Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fertile Ground CSA featured on CTV interview!

January is a great time to start thinking about signing up for your local CSA (community supported agriculture), as farmers start to plan their seed orders for the new growing season! Local "celebrity", organic farmer, and good friend, Angie Koch of Fertile Ground CSA was recently featured on CTV's Province Wide talking about how she started farming and how her CSA work. Watch her interview through this link:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Solstice garden!

Chilly day with brilliant sunlight reflecting off snow drifts, sliver of a moon in a crisp dark night sky...freshly chopped wood, baked apples stuffed with cranberries and almonds, a long leisurely winter walk through the woods, cozy dinner of local potato-leek soup with fresh sourdough bread and steamed kale uncovered in the garden, friends dropping by unannounced their arms filled with holiday treats, time to relax with other mama's sipping fantastic homemade eggnog as the children played...the solstice this year from start to finish was a glorious day, and now we look forward to longer days as we move into the new season ahead.

Some of our favourite garden catalogues just arrived in the mail (William Dam, Cottage Gardeners, Greta's Organic, West Coast Seeds...) and we anticipate spending many of our long winter nights infront of the fire, while paging through these seed lists and drawing up plans for next year's garden. Wishing everyone all the best for the solstice, holiday season, and new year ahead. Here are a few photos of our solstice garden and house. The crooked little white spruce will become our indoor festive tree this year, for only a few days as it needs to be put right back out into the cold to overwinter before it's planted in our yard next spring...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Immune building winter chai

Just in time for the holidays comes this lovely herbal chai recipe - spiced, fragrant and festive, yet rich in immune boosting herbs to keep away winter colds and flu. This recipe come from my sister - I don't know exactly where she first read it. Enjoy!

Immune Building Winter Chai
3 1/2 cups boiling water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbsp fresh ginger root, grated
1 whole nutmeg, chopped or grated
1 Tbsp cardamom seed pods
5 tongues astragulus root
1 Tbsp dried burdock root
1 Tbsp dried dandelion root
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp star anise seeds
1/2 tsp whole allspice
1/2 tsp echinacea root

1) Simmer all ingredients in boiling water for 15 minutes.
2) Strain herbs, add warmed milk (rice, soy or dairy) to a ratio of half tea, half milk.
3) Add honey or sugar to taste.

Friday, December 04, 2009

New Workshop Series for 2010, coming soon

We are working on our 2010 Urban Homesteading workshop series, and hope to have it posted here and on our website shortly. We are excited about the prospects, and are pleased to have had a variety of new workshop presenters contact us with their ideas for this round of courses. Community-based popular education is such an important part of why we are operating our homestead here in the city. We are focussing on similar themes as the previous years - eco crafting, urban agriculture/organic gardening, natural health, sustainable living, and slow food - all of which fit under the title of urban homesteading skills. There will be an added emphasis on a 6-8 part series on urban farming this year, everything from seedling starting to permaculture, food preserving to seed saving...please stay posted for details here!

December chickens

The hens are settling into the colder weather. We've set up their winter heat lamp, which has served them well the past two winters. It's on a timer, so comes on from early evening until sunrise, generally the coldest part of the day. We also stacked strawbales around the coop and boarded up the mesh windows.

Although, sadly, all egg laying seems to have completely ended for this season, the hens still love to wander around the yard during the daytime, looking for any leftover greens in the garden (we still have kale, chard, brussel sprouts, mizuna), nibbling stray bugs, and keeping themselves occupied with their antics. They often head over to the sheltered side of the house to be out of the wind, or scratch around near our basement windows where warmer air must be escaping. They tend to stick together now that the yard is more barren and there are fewer hiding places from predators, and like to mingle as a group on our back porch (waiting for treats like sunflower seeds). They hover by the back door, often sitting for hours preening and fluffing their feathers, peeking in the big glass window to see if we are coming out. Like faithful pets they also wait for us outside our bedroom door first thing in the morning (our door opens onto the back yard, and is located in a sheltered nook of the new addition).

Important with winter chicken care is to make sure fresh water is always available to them, and to thaw any frozen drinking water which tends to freeze during the night. As well, the combs and waddles of chickens are susceptible to frostbite, so they need to stay indoors on the very cold days - we've heard of using vaseline on their combs to protect from the cold, and even seen some photos of innovative cozy chicken sweaters, hats and boots for the adventurous knitters out there! Maybe I'll ask our neighbourhood knitting group about that. It's nice to see that all the winter feathers have now completely come in, as during the molting season (all of October) we were a little worried on the cooler nights about whether they were able to stay warm enough.

Strawbale update - final renos for 2009 done

With our last push before winter, we finished up the final renovations on the strawbale additition including soffits and fascia, eaves troughs, building the fence across our driveway, and installing a woodstove! The last bit for December is to build a wooden deck along the back of the addition (the hens like to roost here, and it will help keep snow off the plaster walls - for next year it will provide the nicest view of the pond and garden and will be prime relaxing space with a bench or hammock!). For next roof, front porch, landscaping, more fruit trees on new driveway garden space...etc (lots of time over the winter to dream about all of this).

After some debate, the woodstove we chose to heat the strawbale space was a tiny Jotul. These stoves have been made in Norway since the 1890s and come with a great reputation. The one we have is the smallest model as we really only need to heat about 600 square feet with it - our living room and bedroom in the strawbale addition. The clincher was that it has a cookplate, so we can always have a kettle on for tea, or a pot of soup warming...Typing here with a little fire warming my back, I know this was the right decision. It was a little chilly with no external heat in this addition last winter - though extra socks, slippers, sweaters and quilts did go a long way to providing comfort. Now the room is really cozy and feels festive with faint smell of woodsmoke in the air.