Saturday, November 11, 2017

Eco Handmade Holiday Sale, Dec 2 from 11 am-3 pm at Little City Farm

Join us for the 10th Annual
A little bird told me...
Eco Handmade Holiday Sale here at Little City Farm
Sat, Dec 2 from 11 am-3 pm

Find holiday gifts made with mindful ingredients, upcycled charm, or natural materials.  For the eco-conscious gift giver or gift recipient!

The "A little bird told me..." handmade sale features unique handmade items from 10 local artisans/crafters/bakers. Including organic baked treats, raw chocolate, woolen slippers, pure beeswax candles, functional pottery, wearable art & jewelry from reclaimed wood, natural soaps, herbal salves & oils, herbal drinks and elixirs, sourdough breads, artisan pies, woolen felted toys, children's items and more!  Read all about our vendors here.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Whole Plant Echinacea Tincture

For the past few weeks I have been in awe of the bees in our garden.  The flowers are at their peak, and bees are simply everywhere, bees of every description.  We have seen mason bees, sweat bees, bumble bees, small wild bees, honeybees, squash bees, and many more varieties that I am not yet familiar with.  It feels good to be able to provide this host site for so many foragers, and see them buzzing around with gorgeous pollen on their legs!  Did you know that some bees, such as bumble bees and honeybees, have pollen "baskets", or corbicula, on their hind legs to carry the pollen back to the hive?  You can spot it when the baskets are full, sometimes with yellow, blue, purple or pink pollen, depending what flowers they have been visiting.  Amazing!

When making my whole plant echinacea tincture, it was a beautiful start to see the bees covering the echinacea patch when I went to harvest my flowers and leaves.  I knew this was going to be a potent tincture, ready in time for our family to use this winter.  Just look at the rich yellow pollen in that first photo of the echinacea flower.

How & why to make a whole plant tincture?
Tinctures are plant extracts, commonly made of leaves, flowers, roots or berries, steeping in food grade alcohol such as vodka or brandy.  Raw apple cider vinegar can also be used, but does not provide as long a shelf life for the tincture as the alcohol.  An alcohol tincture, if properly prepared and stored, can keep for many years.

Traditionally tinctures are made by steeping the fresh or dried plant material in a clean glass mason jar, covered by at least 1-2 inches of liquid (aka. the "menstruum") so that the plant material stays submerged at all times during the steeping period.  Steeping, or infusing, takes a minimum of 2 weeks, and better yet upto 6-8 weeks.  Then the plant material is strained, and the liquid reserved - that is now your finished tincture.  Bottle (ideally in a dark glass bottle), label, and store in a cool dark location until time of use.  Tinctures are taken by the droperful, in a glass of water.  They are ideal for preserving herbs such as echinacea, which can be used for boosting the immune system and warding off winter colds and flu.

Whole plant tinctures are ones made with not only one part of the plant (e.g. the leaves, or the flowers, or the roots), but the entire plant.  They create the most potent tinctures available, as they make use of all aspects of the plant's medicinal qualities.  The various parts are harvested for the tincture throughout the growing season, when they are at their peak, and then discarded after the infusing period is finished.  For example, the leaves are harvested just before flowers are budding on the plant.  Then the leaves are strained out of the tincture, and the flowers are added just as they have opened.  Then the flowers are strained out of the tincture after they have infused for the necessary period, and next the echinacea roots added.  Roots are usually harvested in the fall, after the flowers of the plant have died back.  So for making this whole plant tincture, echinacea is the perfect plant to experiment with and makes a potent tincture every time.  It takes some attention to make a whole plant tincture, as you need to follow the process throughout the growing season, but the effort is well worth the finished result.

Whole Plant Echinacea Tincture*
Yields: aprox. 6-8 ounces of finished tincture

You will need:
1 clean glass mason jar (250 ml) and lid
fresh echinacea leaves (handful, chopped)
fresh echinacea flowers (3-4 flower heads, whole)
fresh echinacea roots (handful, chopped)
vodka or brandy (food grade)

1) Fill jar with fresh echinacea leaves that are harvested from the plants before the flowers have formed.
2) Add vodka to within 1-2 inches above the plant material.  Make sure plant material is covered completely by alcohol through the whole steeping time.  This is important, otherwise you risk mold growing and ruining your tincture.
3) Label the jar with ingredients, location of harvest, date.
3) Let steep in a cool dark location for at least 2 weeks, preferable 4-6 weeks.
4) Then strain out the leaves, reserve the liquid.
5) Add echinacea flowers, just as the flowers are fully opening.  Again, cover with at least 1-2 inches of vodka.  Steep as before.
6) Strain out the flowers, and reserve the liquid.
7) Finally, add chopped up fresh echinacea roots, that are harvested after the flowers have died back from the plants in the fall.  Use roots from plants that are at least 3 years old.
8) Steep again, covered by at least 1-2 inches of vodka, for at least 2 weeks.
9) Then strain out the roots, and reserve the liquid.
10) Bottle into dark glass bottles with tight fitting lids.  Label and date.  Store in a cool, dark location until time of use.  This tincture should keep for at least 1-2 years if prepared and stored properly.

* a little tip, to make the most potent tincture, always harvest from several of the most healthy looking plants in your garden, rather than from one plant only, and infuse with love and good intention

Friday, July 14, 2017

Snapshots from "Homestead Camp"

This week we held our second annual Homestead Camp here at Little City Farm.  It was the idea of our daughter, to bring together other kids in the 8-12 year old range in a creative "farmstead" setting while sharing some of the projects that we like to do around here.  The outdoor day camp was held each morning, including co-operative games, garden harvested snacks (like herbal sun tea, pesto and a rainbow veggie platter, made by the kids), and a hands-on activity from the day's theme - including pollinators (making seedballs); natural plant dyes (tie-dying a favourite shirt), natural fibres (making a branch weaving, and felting a bar of soap); and finally wood-fired baking (making pizza in our outdoor oven)!  What fun!  We hope to do this again next year! 

For the fall, we have kids Waldorf-inspired art classes and mother-daughter herbal immersion classes coming up again; as well as our new line-up of family homesteading classes like cheesemaking, sourdough, kraut for kids, and more!  Registration will be open soon.

Here are some snapshots from our days at Homestead Camp this week:

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Practical Home Herbalist wrap-up

A few weeks ago we had our last session of the 4-part Practical Home Herbalist series.  For this spring series, we had  a great time meeting with 10 wonderful participants, to learn about home herbalism in a hands-on small-group learning environment right here at Little City Farm.  Each class we tried to use herbs from the garden, or wildharvest from nearby, then turn these seasonal herbs into remedies to last all year round (salves, tinctures, syrups, infusions, decoctions, sprays, liniments, and more).

For our last session we tackled remedies for winter care, including making tinctures and glycerites, elderberry syrup and throat lozenges (pastilles).  To end the final session of the Practical Home Herbalist we always share a potluck lunch, with a beautiful spread of herbal-inspired goodies featuring herbs we talked about in the classes.  This time participants made dandelion pesto, lavender-infused cupcakes, nettle dukkah, lemon-thyme scones, mint-chocolate flourless cake, nettle-kopita...mmmmm!  Thanks to all of you who participated in this spring series, and thanks to Natalie Nunn for the amazing photography.

FALL 2017 SERIES - PRACTICAL HOME HERBALIST: For those who want to learn more or enroll in our upcoming Fall series of the Practical Home Herbalist please visit the Little City Farm website here.  There is limited space as we want to keep this a small-group learning environment.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Mother-daughter herbal immersion

We've been having a great time each week meeting as a small group of mother-daughters, for an 11week herbal immersion!  Each week we "meet" a new herb, and through story, art, interactive games, and hands-on remedy making we become a little more familiar with these wonderful healing plants.  We are loosely using the wonderful Herb Fairies book series, and adjusting the order of the herbs to correspond with what is blooming and available for us here each week.  This group will be offered again in the fall, here at Little City Farm.

Our weeks have so far included:
Chamomile (making chamomile-infused honey, and chamomile sun tea)
Marshmallow (making marshmallow root pastilles, and tasting "real" marshmallows)
Violets (making flower fairy salad, and candied violets)
Calendula (making calendula lipbalm, and eating calendula muffins)
Dandelion (making dandelion pesto, and tasting dandelion cookies, and root mocha)
Chickweed (making chickweed super soothing salve, and chickweed super smoothie)

Chickweed Super Soothing Salve
1 cup olive oil infused with chickweed*
1/4 cup organic beeswax
5 drops lavender essential oil per 2 oz tin

Warm olive oil and beeswax in small saucepan until was has melted.
Take off heat, add essential oil and mix well.  Pour into tins, let cool.  Label.
Keeps about 1 year.
For soothing itching, dry skin and skin rashes, minor cuts and scrapes.

Yields: aprox. 10 oz salve

* To make the infused chickweed oil:
a) solar method - fill a 1 litre jar with fresh chickweed, and top up with olive oil to about 1 inch above the herbs.  Let infuse in a bright sunny window for at least 4 weeks, shaking every few days.  Top up with more oil as needed, so herbs always stay submerged.  When it has steeped, strain out herbs and reserve the oil.

b) double boiler method - add a large handful of chickweed to a small saucepan, cover with olive oil so herbs are covered by about 1 inch.  Warm in a double boiler on low (i.e. have another pot of water below this saucepan), for about 2 hours (do not let the herbs heat too much, the oil should not be cooking the herbs).  Oil should be a deeper colour, and smell herby (not smell fried).  Strain, and use in recipe above.

Practical Home Herbalist classes

We are currently running our Practical Home Herbalist series again.  This is a four-part series of herbal classes for those who want to delve deeper into their relationship with healing herbs and remedy-making for home use.  We have a wonderful group of ten women taking part this time around, and also a local photographer who is going to document our classes for us.  Classes offer hands-on remedy making with samples to take home, harvesting and tasting herbs, plants to take home for creating their own herbal garden, learning about four focus plants each week, learning through artwork (each participant creates a traditional "herbarium" or herbal botanical journal as part of this series).  The hope is to provide participants with practical skills and knowledge for making simple safe remedies for their own friends and families, as well as building deeper understandings of the beautiful healing plants that are our allies.  This series is so much fun to create, host and offer to our community!  I look forward to sharing more - for now here are a few photos from our first session in which we featured: plantain, dandelion, nettle and lemon balm.  With these herbs we enjoyed making herbal shampoo (nettle, lemon-balm), herbal pesto (dandelion-plantain), herbal vinegar (nettle), and drinking deep dark green herbal nettle infusions.  Read more about the Practical Home Herbalist series here. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

At the cusp...(of summer)

Everything is bursting into life in our yard, spring moves quickly toward summer with these warmer days that we can almost watch the blooms opening before our very eyes - the strawberries, the chives, the old apple tree, the pin cherry trees, the shrub cherries, hascaps, damson plum (newly planted in our evolving "forest garden", picked up from Whiffletree farm/tree nursery).    Such a vibrant, hopeful time of the year with all the dreams for our new growing season being set into place.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Women's Herbal Retreat June 17 at Little City Farm - Registration OPEN!



Relax in a supportive small group learning environment.   Reconnect to the earth through relationship to healing plant allies.  Find inspiration through beauty, celebration & hands-on herbal remedy making during this retreat.

This one day retreat includes four hands-on workshops by local herbalists and holistic health practitioners.  Learn to make flower essences, how to add wild nutrient-dense foods into our meals, herbal-kitchen alchemy, and making healing remedies for summer skincare.

Also, we will be nourished throughout the retreat day with wholesome delicious teas, snacks & lunch foods inspired by herbal and wild foraged fare, time for journal writing and plant herbarium creation, sketching, and photography, and participate in a plant & food swap to end our day together.

Workshop facilitators:

Food catered by Seed of Life Foods and Little City Farm (including vegan and gluten-free, organic nutrient-dense foods).

More details to follow once you have registered.

Limited to 15 wonderful participants!

Cost: $152.55 (includes HST, lunch, snacks, recipes, hand-out notes, take-home samples from workshops, and more surprises!)

Payment required to reserve your spot.
Contact Karin at for any questions.

OR Register here online.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Wild Dandelion Greens Pesto

Dandelion season is upon us!

One of our favourite wild plants, dandelion is readily available (growing nearly everywhere) and generally not at risk of being overharvested.  It's a great wild plant to start with if you are new to foraging for wild edibles, as all parts of it are edible (root, leaf and flower), it's highly nutritious, versatile and delicious.  The common dandelion is easy to identify.  Just make sure not to harvest in sprayed areas or near roadways so that the plants you pick are not toxic.

We love the dandelion flower blossoms in salads, baked goods (they make great additions to cookies and muffins), and dandelion drinks such as dandelion-lemonade, or dandelion blossom shrub (a mixed drink made with the blossoms first infused in organic raw apple cider vinegar).  Use only the yellow parts of the blossom, and cut away the green stems as these will impart bitter flavours (also stay away from the milky white sap in the stem - it has been traditionally used for curing warts, but is not desireable for eating).

Dandelion roots make a wonderful hot beverage.  Mix them with raw cacao nibs, cinnamon, vanilla, and your choice of milk, and you have yourself a delicious warming dandelion mocha chai.  Roots are best dug when they are young in the spring, but once the flower buds start to form leave the roots in the ground.  Roots are then also harvested in the fall, after the flowers die back.

Dandelion greens are amazing additions to smoothies, egg dishes, soups, salads (the young leaves are not quite so bitter), steamed greens, infused as medicinal tea, and - our absolute favourite for the greens - wild pesto.  We make pestos of all sorts, eating our "medicine" is always a nice way to go so that medicinal healing herbs and foods become commonplace in our kitchens and everyday table.  Any wild edible green will do for pesto (for example, we love including chickweed, dandelion greens, nettle tops, purslane, wild garlic, wood sorrel).  As well, culinary herbs such as garden sorrel, basils, mints, fennel, oregano, parsley, chives, garlic greens and scapes, and other leafy greens such as spinach or kale.  Feel free to substitute according to your taste and what is seasonally available, using this basic recipe below:

Wild Greens Dandelion Pesto

2 cups sunflower seeds or hemp seeds (or nuts if you prefer)
1/4 cup olive oil (or more to taste)
2 tsp sea salt
1 large handful dandelion greens, freshly picked (or other wild green edibles)
1 large handful sorrel leaves, freshly picked (or add 1 Tbsp lemon juice in it's place)
fresh oregano, chives and parsley - a few sprigs each
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
water as needed (to get the consistency you like for your pesto)

1) Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend well.
2) Add more olive oil or water to get a smooth consistency.
3) Add more salt, to taste.
4) Serve with wholegrain or glutenfree crackers, mixed into grain dishes, blended into pasta, as a dip for fresh veggies, or in a grilled cheese sandwich.  Pesto is so versatile!

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

This Moment

New baby chicks are here!  Currently they are residing in a cozy box in our guest space, until their feathers grow and the weather warms up. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cob oven workshop

We had a great workshop on building cob ovens here on Saturday.  We are very inspired by cob (and other natural building in general - read the 10 reasons why natural building can address climate change here), but we think that cob ovens are the perfect place to start when you want to learn to build with natural materials like clay, sand and straw.  Cob ovens take little time to go from start to finish, as an oven can be done in a few weekends time; building with cob requires only basic hand tools and no previous construction experience; cob ovens cost virtually nothing if you take time to source local and repurposed materials (cob ovens are often called "the $20 cob oven"); and cob ovens give you a wonderful finished project for baking beautiful breads and pizzas.  We love Kiko Denzer's book, Build your own Earth Oven, as a great primer for building your own cob oven.

Here are a few photos of our workshop - participants did not build an oven as this was just an overview workshop about the process, however they did get to mix and handle cob (clay-sand-straw), and eat freshly baked pizza!  Thanks to Natalie Nunn for the great photography from that day.