Monday, January 30, 2012

Eco B&B's

Here at Little City Farm we do various things to make our living - urban homesteading projects galore (gardening, preserving, sewing, baking, sprouting, yogurt making); making, selling and teaching about natural soaps & herbals; wood-fired baking; natural building; re-skilling workshops for the community; and we also operate a small eco bed & breakfast using the top floor of our home.  We like to see the B&B as a way of sharing our home and our way of life with the guests who choose to stay here, hoping to inspire and be inspired by others along the path toward sustainability and eco-conscious living.

By offering a unique B&B that is very openly about promoting sustainability, we have the great fortune of meeting many wonderful people.  This past weekend we were honoured to host a couple, Chai & Andy, who also run their own eco-B&B here in Ontario.  The Giving Tree B&B is located near Collingwood, actually situated right along an old railway line that is now a bike path that leads into town!  They are on the Bruce Trail, near Georgian Bay, and have a wonderful rustic barn that has been converted into a yoga studio, guest space and sprouting operation.  The couple is also involved with the local Transition Town movement, and promote many interesting re-skilling workshops in the community.  We were inspired by their story and hope to have the chance to visit them soon.

Seed Starting Schedule for 2012

It's time to plan out the seed starting schedule.  On this past weekend we made our annual "pilgrimmage" to the Organic Conference in Guelph, where we saw many old friends, ate organic icecream from Mapletons (my favourites are chai, ginger and pumpkin), came back with a pile of exciting new seed packages from our favourite Ontario small seed companies Cottage Gardener, Greta's, and Urban Harvest, and were generally inspired by the crowd of farmers/gardeners and other folks who live, advocate for, and grow organically. 

Each year we post our Seed Starting Schedule (for zone 5-6, where we need to start plenty of our seeds in advance, e.g. tomatoes, brassicas, hot peppers, herbs)...Here is the link to last year's post regarding our seed schedule, or if you don't want to read the entire post again I will include the summary of our Seed Starting Schedule below.

We also placed seed orders with West Coast Seeds, High Mowing, and Richters Herbs today - in particular, the photos and selection of High Mowing were astounding - we are especially anticipating their specialty greens, edamame, high-resin medicinal calendula, and wild greens (wild arugula, purslane, amaranth, purple mustards, etc).  Maya is excited about what she chose for her garden: dragon beans, rainbow carrots, dinosaur kale...she wants to plant a rainbow selection of vegetables this year.

PLANTING GUIDE (based on frost-free date of May 24):
FEBRUARY (the greens listed here can continue to be planted throughout the growing season of course)

Start lettuce, chard, other greens in greenhouse or in flats indoors (to be planted out to greenhouse). Start selected medicinal and culinary herbs by middle of February. Some take 6-8 weeks to germinate!

10 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. March 15)
Start seeds of celery, eggplant, leeks, onion, pepper and flowers like impatiens, lobelia, verbena and perennials indoors.

8 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. March 29)
Start seeds of early head lettuce and flowers like begonia, coleus, nicotiana, petunia and salvia indoors.

7 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. April 5)
Start seeds of tomatoes, hot peppers, and early basil indoors.

6 WEEKS TO LAST FROST(aprox. April 12)
Start seeds of early left lettuce, early cabbages including cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and kale, and small seeded annuals indoors. DIRECT SEED broad beans, carrots, peas, spinach, leaf lettuce, turnips, dill, parsley, and hardy flowers such as alyssum, candytuft, pansies, poppies, snapdragons, stocks, sunflowers and sweet peas. Plant onion sets or transplant onion seedlings outdoors.

4 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. April 26)
Start melon seeds indoors. If desired, start seeds of late basil, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, large-seeded annuals, and flowering vines indoors in peat pots. DIRECT SEED radishes, beets, cabbages, chard, head lettuce, and flowers such as godetia, hollyhock, and mallow. Plant potato eyes and transplant seedlings of early cabbages, except cauliflower.

2 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. May 10)
DIRECT SEED corn, tender bulbs such as glads, and annual vines such as morning glory. Transplant early lettuce seedlings.

WEEK OF LAST FROST (aprox. May 17-24)
Around the last frost date you can finally direct seed beans, cauliflower, cucumber, squashes, heat-loving flowers such as zinnias, marigold, and lavatera. Transplant your tomaotes. If you've got them, transplant cauliflower, squash and cucumber seedlings.

1-2 WEEKS AFTER FROST (aprox. May 31-June 7)
Wait for a couple of weeks after the last frost before direct seedling lima benas, soybeans, melons and herbs such as basil, summer savory and sweet marjoram. Transplant celery, melon, peppers, eggplant seedlings when the night temperatures stay well above 10 degrees C. Plant sweet potato slips. Start second crop of kale seedlings, and reseed spinach and peas for second crop.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Soaps & Herbals!

Many new bars of soap are curing - I cure them in our strawbale addition to the house (also our living room/bedroom one-room-cabin space).  The woodstove heat helps to slowly dry the soaps, and they sit lined up on top of a series of wooden shelves.  The space smells wonderful - a mix of our favourites: pure calendula, peppermint poppyseed, patchouli cedar, lavender oatmeal goatmilk...We are also in the process of some new designing for our soap & herbal packaging and hope to have our etsy shop back up and running in the next little while... 

Yesterday was also the first soap class for this season - I am now in the sixth year of teaching soap making classes here in the community, and continue to enjoy meeting all the lovely participants who take part in our sessions.  By now there must be at least 100 people I have taught soap making to - hard to believe!  I am excited to say that the new Practical Herbalist series for 2012 is also full.  This is one herbal workshop series I have been planning for some time, and am looking forward to hosting here over the summer months.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This Moment

{This moment} - This moment - an end of week ritual, no words, just a special photo to remember, savour, enjoy. 

Eco-crafting! A hot water bottle cozy for a cold winter day

Cold days have come!  Today the snow was blowing, we had a fire going in the woodstove all day, made a big pot of chili and got into some crafting....a new quilt is in progress, my friend Michelle's beautiful handspun hand-dyed wool is slowly turning into a knitted hat, I've been sewing play food for Maya's kitchen, and a stack of old woolen sweaters have been felted and are ready to sew into warm things - like this hot water bottle cozy.  I sewed this cozy without a pattern because it really is so simple, but then came across a great blog called "Resweater" that is all about reusing wool sweaters and offers a great step-by-step tutorial on making a hot water bottle cozy.  The projects on this blog remind me of our local friend over at Sew Oiseau, who is well-known around these parts for her creative use of old wool sweaters - reconstructed into gorgeous shawls, wraps, skirts, kids longies, wool diaper covers, dolls, rugs, baskets, hats, arm warmers, leg warmers - you get the idea - 100% wool sweaters are indispensable!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Herbal crafting with kids

I have a budding herbalist in my household!  Children thrive when given the opportunity for us to trust them with real, hands-on learning projects that they can do at their own speed and with their own style.  On a recent evening my 3.5 year old and I made lipbalms together, upon her request (to my delight).  She stirred and measured carefully, melted the ingredients on the stove (with supervision), tested the finished product for proper consistency, smelled numerous essential oils (settled on grapefruit), and designed her own custom labels.  Then she promptly asked for some paper, and what letters were needed to make a sign for "her store".  Follow our simple lipbalm recipe here.

Wintery walks

We've been exploring the fields, woods and parks in our city, trying to be outdoors a few hours each day to enjoy what comes our way with this unpredictable January weather.  I am fascinated by discovering all that is still growing and alive during these winter months...gorgeous golden lichen on tree bark, beautiful red sumac...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January gardening

It hardly feels like January with the mild temperatures and melting snow...but we know there are still plenty of cold days and nights ahead.  The start of the new year, and the slower pace around here, always gets us thinking about our garden.  What will it hold this year - which new design ideas can we include, what new (and old favourite) varities will be grown, how can we better reorganize the herb gardens, and most importantly what seeds do we need to order?  January is the time for browsing through seed catalogues and getting new ones in the mail (we are anticipating catalogues from Hope Seeds, West Coast Seeds, and High Mowing Seeds as recommended by our organic farming friend Angie from local CSA Fertile Ground) - as well as attending the annual Guelph Organic Conference at the end of this month. As this is the "international year of co-operatives" the conference theme is "seeds of co-operation".  We would like to keep this theme in mind for our year as well, as we plan our community involvement and projects here at the homestead.

While we are talking about co-operation, I have plenty of it from my 3 year old helper who was eager to start our winter garden.  She mapped out what she wants to grow in her own garden on a large sheet of paper by cutting out photos from an old seed catalogue and pasting them on the garden sketch.  It includes vegetables like rainbow carrots, ruby red swiss chard, several kinds of peas and beans, baby watermelon, and corn grown for popcorn!  She even drew a stone walkway leading upto a little stump for sitting on, and (to my delight) a herb section with echinacea, basil, calendula and sunflowers in one corner of her little garden outline.  This week we did in fact start some herb seeds - the tiny slow germinating ones like rosemary, echinacea and lavender seeds (saved from our own plants!) that grow so slowly.  We also have a nice edible "sprout garden" going, with pea shoots and sunflower greens in soil trays, plus micro greens in jars, just to give us that boost of  fresh homegrown greens during these sparse months.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Practical Herbalist Series - 4 sessions at Little City Farm this summer

An exciting unique 4-part series held at Little City Farm this summer, that includes 12 hours of instruction and hands-on learning, plus some "home" assignments between sessions. Workshops will be held on 4 Saturday mornings, from June to September. This series is led by Karin Kliewer, Master Herbalist.

~ confidence and knowledge of growing and using basic medicinal herbs
~ a well-stocked pantry of simple effective herbal home remedies you have made
~ knowledge on where to source quality herbal product-making supplies
~ a collection of herbal recipes, lesson notes, hand-outs and other useful resources
~ a network of other community members interested in natural herbal healing
~ please see below for more details on specific topics we will cover in each session

Limited space to 10 participants. As one goal of this series is to create a continuous small-group shared learning environment, priority will be given to participants who can commit to taking all 4 sessions.


Session 1: Spring Edibles - Sat, June 9 from 9-12 noon
In this session you will learn: herbs for digestive system; wild crafting; basic herb gardening; medicinal herb teas to grow at home; and making herbal infusions.

Session 2: Summer Flowers - Sat, July 14 from 9-12 noon
In this session you will learn: herbs for stress and women's health; drying and storing herbs; making herbal medicinal oils, salves and liniments.

Session 3: Fall Bounty - Sat, Aug 11 from 9-12 noon
In this session you will learn: herbs for respiratory system; seed saving; harvesting and drying medicinal roots; making herbal decoctions; making herbal tinctures; basic herbal first aid.

Session 4: Winter Roots - Sat, Sept 8 from 9-12 noon
In this session you will learn: herbs for the immune system; herbal remedies for children’s health; making herbal medicinal syrups and winter tonics.

Details for registration are posted on our website here.  

Sustainability Workshops for 2012 - Now Posted

Happy new year!  We like to start the new year off by finalizing our list of Sustainability Workshops that will be held here at Little City Farm.  This year we have topics like permaculture, organic gardening, seed starting, beekeeping, preserving, lacto-fermention, cheesemaking, soap making, as well as a very special "practical herbalism 4 part series".  This list has just been posted on the website here, so please check in there for full list of topics and registration details.  It's our 6th year of leading workshops, and we've hosted more than 75 workshops and hundreds of participants, and this is continuously both astounding to us and encouraging to see such interest from our local community members in sharing and learning skills, and creating resiliant, vibrant, sustainable neighbourhoods.