates and draws in visitors. So much so that if you want to be in the audience for the 9:30 performance, I was told by a laughing greeter, “you had better be in a seat by 8:30.”

In every case where the Lheidli T’enneh have walked in the Games, the power and significance of the Games has been magnified. The opening ceremonies spoke to all who call this fair land home. The story of the river and the people was laid down, followed by the railroad and highway. The athletes walked these pathways as they entered, and by walking the symbolic land, the stage was set for the ceremonies. All nations were represented in the opening ceremonies but the centre-piecing of the Lheidli T’enneh opened the eyes of viewers to the depth and richness of Dakelh culture. The overall impression – that Prince George has got talent – was obvious. From Tristan Ghostkeeper’s athletic artistry to the little ones who sang and bounced for joy in their performances, to the pride of Chief Frederick, the message was clear: you don’t need to spend a ton of money on big name acts to move people to tears of pride. You just need to look at those amongst whom you live and see the gifts in the place that we call home.

The Games celebrate winter – one of the two seasons in northern B.C. (winter and not winter!) – in a profound way: by bringing young athletes to a national stage where they can ply their sport on snow or ice. In this shared space – a place where all eyes focus on youth and their future – we have found a way to be together honourably, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, as hosts to the Games.

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love - teaching.

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Spirit the Caribou: training montage

Yesterday, we introduced the newest member of the Northern Health family – Spirit! Today, you can see the rigorous training he’s gone through to prepare to bring health messaging to northern B.C.’s youth:

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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Introducing Spirit, the Northern Health mascot!

Northern Health CEO Cathy Ulrich  is pictured with Spirit.

Northern Health CEO Cathy Ulrich meets Spirit for the first time.

There’s a new face of healthy living in northern B.C. He eats a lot of fruits and vegetables, gets plenty of physical activity outdoors, and has some pretty solid gear to protect his head and prevent injuries! Spirit, a caribou designed by 13-year-old Prince George resident Isabel Stratton, is Northern Health’s new mascot and will be promoting healthy living across the province!

Proudly sponsored by the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation, Spirit has arrived just in time for the 2015 Canada Winter Games. At his stops throughout the region, Spirit will be encouraging children to develop healthy habits, like living an active lifestyle, eating healthy foods, wearing protective equipment, and more. Getting children excited about their health is key to building a healthier north!

Spirit will be travelling across northern B.C. to take part in community events and to engage the youngest members of our communities on healthy living issues. Spirit will make health more fun and accessible to a young audience, leading to healthy habits for life!

In case you were wondering where Spirit came from, as Isabel tells the story, he has had quite the journey to a healthy life himself!

Isabel's original concept art for Spirit.

Isabel’s original concept art for Spirit.

“When Spirit was young, he was adventurous and loved to explore. Throughout the years, he became big and strong. One day, when Spirit was out discovering the world, he got a really bad cold and had to go visit the doctor. The doctor said that even though it was a minor cold, it is important to be healthy so that Spirit can prevent other diseases. To help prevent other sicknesses, he learned that it is important to wash his hands and get lots of exercise.

Spirit the caribou lives all around northern B.C. It’s important for him to stay healthy so he and his family can stay strong. Spirit really enjoys exercising, eating well, and making the right choices for himself and his body.”

We can’t wait for you to meet Spirit at a healthy event near you!

 

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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Northern balance

Young woman with two dogs in a forest

For Ashley, having access to nature just a few steps away in Prince George was crucial to finding a balance last year.

Last year was a busy time to say the least. For some reason, I thought that it would be a great idea to take a master’s program full time while working full time. I wouldn’t recommend it! That said, I know for a fact that if I lived anywhere other than northern B.C., this would have been not only difficult but totally impossible. Looking back on last year, because of the region where I lived, I actually led a seriously awesome lifestyle. One of the biggest pluses has been that when my brain was absolutely jam-packed with school lectures and work reports, I could walk to the end of my street and be in the calming stillness of nature surrounded by trees, birds, and a friendly neighbourhood moose or two.

In my six years in Prince George, I have never been as thankful to live here as I have in the past year. Getting this degree while working full time and maintaining a high level of mental wellness would not have been possible anywhere else. Some of the biggest factors that have made this possible for me include affordability, my minimal commute, and instant access to nature.

Two moose in a yard.

Occasionally, the chance to observe a moose or two would provide a well-needed study break for Ashley.

In the Lower Mainland or southern parts of B.C., there would be no way I could afford to pay for school without loans and with my full-time school and work schedule, it would be impossible to get from A to B on time. On top of this, I’d be crammed into a tiny apartment. The most important thing for me, however, has been the ability to get away from it all: to take my dog on daily walks in the bush and to be able to spend almost every weekend at a cabin, on a hiking trail, or on a ski slope or trail because it is all so close.

One thing I have learned in class is that your body takes an average of 14 minutes to adjust its frequency to its surroundings and that nature has a low, calming frequency. When pulling out my hair about research papers, exams, and statistics, the ability to calm my body’s frequency and clear my head with 14 minutes in nature has been a total lifesaver. When my “southern” friends ignorantly scoff at where I live, I simply ask them how renting, long commutes, and being broke while being trapped in the rat race is going for them. Then I tell them that I’m going to have a beer on my back deck, watch the moose in my backyard, and read a book in awesome tranquility.

Ashley Ellerbeck

About Ashley Ellerbeck

Ashley has been a recruiter for Northern Health since 2011 and absolutely loves her job and living in northern B.C. Ashley was born and raised in Salmon Arm and then obtained her undergraduate degree at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops before completing her master's degree at UNBC. When not travelling across Canada recruiting health care professionals, Ashley enjoys being outside, yoga, cooking, real estate, her amazing friends, and travelling the globe.

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