Sunday, January 24, 2010

Handmade Woolen Waldorf Animals Workshop!

Here are some quick photos of yesterday's Woolen Waldorf-inspired animals workshop. These animals are made of felted wool sweaters, and stuffed with 100% wool. It was a cozy house, filled to the brim with wonderful crafting women, busy with activity of artful sewing and animated conversation for 3 hours! It made me think of traditional sewing bees -perfect for a wintery day, and a popular way to kick off our 2010 workshop schedule. We even had more would-be participants on our waiting list, and hope to host another similar workshop again later in the fall. This session was led by Eve Geisler, of Eve's Little Earthlings. She has been making these kinds of natural toys for more than 10 years and had all kinds of tips and advice for making them look professional. Though they look small and simple, these animals take a surprising amount of skill and finesse to look just right!

Eve's Little Earthlings Etsy Store:
Eve's Little Earthlings Flickr Photo Stream:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Film: In Transition 1.0 - From Oil Dependence to Local Resilience

Transition KW, plus several other community groups and organizations (BarterWorks, Bailey's Local Foods, Our Community Dollar, LSPIRG, WPIRG) are hosting a film screening at the Princess Twin Cinemas, next Thurs, Jan 28 at 7 pm.

Learn about the growing Transition Movement and "communities around the world that are responding to peak oil and climate change with creativity, imagination, and humour, and setting about rebuilding their local economies and communities." Tickets $5 at the Princess Twin Cinemas.

More info:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Documentary - Chemerical

A friend just sent us a note about this new documentary called "Chemerical".

From the creator of the award winning film “Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home” (Sundance Channel, Super Channel) comes a shocking tale about the products we use to clean our homes and bodies.

“Chemerical” explores the life cycle of everyday householder cleaners and hygiene products to prove that, thanks to our clean obsession, we are drowning in sea of toxicity.

The film is at once humorous, as we watch the Goode family try to turn a new leaf by creating and living in a toxic free home, and informative, as director Andrew Nisker works with many experts to give audiences the tools and inspiration to live toxic free.

Chemerical tackles the “toxic debate” in a truly informative and entertaining way, not only by raising awareness, but most importantly, by providing simple solutions.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Natural Life Magazine & Transition Towns

The latest issue of Natural Life Magazine just arrive in our mailbox! This Canadian magazine describes itself at "The original natural family living magazine, founded in 1976. Reader-supported and trusted by thinking people around the world who want positive alternatives to high cost, high consumption lifestyles for themselves and their families.". It focuses on green living, slow food, homeschooling/unschooling, and natural parenting. The Jan/Feb 2010 issue features articles on natural immunity, forest preschools, kitchens as wellness centers, biologic architecture, transition towns, re-imagining schools, healthy art materials, green personal care products, and more. The articles are practical and very accessible, while still providing enough detail for readers to begin to get a solid grasp on these issues. Each article also provides follow up websites and book titles for those who wish to learn more. It is one of the few Canadian published magazines of this genre that we know about. More on Natural Life Magazine at

The article on Transition Towns seemed especially timely in this issue. This international movement is moving local communities from oil dependence to local reliance - and this is also exactly the kind of thing that small-scale urban homesteads are looking at - in effect, we need to build a network of small "urban homesteads" that allow city folk to rely on each other, share their strengths and knowledge, and build solid resiliant communities. Here in our city there is a growing Transition Town movement taking place, with exciting discussions, events and working groups forming to work at this topic on a local level.

The article on Transition Towns by Monika Carless, can be found at:

Here is a small excerpt:

"The Transition Town initiative is one way to address the controversial issue of peak oil and climate change, from a pro-active, not reactive stance. It teaches that small scale is big change in an industrialized world and that individual effort can create a collective harmony between the needs of a community and the will of local government. It is not about survivalism in the usual sense, but about creating change before we are faced with the absolute end of cheap oil.

Learn more:

Custom baking - triple chocolate organic & fair trade mocha cake

I had an interesting request this week - to make a very special cake! The request came via email, from a woman in the UK (Wales), whose daughter is on exchange at the University of Waterloo for a year. Her daughter is turning 21 this week and the mother hoped to have a decadent handmade cake made as a surprise for her. She had come across our website when they had initially come to Canada and tried to book a space in our B&B (we were unfortunately unavailable and never met the family). How could I refuse? I have been free-lance custom baking for about ten years now, and love doing these kinds of requests - each one tends to come with a unique story, and I always appreciate people who are looking for something handmade, rather than store-bought. Any excuse to make something decadent is always fun, especially as we don't tend to eat many of these kinds of baked goods around this house too often.

I wouldn't call this cake exactly healthy, but I did use whole food ingredients - real butter, free-range eggs from our hens, local real cream, organic flour, pure dark chocolate, fair trade cocoa, fair trade dark coffee. No hydrogenated substitutes here! The recipe comes from Wanda's Pie in the Sky cookbook (a wonderful pie, cake and confection maker from Toronto). It's a dense triple chocolate mocha layer cake, with mocha buttercream icing, a rich thick chocolate ganache dripped artfully down the side (I hope that's artful), and raspberry almond topping. I trust she will enjoy it! Happy 21st birthday to Lauren :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Winter Knitting - Wool Winter Wonder Cap

Finally finished this toasty wool cap, sized for a toddler. It's a lovely thick 100% natural earthy coloured (blue, raspberry and chocolate) Icelandic wool, but soft enough for a wee one's head - perfect for winter walks outdoors, romps in the snow, or snuggling up indoors! It's a size 6-12 months (maybe even upto 18 months). I love this hat, and unfortunately by the time I finished it Maya has already gotten to big to wear it! So, it's now posted on my etsy store.

Though my spare crafting time tends toward making soap, salves or sewing projects, I do really love knitting when I sit down to do it - and I have a variety of half-finished knitting projects that I hope to work away at over the next few months.

Fortunately there is a very cool knitting group that meets right here in this neighbourhood, and although, sadly, I am only able to be an occasional attendee (still having a wee one here at home that needs me at bedtime) I do love the times I get to go. The conversation with this wonderful group of women is lively, and it's great to have a weekly incentive to get uninterrupted knitting time! In March we are hosting an intermediate knitting workshop on socks with a friend who is part of our local Spinners & Weavers Guild. I'm excited to learn from her and have hopes of completing at least one pair of socks this season!

Winter Kimchi

I mentioned earlier that I've started another live cultered sauerkraut. It's actually not quite a sauerkraut as it's not just cabbage - it's more of a winter kimchi - a spicy, garlicy, health-tonic made of pickled vegetables. Kimchi can be made in a variety of styles and originates in Korea where it is a national culinary art and passion.

This recipe is loosely based on the one found in Wild Fermentation: The Flavour, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz, a fantastic cookbook and cultured food history. This cookbook is always close at hand in our kitchen, as we are trying to work our way through all manner of fermented foods and this wide ranging book covers everything from vegetable ferments (like sauerkraut and pickles); bean ferments (like miso and tempeh); bread ferments (like sourdough and dosas); dairy ferments (like yogurt and savoury cheeses); plus fermented grains, beverages, wines, vinegars and more!

This kimchi is extremely simple to make - the secret is just the right amount of spicing to suit your taste and then allowing enough time to ferment. The recipe is extremely adaptable, just use what vegetables you like or have at hand. Here is an aproximation of what I used:

Winter Kimchi
fresh garlic (3 whole bulbs)
onion (2 large)
ginger (1/2 inch sliced)
dried cayenne peppers (3 large including seeds)
carrots (3 large)
green cabbage (3 heads)
daikon radish (6 inches)
filtered water (14-18 cups)
sea salt (14-18 Tbsp)

First the vegetables are shredded or chopped to a desireable size, then stirred together in a large jar or ceramic crock. The container is then filled with enough brine solution to completely cover the vegetables when weighed down with a large plate and weight - to make the very strong brine solution 1 Tbsp of sea salt added to each cup of filtered water. Then the crock is covered with a clean cloth, and set on the counter to ferment. It can be tasted each day, and any mould is skimmed off. When it achieves desired taste the kimchi can be packed into jars, covered with brine, and refrigerated. True wild lacto-bacilli ferments are never canned or pasteurized, as this kills off the vital healthy bacteria. It can keep almost indefinitely in the fridge, but will likely be eaten in short order! Wild ferments like this are invaluable for building immunity and a healthy digestive system, and should be a regular part of everyone's daily meal routine. Delicious!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wool Pants from Sew Oiseau

Our little daughter has been staying cozy with these wonderful woolen pants, made by our friend at Sew Oiseau ( - from recycled wool sweaters! We absolutely love these pants - she had another pair of striped ones that are already outgrown, and now she's ready for this lovely green earthy coloured pair. Since they are still quite long and baggy, we simply roll them up, and they should fit at least another year - a great investment! As they are 100% wool they also help to keep the body dry by wicking away moisture, and soaking up any stray diaper leaks. By the way, Sew Oiseau also creates a beautiful line of adult clothing - shawls, wraps, skirts, sweaters, shirts, sloves (fingerless gloves) - all made from upcycled wool sweaters.

I'm considering the purchase of a new sewing machine (I've been working on a vintage one speed one stitch Viking model purchase by my mom for $160 from an Eaton's store in 1975 - not a bad machine back in those days - on which she sewed many of our clothes, curtains, bedding, pillows and more over the years). I've decided it's time to upgrade as I have a huge list of unfinished sewing projects that I'd like to whittle away at during the indoor winter months - clothing for Maya, mending, at least one quilt, some lavender & buckwheat dream pillows, woolen stuffed animals...and I'd like to have a few more options on my machine.

I do have an ancient Singer treadle sewing machine, and in case of emergency can always fall back on this - it must be over 100 years old as I found a very similar model on the internet dated 1901. It is a beautiful machine, has a heavy cast iron body and full wooden sewing table and five drawers for sewing accessories (notions). I have a friend who does all her sewing on an old treadle like this, very inspiring!

Lavender & Oatmeal Goatmilk Soap - Winter Helper

New batches of soap were also created this week! I am so pleased with the new Lavender & Oatmeal Goatmilk soap - it's beautiful, creamy, smells wonderful, and has the added benefits of organic goat milk. Goat milk has the same ph level as our own skin, so greatly can benefit our skin - it's gentle and extremely moisturizing. Lavender is healing, antiseptic and offers aromatherapeutic properties; and oatmeal has been renowned for thousands of years for it's skin soothing and moisturizing benefits. This is going to be my soap of choice for these cold and drying winter months!

Caring for Winter Colds & Flu Naturally...

So far this season we've been fortunate to have avoided major cold or flu outbreaks in this house. Since the fall we've been taking daily doses of herbal tinctures like echinacea and rosehip to build our immune system, as well as multivitamins and acidophilus (to maintain healthy intestinal bacteria). We eat a diet that is strongly influenced by macrobiotic principles, using whole grains like brown rice, millet and quinoa, tempeh, steamed seasonal vegetables, lots of kale and brassicas, sprouted and fermented foods, pro-biotic yogurt, winter squash, hearty stews, apples or other fruit which we've dried or frozen from the summer months. We try to limit processed foods and refined sugars in our diet as these weaken the body's system, and limit other dairy products which often lead to congestion - difficult to avoid during the holiday season laden with rich festive foods, it's no wonder so many of us come down with colds and other illnesses post-Christmas! Whenever we have a first onset of cold or flu symptoms we brew up strong infusions of ginger-lemon-cayenne tea or miso-garlic soup, and this generally seems to do the trick.

This week our kitchen became a natural health laboratory as I worked at concocting a variety of items to have on hand over the winter months. A new batch of raw cabbage sauerkraut, a super food we should all be consuming every day as it's an excellent source of vitamin C, lactobacilli, and other nutrients that help aid digestion and maintain overall health, and is well known as an immune booster that helps fight colds and other infections. (For anyone looking to learn more about the vast health benefits and how-to of creating fermented foods at home, consider attending our Fermented Foods workshop in April.)

Other herbal remedies completed this week include Astragalus root tincture which is renowed for building the immune system and building bronchial strength (finally ready to strain and bottle this week, after steeping for 12 weeks since October); bath therapy salts that use pure epsom salts, sea salts and essential oils to help with congestion, aches and chills; sage cough syrup made with local honey and garden sage; and a strong herbal "winter flu fighter" blend that incorporate a selection of flu fighting herbs harvested and dried from our garden this summer (including purple and green sage, thyme, rosemary, horehound, fennel, hops and more).

Some of these new winter herbal products will also be listed on our etsy store later this week.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Urban Homesteading Workshops 2010 - Now Posted!

Urban Homesteading for 2010
* hands-on, sustainable, creative, do-it-ourselves
The new workshops being offered at Little City Farm for the upcoming year are now posted. We are excited about what is lined up! With an emphasis on urban agriculture (including 10 workshops related to urban farming from organic methods, to permaculture, to seed starting, to compost), plus eco-crafting, herbal health, slow food, natural building, and more!

Check our website for registration details -

All workshops require pre-registration as there is limited space.


Woolen Waldorf-Inspired Animals - Cost: $25/person (all materials included)
Sat, January 23, 1-3 pm. With Eve Geisler, of Eve's Little Earthlings.
Create "Waldorf-inspired" earth-friendly soft and cuddly all natural toys from recycled wool and felted sweaters. During this workshop each participant will make a rabbit and small mouse out of wool. All materials provided.

Dress Like You Mean It! - Cost: $25/person
Sat, February 6, 1-3 pm. With Sapphire Singh, self-taught fasion artist and entrepreneur with Revolution Wear.
Create Change. ReUse Everything! Learn how practical fashion art created from second hand, found and salvaged materials can be used as a tool for communication and empowerment. Bring a your flabbiest over sized t-shirt and a readiness to create. Workshop includes demonstration and experimentation with re-design, and creating wearable art.

Worms Eat My Compost: Vermicomposting - Cost: $25/person (includes your own worms to take home)
Sat, February 13, 1-3 pm. With Jeff Kitchen, of Transition KW.
Learn what it takes to farm your own worms, to turn your kitchen compost into wonderful soil! Participants take home worms and instructions to start your own vermicomposting system.

Grow Your Own Food! Planning Your Garden - Cost: $20/person
Sat, February 20, 1- 3 pm. With Greg Roberts & Karin Kliewer, from Little City Farm.
Prepare for the upcoming growing season - learn the basics about garden planning, companion planting, crop rotation, cold frames, biointensive gardening, urban agriculture, and more. Take home seeds to get started!

Knitting Your Own Socks - Cost: $35/person
Sat, March 13, 1-3 pm. With Nicole Ethier, from the KW Spinners & Weavers Guild.
Join the knitting revolution! In this hands-on workshop we will demystify the intricacies of sock knitting, and participants will get a good start on a warm woolen pair of socks for themselves. All supplies provided (yarn, needles, etc). Basic knitting skills required.

Seed Starting - Cost: $10/person
Sat, March 20, 1-3 pm. With Angie Koch, of Fertile Ground CSA (date to be confirmed).
It's time to start your garden seedlings! Local organic farmer Angie Koch will walk you through everything you need to know about seedlings - proper soil mixes, how to plant, when to plant, indoor plant care, transplanting, hardening off, and more.


Intro to Organic Gardening: The Urban Gardener's Primer - Cost: $25/person
Sat, April 10, 1-3 pm. With Greg Roberts & Karin Kliewer, of Little City Farm.
Grow healthy, natural food for yourself that thrives without harsh chemicals or toxic pesticides! Attend this workshop to learn the basics of organic gardening and leave feeling confident in your gardening abilities. Including organic pest controls, sourcing organic seeds, building soil health, attracting beneficial insects, companion planting, biointensive growing, and permaculture tips.

Fermented Foods for Health - Cost: $25/person
Sat, April 17, 1-3 pm. With Jackie McMillan, local whole foods educator.
Let your taste buds tingle! Discussion will cover background on fermenting foods, how and why to ferment foods, health benefits, and a spectacular taste testing of various lactic acid ferments. Workshop participants will prepare colourful multi-vegetable sauerkraut as part of this interactive session.

Beyond Band-Aids: Homeopathic First Aid - Cost: $25/person
Sat, May 8, 1-3 pm. With Rachel Vandenberg, of Healing Path Centre for Natural Medicine.
Looking to stock your first aid kit with natural remedies that work? Look no further! In this workshop you will learn the basics of homeopathic prescribing including how to select and dose appropriate homeopathic remedies. Focus is on the most common remedies in a summer first aid kit.

Permaculture Design Basics - Cost: $25/person
Sat, May 15, 1-3 pm. With Tracie Seedhouse, of Earthchild Designs.
Permaculture is a unique approach to designing human settlements and agriculture/gardens in ways that mimic relationships and patterns found in nature. During this workshop, Tracie will introduce key permaculture ideas and techniques. Participants will create basic permaculture designs for their own properties using the permaculture approaches discussed.

8th Annual Seedling Sale at Little City Farm!!
Sat, May 22, 9 am-12 noon. Come early for best selection!
Join us at Little City Farm as we host our 8th Annual Organic Seedling Sale! Find organic and heirloom varieties of vegetables & herbs ready for planting. Specializing in heirloom tomato varieties. This is a free event. Seedlings cost $2-$3/each.


Natural Plant Dyes - Cost: $25/person
Sat, June 5, 1-3 pm. With Erin Anton, self-taught fibre artist and local urban homesteader.
Learn to use common plants, roots, bark and berries (such as marigold, rhubarb, black walnut, and elderberry) for dyeing cotton, wool and silk fibres. During this workshop we will demonstrate the 5 stages of the natural dye process: washing the fibre, preparing the dye bath, the mordant process, the dyeing process, and rinsing & drying.

Creating Great Compost! - Cost: $25/person
Sat, June 12, 1-3 pm. With Anna-Maria Schulteis, local organic grower.
Composting is the wonderful process whereby biodegradable household and yard “waste” products decompose into extremely useful rich humus-like soil. Discover how to make great compost, and how to build an effective home composting system.

Cook with the Sun! Building a Solar Dehydrator - Cost: $25/person
Sat, July 17, 1-3 pm. With Alfred Remepel, local urban homesteader.
Cooking off grid in the city! Learn to harness the sun's energy with a solar dehydrator, drying fruit and vegetables to perfection without any use of electricity. Participants will each build a small portable solar dehydrator from recycled materials, as well as learn about other more advanced designs.

Preserving the Harvest - Canning Salsa - Cost: $30/person (all supplies provided)
Sat, August 14, 1-3 pm. With Karin Kliewer, of Little City Farm.
In this busy workshop we will make salsa (using all local ingredients)to demonstrate the canning process, and discuss safe canning and preserving techniques! Each person will take home samples of salsa, plus enough resources and tips to feel confident with home canning & preserving.

Backyard Herbal Teas - Cost: $20/person
Sat, August 21, 1-3 pm. With Karin Kliewer, Master Herbalist at Little City Farm.
Feverfew for migraines...sage for sore throats...peppermint for indigestion...We will explore the herbal garden at Little City Farm, teaching which herbs grow best in our climate, when to start seedlings, how to maximize growing space, how to pick, process & dry herb teas, and make the perfect herbal infusion. Discover simple herbs you can grow that are aids for winter flus, digestion, women’s cycles, children, and stress reduction.


Saving Seeds - Cost: Pay-What-You-Can (suggested $5/person)
Sat, September 11, 1-3 pm. With Bob Wildfong, Executive Director of Seeds of Diversity.
Saving seeds & knowing how to grow our own food may be some of the most important skills we can have, as food prices rise and crop diversity declines. Attend this workshop to learn proper techniques for collecting seeds from your own garden this season, from beans to tomatoes, herbs to flowers. Proceeds from this workshop go to Seeds of Diversity, Canada’s Heritage Seed Program. More info at:

Simple Sourdough & Baking in a Wood-Fired Cob Oven - Cost: $25/person (all supplies provided)
Sat, September 18, 1-3 pm. With Karin Kliewer, of Little City Farm.
Learn about traditional cob (adobe) construction and wood-fired baking. During this workshop we will create simple sourdough bread, and bake it in our wood-fired outdoor oven. Participants take home their own sourdough starter and recipes.

All About Fruit Trees - Cost: $25/person
Sat, October 9, 1-3 pm. With Anna-Maria Schulteis, local organic grower.
Fresh fruit picked in season from your own backyard! From planting to tending, pruning to harvest, in this workshop you will learn which fruit trees grow best in our climate and organic methods for maintaining healthy trees. Also information on how to get involved as volunteers with the local Fruit Tree Project, harvesting fruit from abandoned trees in our city.

The Art of Winemaking - Cost: $25/person
Sat, October 16, 1-3 pm. With Alfred Rempel, local urban homesteader.
Enjoy the fantastic flavours of homemade wine, made from fresh local fruit, berries, even herbs and flowers. During this workshop we will cover all the stages of home winemaking, from equipment needed, sourcing fruit, racking and bottling - and we will make a batch of wine using fresh Ontario grapes, and of course enjoy some tasting.

3rd Annual Central Art Walk & Studio Tour
Sat, October 23, 10 am-5 pm. Date to Be Confirmed.
Take a leisurely stroll through the Breithaupt-Mount Hope neighbourhood during this 3rd annual art walk/studio tour and sale. Drop by Little City Farm to see a variety of talented artists creating earth-friendly art and handmade crafts.

Traditional Rag Rug Making - Cost: $25/person
Sat, November 6, 1-3 pm to be confirmed. With Meghan MacKinnon, local urban homesteader.
Nothing says home quite so well as a rag rug on the floor, especially if you made it yourself. That's the reason that rag rugs have been made, used and loved for generations. Originally created out of necessity with limited supplies and the simplest of tools, rag rugs aren't hard to make and you can use just about any kind of fabric. They are a wonderful way to connect with the past, create an heirloom piece for your family, and preserve the traditional art of rug making. Participants will be asked to bring a selection favourite recycled fabrics from their home to weave into their own rug during this workshop.

Vegan Treats: Simple Healthy Baking for the Holidays - Cost: $25/person (all supplies provided)
Sat, November 13, 1-3 pm. With Karin Kliewer, of Little City Farm.
The holiday season can be difficult for those who have food allergies or choose a vegan diet. Learn to make simple delectable vegan treats, including raw and gluten-free ideas, to surprise your guests this season. Please bring a container to take home samples.