Saturday, November 22, 2014

Coming THIS WEEK! Annual Handmade Holiday Sale Nov 29

Here's one last reminder - about the upcoming annual Handmade Holiday Sale at Little City Farm. 

We look forward to hosting this fun holiday sale held annually in our house.   Our house is not big, but we pack in the vendors and everyone squeezes together to make for a cozy sale filled with unique handmade eco-conscious items!

When: Sat, Nov 29 from 10 am-2 pm
More info:

Make your own Beeswax Candles

We had fun making beeswax candles as part of our holiday gift making.  We tried our hand at dipped candles, as well as poured candles in molds.  Making smooth dipped candles is harder than it looks - and takes a huge pot of wax so the wick doesn't get bent into a curly candle.  We had some interesting and unusual results, all of which will still work just fine for lighting. Our daughter loved making tiny birthday candles, which didn't take more than a few minutes. 

What you need:
old cooking pot, reserved for beeswax (fill with water and place tins of wax in this pot to melt)
tin cans to melt wax in
molds (small tins, plastic molds, or other containers - we have used hollowed egg shells for round candles)
wick of various sizes

NEW! Plantain Soothing Salve

We have a new favourite salve that's ready in our Homestead Herbals online store.  The Plantain Soothig Salve.  This is made the usual way we make our salves - with a solar infusion of botanicals in pure olive oil (infused for 6 weeks), then beeswax and cocoa butter are added, and pure essential oils for healing properties and beautiful smell.  This salve is so special!  We are planning to give it to all family members for Christmas this year.  The reason we love plantain salve is that we've seen the amazing effects of it's healing abilities - plantain is renowned for soothing all manner of insect bites, bee and wasp stings, and mosquito bites.  We use the plantain leaf directly in summer months when we have it at hand, but there are times (like this past summer when we were at a family cottage where mosquitoes were driving everyone inside) where we can't find plantain growing nearby right when it's needed.  This salve does the trick!  We were handing this salve out as "testers" at our family cottage to anyone who had mosquito bites, everyone slathered it on their bites and in minutes the itching and redness was gone.  Our daughter too can attest to the healing ability of plantain for wasp bites - amazing results when it was rubbed on the welts, which again disappeared in short order.

So, it's not summer - yet.  But we are happy to have this salve ready with new labels and are sure to make customers happy when they experience the healing abilities of this wonderful salve.  And it might just make a unique gift for the outdoor-lover on your holiday list.

Say No to Plastic! DIY Beeswax Wraps

This is my new favourite gift to give to friends and family.  It's simple to make, easy to use, lasts indefinitely,  and cuts down on one of the most un-reusable plastics in most people's homes - plastic food wrap!   Here's a quick tutorial on how to make your own natural beeswax wraps.  These are perfect for wrapped your lunch, left over snacks, blocks of cheese in the fridge, and more.  I have a very large beeswax wrap I made to fit my bread mixing bowl, so I can wrap my dough while it rises overnight. 

DIY Beeswax Wraps

You will need:
100% cotton muslin cloth, or natural linen cloth (cut to sizes you want)
pure natural beeswax (do not use parafin, soy or other coloured waxes)
grater or knife you reserved only for cutting beeswax
old paint brush
old baking sheet

1) Cut your cotton or linen cloth to size.  You will likely want sizes that fit your various needs (sandwich size, cheese block size, larger sizes for covering bowls).  Remember the fabric needs to fit onto your baking sheet.

2) Shred your beeswax (or use beeswax pellets if you prefer).  Spread a fine layer across your your cloth to cover evenly. 

3) Preheat oven to 180F.  Do NOT bake any hotter than this as you risk a fire.  Please WATCH your oven carefully while the sheets are baking.  This only takes a few minutes to do so don't walk away!

4) Place your cloth with beeswax on the old baking sheet.  Put in the oven at 180F for about 5 minutes.  Watch to see if wax is melting. 

5) Once wax has begun to melt you can take out the sheet and spread the wax across the cloth with your old paintbrush.  This helps distribute it evenly.  Shred on more wax as needed and bake a few more minutes.  The wax will be just barely melted and it's time to take out your baking sheets.

6) Remove your beeswax cloths from the baking sheet as they will stick on once the wax hardens.  Let cool. 

7) Optional - you are serge or sew around the edges to prevent fraying but I find the beeswax keeps the cloth from fraying.

To wash - wipe with damp cloth, or rinse lightly with cool water.  Do not use hot water.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

First snow today - beautiful and fleeting

Thankfully this morning's beautiful dusting of snow has already melted.  We still have so much to do around here!  The barn/greenhouse reno needs to be closed up - the roof is on, the greenhouse glass is being put on today, one door is framed, a few others need to come...

But the yard and garden were beautiful none the less, and quite thrilling to our daughter, and maybe even the chickens who were not quite sure what to make of it.  Some of the herbs (like the mints, chives, parsley, dill, sage, thyme and savory) are still looking just fine for harvesting, and our cold frame still holds kale, chard, spinach, and fresh cilantro, and we have planted to covered grow beds with meslun and other greens for late winter eating.  I also found a few handfuls of the sweetest wild grapes still left clinging to the vines on the back porch.  However, it does feel like we are coming to the ending of this season.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Holiday baking begins! Gluten-free gingerbread cut-out cookies

Last night the house smelled so festive!  It was a cold evening, so baking cookies was the perfect after dinner project to warm up the house.  We made our first batch of gingerbread cookies and I tried a gluten-free recipe from this book called The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook..  The authors (a wife & husband team) also have a great website called Nourishing Meals: Healthy Meals for a Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen, which includes recipes and advice for eating a whole foods gluten-free organic healing diet.  Great suggestions for lacto-fermented vegetables, detoxification eating, and more.  I absolutely love both their cookbooks which have taken a prime spot on the main cookbook shelf in our kitchen!  They have a version of gingerbread cut-out cookies on their blog which looks delicious but is not actually the one from the cookbook - this version has hazelnut flour and an egg, whereas the book recipe I used had brown rice flour and ground flax seed (no egg, no nuts).

This gingerbread is so delicious - it is very likely the BEST gingerbread cookie recipe I have ever tasted.  The dough does get sticky, so chilling it is very important.  They advise rolling the dough between two sheets of parchment paper, and I don't think you could roll it out any other way without a lot of sticking.  Also the cookies definitely needed to be cooled before removing from the pan, as they were a little breakable when warm.  It was a fun project do with my 6 year old daughter, who loved helping mix the dough (especially shaking in ALL the spices we added).  We made a 4 x batch so it was a huge amount of cookies, many to give away to friends, and some of which my daughter hopes to sell at her own little booth during our Handmade Holiday sale on Nov 29.  Making them gluten-free and vegan should assure that almost everyone in the room can eat them.  The icing (still to come) is a cashew butter-coconut oil based mix, which pipes well out of an icing bag after it has chilled.  So not only do these cookies taste amazing, they were beautiful to roll out and cut into shapes (we used "woodland themed" cookie cutters - fir trees, gnomes, stars, reindeer, owl), but they are nutritious and healthful too.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Local Forest Schools!

We are absolutely thrilled that there are now not one, but two local options right here in KW for families who wish to send their kids to a "forest school" experience.  The Grand River Forest and Nature School offers one day a week for discovery & fun in the woods; and the KW Forest School also offers options for forest school sessions as well as shorter one-day sessions occasionally through the Transition KW(through the eco family activities subgroup).  We've been participating in the Grand River Forest & Nature School and just loving the experience.  The idea is to dress for the weather, no matter what, and spend the whole afternoon with a small group of kids and two super facilitators who guide the kids through hands-on learning in the forest.  There is a small shelter to store extra dry/warm clothes, and from there the kids have done hikes, salamander discoveries, journal writing, swamp explorations, snakes, frogs and toads, tree watching, bird watching, branch fort building, map making, story telling, singing, nature crafting projects, and more!