Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wine-making workshop

We had a great winemaking workshop here last Saturday! Our friend Alfred, who is an accomplished home winemaker (having made wines from all manner of berries, herbs, fruit - banana!, tea, etc) was here to facilitate the day.

We went through various stages of winemaking:
- pressing the fruit & adding yeast
- primary fermentation which is the first 5-6 days of vigorous fermentation where the yeast cells feed on the sugars in the must and multiply, producing carbon dioxide gas and alcohol
- secondary fermentation which can take 3-6 months as the fermentation continues very slowly and the wine is kep under an airlock to prevent oxidation
- racking which means siphoning the wine away from the sediment into another jug
- checking specific gravity (sugar content) with a hydrometer
- bottling and of course tasting.

We prepared a new blueberry wine from scratch using wild blueberries; then tasted a completed blueberry wine which Alfred had been made a year ago. Next we bottled a sourcherry wine, made from sourcherries picked this summer from a neighbouring yard. Finally the entire group made a hard apple cider, using fresh locally pressed apple cider which comes in the perfect glass bottle to act as a primary carboy. It was such a simple process - basically just adding yeast, extra sugar (if wanting a higher alcohol content), and a pectin enzyme to prevent the cider from becoming cloudy. No sulphites are necessary if the apple cider is pasteurized. If not using sulphites and the cider is unpasteurized, there is a possibility of it turning to vinegar. In a week we rack it into the secondary carboy, and let it ferment for a few more weeks - this is a very quick process and can be drinkable and ready in less than a month as a sparkling hard apple cider. Very tasty!

The tools needed for the winemaking process are not difficult to find. Many you will have around the house, or can find used. Others can be rented from a winemaking supply store for minimal cost.

You need:
- pail (for primary fermentation)
- glass jug or carboy (for secondary fermentation)
- Stir stick or spoon
- tube for siphoning the wine; racking, bottling
- air lock
- hydrometer (useful to measure specific gravity, i.e. potential alcohol)
- thermometer
- corker (can be rented)
- corks and bottles
- bottle brush to ensure bottles are thoroughly clean
- cheesecloth for straining fruit
- plastic and string to cover primary fermenter

All in all, the day helped to demystify the winemaking process. Here are a few good books that Alfred recommended to those who wish to pursue winemaking more seriously at home!

Garey, Terry A. The Joy of Home Winemaking. 1996.
Anderson, Stanley and Dorothy. Winemaking.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Been busy making loads of soap, for an upcoming pre-valentine's craft sale. A Craft Cabaret actually as it's being called, a sultry evening craft show complete with cabaret singer and bar, Feb 7th at the Starlight Social Club in Waterloo. Should be fun! Not your grandma's craft sale, that's for sure. Some new varieties I plan to have are:

Ambrosia - made with coconut milk for a creamy lather, lemongrass, sweet orange & vanilla
Cupid's Wash - also with rich creamy coconut milk, rosewood & ylang, and rosehips
Earth Mama Soap - baby friendly extremely gentle goatmilk soap, with calendula and chamomile
Worker's Hand - with cornmeal, pumice & lemon juice for good scrubbing action
Bay & Sage Men's Bar - with bay & clary sage oils, green clay and organic sage leaf

Also working in preparation for settingup an online store with the help of a friend - slowly, slowly - this all takes time...

Urban Homesteading Workshops for 2008 - Sustainable Lifestyles

We've put together a line-up of urban homesteading workshops for 2008. All workshops aim to focus on building simple skills needed in the life of an urban farmer/urban homesteader. We have many talented friends and associates in our community so this is a great way to have them share their knowledge, and further these skills! See workshop details below.

2008 Urban Homesteading Workshops
at Little City Farm

PLEASE NOTE: All workshops have limited space and require registration in advance. Contact Karin to register – by email:

Wine Making at Home - January 19, 1-3 pm (NOW FULL)

With Alfred Rempel

Learn how easy it is to make excellent homemade wine from fruit, berries, herbs, tea, juice, etc! Demonstrating all stages of winemaking from start to finish, including racking and bottling, and then preparing apple wine for each participant to take home. All supplies provided. Cost $20.

Intro to Soap Making - February 16, 1-3 pm (NOW FULL)

With Karin Kliewer, from Homestead Herbals

Make simple handcrafted herbal soap using all natural ingredients, pure vegetable oils, herbs and essential oils. Contact Karin for list of supplies needed. Cost is $10 (includes basic ingredients).

Starting Seedlings at Home & Seed Exchange - February 23, 1-3 pm

With Angie Koch, from Fertile Ground CSA

This hands-on workshop will offer the basics about starting & caring for your own organically grown vegetable, flower and herb seedlings. Also, participate in our Seed Exchange by bringing your extra perennial & annual seeds to trade with others. Cost: pay-what-you-can (for those who take home potted seedlings).

Power Snacks & Palate Pleasers - March 29, 1-3 pm

With Beth Weisberg, from Rawkit

Expand your cooking repertoire by learning how to prepare flavourful raw foods. Energy-packed snacks and delicious appetizers are on today’s menu. No special equipment required. Samples provided! Cost $20.

Permaculture Design for City Properties - April 26, 1-3 pm

With Tracie Seedhouse, from Earthchild Designs

Walk through a lesson in introductory permaculture design using your own front/back yard as a model. With special note toward permaculture principles in urban areas. We will be spending most of this workshop time outdoors, so dress accordingly. Cost $10.

6th Annual Seedling Sale - May 24, 9 am-12 noon

Hosted by Little City Farm

Join us for our 6th Annual Seedling Sale! – find vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, squash, peppers), herbs, and flowers ready to plant! Many heritage varieties available.

Bio-Intensive Gardening Workshop - May 24, 10 am-12 noon

With Angie Koch, from Fertile Ground CSA

Gardening in urban areas requires efficient use of small spaces. Bio-intensive gardening, also known as “sustainable mini-farming”, nutures soil, produces high yields, conserves resources, and can be used successfully by almost everyone. Hands-on workshop – please wear outdoor clothes and come prepared to garden. Cost – free.

Bee-Keeping Basics - June 21 or 28, 1-3 pm

(To Be Confirmed)

Bee keeping leads to greater biodiversity, pollination, and better yields of fruits, vegetables and crops. Come preparing to be amazed at the wonder of the world of bees. This is an outdoor workshop – dress accordingly. Cost $10.

Building with Cob: Constructing a Wood-Fired Cob Oven – Early August Weekend

With Benita Kliewer & Candace Froebe, Cob Builders from Winnipeg, MB

Cob is an age-old building material made by mixing clay, sand & straw by foot and forming it into walls by hand. This physical, yet simple and inexpensive building method lends itself to curved, sculptural shapes to create unique structures that feel “alive”. Become familiar with cob construction through this 2-day workshop to complete an outdoor bake oven. Workshop will take place given enough participant interest – please RSVP to indicate your possible interest. (Location & Cost To Be Confirmed).