Monday, June 30, 2008
Tiny House Blog
(offers plans, books, resources, blog, etc)
Small House Society
(homes that are affordable and ecological)
a) learn more about this sustainable energy-efficient building technique
b) use low impact, mainly locally sourced and reclaimed materials where possible
c) build a healthy space to live in, using natural plasters, paints and finishes on both exterior and interior of the building
d) offer a learning opportunity for the community, and plan to host workbees and involve volunteers every step of the way where possible
e) this is the second strawbale home to be built in our city, so it's also an opportunity to push the building envelope a little and encourage our local building department to become familiar with strawbale and other alternative building materials
f) allow us to continue our eco bed & breakfast business, while our own family grows (our new baby is coming in a few weeks!). One portion of the back addition will include a rooftop patio/garden which our B&B guests will have access to.
So, with all these hopes and dreams in mind we've been planning our addition for more than a year, and now are finally nearing the approval stage (which has taken much much longer than we anticipated). We plan to document the building process here on this blog, and hope others can be inspired or learn from our experience. In future we'll add more technical detail to our website, but this will largely be photos and a few lines of notes as time allows.
At this point, we've gotten a demolition permit and taken down the old summer kitchen (circa 1940s?) which was attached to the back of our exisiting 100-year old brick house. This area will become the transition space from brick to strawbale, and will house a new full bathroom plus mainfloor laundry area, with access through a breezeway to both the back garden and front door.
Materials that have been sourced so far:
- 175 clean strawbales from a local Mennonite farm
- strawbale mesh which was ordered through Ontario Strawbale Building Coalition (www.strawbalebuilding.ca)
- foundation blocks (Durisol product) formed using portion wood fibre mix to reduce concrete
- clay for earthen plaster sourced from area near Elora/Conestogo
- reclaimed styrofoam insulation from local building site to be used for foundation
- reclaimed marble sink and clawfoot bathtub (both in great shape!) for the new bathroom
- reclaimed doors from Habitat for Humanity Re-Store
- reclaimed energy efficient windows from local kijiji site
- Whiting Design (Waterloo - has worked with variety of green projects)
- Burnside (Guelph - have worked with a variety of strawbale projects in the area)
- Ben Polley (Hillsburg - from Home Alive!)
- Building Green (Clark Snell & Tim Callahan)
- Building with Cob (Adam Weismann & Katy Bryce)
- Strawbale Building (Chris Magwood & Peter Mack)
- More Strawbale Building (Chris Magwood, Peter Mack & Tina Therrien)
- Serious Strawbale (Paul Lacinski & Michel Bergeron)
- Small Strawbale (Bill & Athena Steen)
- The Beauty of Strawbale Homes (Bill & Athena Steen)
SPIN stands for S-mall P-lot IN-tensive
SPIN is a non-technical, easy-to-learn and inexpensive-to-implement farming system that makes it possible to earn significant income from land bases under an acre in size. Whether you are new to farming, or want to farm in a new way, SPIN can work for you because:
- Its precise revenue targeting formulas and organic-based techniques make it possible to gross $50,000+ from a half- acre.
- You don't need to own land. You can affordably rent a small piece of land adequate in size for SPIN-FARMING production.
- It works in either the city, country or small town.
- It fits into any lifestyle or life cycle.
SPIN is being practiced by first generation farmers because it removes the two big barriers to entry - land and capital - as well as by established farmers who want to diversify or downsize, as well as by part-time hobby farmers.The SPIN website offers learning resources, photos, manuals, testimonials, and lots of useful information on how to become a SPIN farm. Check out:
The interns who visited us are part of a 6-8 month intensive farmer training program called CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance Farmer Training) on more than a dozen farms that has been set up in southern Ontario. They live and work on these organic or biodynamic farms for these months, gathering skills to either set up their own farming venture or just build life experience. Several of the interns at Ignatius were interested in urban agriculture, and so the visit to Little City Farm and learning about the scale that we work on made sense. They also participated in a permaculture workshop again led by Tracie Seedhouse, our friend who runs Earthchild Designs.
Angie, who is operating her own CSA "Fertile Ground" on 2 rented acres outside of Waterloo this summer, also participated in the CRAFT program last year. Her placement was Everdale Organic Farm and Environmental Learning Centre, near Hillsburg. Fertile Ground CSA begins drop-offs tomorrow (!!) at our Little City Farm driveway. We are really excited about this venture, and the neighbourhood involvement by members who have purchased shares.
Here are websites for Ignatius and CRAFT:
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Turns out garlic scapes are also rather tasty, and can be used in a variety of ways for a delicate spring garlic flavour. Most popular seems to be the garlic scape pesto, of which there are abundant recipes on the internet listed on every organic CSA farm website that offers recipes (evidently, they must appear in most every CSA box as a spring offering and share members invariably ask what to do with these unusual looking greens). Other ways to cook include sauteing, chopping into stirfries, serving with eggs, grilling, adding to salads, and lightly steaming as you would asparagus. I've also seen a garlic scape hummus recipe, and have eaten them pickled at my friend Christine's place. Here's a tried and true garlic scape pesto recipe:
Garlic Scape Pesto
1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into ¼-inch slices
1/3 cup walnuts or pinenuts
¾ cup olive oil
¼-1/2 cup parmesan
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
Place scapes and walnuts/pinenuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add parmesan to taste; add salt and pepper. Makes about 6 ounces of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, or freeze for longer storage.
First harvest of strawberries - oh so sweet! These are an early ripening variety called "Vestra" which we got two years ago from our farmer friend Brenda. Brenda is our source for local farming wisdom and we feel so lucky to know her. She and her family live about 40 minutes north-west of us, and grow about 5 acres of mixed produce for a local CSA, flowers for cutting (she supplied our wedding flowers a few years ago), a pick your own strawberry field (best organic strawberries around!), and have a beekeeping business. Her husband also makes custom wood furniture - busy family, but small family-farming in this area needs to be diversified in order to make a living. We've had many conversations with Brenda about that topic!
These berry plants in our home garden were given in exchange for going to work at her farm one day per week a few years ago - well worth the trade as I learned so much from being out there. They are now spreading well near our pond and underneath one of our apple trees, and we've had just the right amount of rain and heat to bring on a nice harvest this year. Mmm, strawberries & yogurt, strawberries & icecream, strawberries with poundcake, strawberry smoothies...
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
(Article from Kitchener-Waterloo Record, June 10, 2008)
Waterloo resident puts chickens in the coop
Waterloo council probably won't decide until the fall whether to allow chickens in city backyards.
But the Waterloo Hen Association will keep pecking away at the cause.
Waterloo has no bylaw that says residents can or cannot raise urban hens. Matthew Bailey-Dick, founder of the hen association, hopes the city will agree to some guidelines, so those who want to raise chickens can do so without annoying the neighbours. "We've got to work together," he said.
Not that Bailey-Dick is waiting for permission to keep chickens. He's looking after the hen association's newest ambassadors. They're housed in a small portable coop in his yard on William Street, sandwiched between the flowers and the herbs. The hens, Zacheus and BockBock, are on loan from a farm outside the city.
Bailey-Dick doesn't want urban dwellers to get in a flap over the noise and the smell from backyard coops.
"They think of chickens, and they think of cock-a-doodle doodling and all kinds of barnyard animals," he said.
He wants to make it clear the hen association, which has about 140 members, is recommending flocks of fewer than 12 chickens -- with no roosters.
"We're looking for egg production," he said, pulling a light brown egg and a pale blue egg out of the nest.
The portable coop has a small, fenced-in run, where the hens can graze in grass, and an enclosed space to keep them safe and secure from predators at night.
Josie Winterfeld's kitchen window looks right out over the coop.
She can't hear them from inside the house and only rarely hears them clucking when she's outside.
"I love having them next door," she said. "I would consider having chickens myself. I absolutely love the taste of fresh eggs."
Shazaad Subhanally knew his neighbours were keeping chickens but he has never heard or smelled them.
"I mean, if they had 500 chickens, it would be a problem," he said.
"Five, six chickens? No worries."
He grew up with chickens around, and doesn't think it's any different than people who keep several dogs.
But Bailey-Dick has no concerns that hens will become as popular as man's best friend.
"I've talked to several people who are supporting this but don't want chickens themselves," he said.
Bailey-Dick will turn an existing shed on his property into a coop if council approves urban chickens.
Zacheus and BockBock are are safe in his backyard for now.
David Calder, general manager of corporate services for the city, is collecting input on the chicken proposal.
Staff will report to council in the fall.
"We're not going to come and take their chickens away at this point," he said.
Waterloo residents can voice their opinions about animal control at a public meeting Tues., June 24, from 7 to 9 p.m. at RIM Park.
The meeting will deal with several issues, including chickens, licensing of cats and limiting the number of animals per household.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
It's time to wild harvest comfrey and nettle, as it's growing everywhere around the city and beginning to go to seed! When wild harvesting remember to harvest carefully, in dog-free areas, where you are sure no pesticide has been sprayed or the plants are not contaminated by any other source. Harvest only 1/3 of the area, so as not to deplete the abundance for next year. To harvest nettle, wear long sleeves, long pants and gloves as the tiny hair will sting if brushed against your skin. This stinging is actually reputed to be beneficial and used for therapeutic purposes, increasing the body's circulation and aiding ailments such as arthritis. Feel free to experiment, but touch carefully and slowly! (For harvesting, I prefer to wear gloves).
We grow nettle intentionally at the back of our property (away from neighbours), even though it can be invasive and spread quickly within a season. We feed it to the chickens to strengthen their eggshells, and use it in our compost as an excellent source of nitrogen or for making a compost tea. It is rich in calcium and iron, and very tasty in soups (traditionally made into a cream of nettle soup), steamed, or dried/fresh as tea, and also nice as a spinach replacement in our annual "nettlekopita". Here's our recipe - I'm making this for dinner with fresh nettle just harvested:
Nettlekopita (aka Spanikopita - adapted from the original Moosewood Cookbook)
- serves 8
2 cups crumbled feta (we use local goat feta)
2 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp butter or margarine
5 eggs (as fresh as possible)
1 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 Tbsp fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp dried)
salt & pepper to taste
2 lbs nettle, dandelion greens, spinach or combination
1 pkg defrosted phyllo dough (or alternate variation, make calzones with pizza dough)
1) Clean, stem and chop the greens. Salt lightly and cook, adding no water, for about 5 min.
2) Cook onions in butter/margarine, salting lightly. When soft, combine with remaining ingredients and the cooked greens.
3) Spread melted butter/margarine on 9x13 pan. Place a phyllo leaf in the pan and brush with more oil/marg/butter. Keep layers of dough coming, one on top of another, brushing each layer. When you have a pile of 8 sheets, spread half the filling ontop.
4) Continue with another 8 sheets, then apply the remaining filling, spreading it to the edges. Fold the excess phyllo dough down along the edges, making little tidy corners.
5) Pile as many more sheets of phyllo and butter/margarine as your baking pan will hold. Oil/butter the top layer.
6) Bake uncovered at 350F for about 45 minutes, until golden brown.