Sunday, April 29, 2012

Jane's Walk, Sat May 5th here in the neighbourhood

We are participating in the upcoming "Jane's Walk" again this year.  This walk is organized across Ontario in honour of Jane Jacobs, a visionary urban planner who lived and worked in Toronto.  She was passionate about creating liveable cities with walkable, vibrant neighbourhoods.  The Jane's walk honours her work through the organizing of free guided walking tours of various neighbourhoods across our cities.  In our particular neighbourhood the theme of the 1.5 hours tour is "Industrial past and post-industrial future".  The organizers will tour participants through several former industrial buildings (now studios, living spaces, etc), as well as dropping by at Little City Farm where we will talk about possibilities for positive use of urban lands from the perspective of food production and sustainability.  Here is the link for more details.

Backyard Beekeeping

This weekend's workshop here at Little City Farm was an introductory session on "backyard beekeeping".  We had a local 5th generation beekeeper come to facilitate, discussing the various aspects of beekeeping - getting started (equipment, space, sourcing bees, setting up the bee boxes); trouble shooting (identifying queen cells, watching for swarms, moisture issues, treating for mites, natural approaches to bee health, winter care); harvesting honey (when to remove frames, using extractors, when to use a smoker, what to wear when working with bees)...there is so so much to learn, many more questions to ask, and all seems quite daunting to get started.  However, the world of bees is also entirely fascinating - how each bee has it's valuable role, how organized and efficient and hardworking they are, how tidy in repairing their comb and keeping the hive clean, how well they can communicate with each other, and then how this gorgeous amazing honey is created. During this workshop we all built a frame to practice at least one "hands-on" part of the process, and of course enjoyed tasting delicious honeycomb and goldenrod honey!

The healing ways of violets

Now that spring has fully arrived, it's time for the harvest of various early season wild herbs such as dandelion, young burdock root, stinging nettle, comfrey, motherwort, and this week's favourite around here, violets.  Violets are beautiful, abundant, fragrant and healing.  Their long list of healing properties has been part of medicinal folklore for centuries, to aid in skin conditions, liver cleanses, inflammation, even cancer prevention.  They can be eaten fresh in salads, taken as a tonic/infusion or preserved as a tincture.  One of the common names for violet is "heartsease", which speaks to it's calming and grounding influence when taken during times of stress and anxiety.    Harvest flowers in the mid morning, after all dew has evaporated and before the hotter sun of afternoon wilts the flowers.  Use immediately to gain the most potent medicinal value of these gentle flowers.

This Moment

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

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dandelion Harvest

There are so many benefits of dandelions.  Falsely known as troublesome "weeds", dandelions are actually a powerhouse of health, easy to harvest, and readily available.  All parts of the plant are useful - the roots in teas, tonics, tinctures, and vinegars; the leaves as salad greens; the flower blossoms for wine, syrup, juice, garnish, fritters, and so much more.

We had our first big dandelion harvest today - we like to wild-harvest them around town in parks where we know they have not been sprayed.  It's best to harvest the flowers at their peak when they are fully opened, and then use them as soon as possible so as to get the most healthful benefit from them.  We still have dandelion jelly and syrup from last season, and we weren't ready to start dandelion wine today, so we opted for a quick use: dandelion lemonade.  It is delicious - and offers benefits for the liver, acts as a diuretic helping to flush out the body's toxins, and even aids with insomnia, stress, and even depression.

Making dandelion lemonade

You will need:
2 cups fresh dandelion blossoms
1 gallon glass jar (4 litre), with cheesecloth and elastic for the top
4 organic lemons

1) Fill jar with cool fresh water.  Add juice of 4 lemons.  Then add 2 cups dandelions and stir well to combine.
2) Cover jar with cheesecloth and secure with elastic - then set in a warm sunny place outdoors to steep.
3) Steep for several hours, then strain out dandelions and add honey to taste.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

This Moment

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

Seedling Sale invitation

Butterflies, ladybugs and bee hotels - attracting beneficial insects to your garden

This morning when we headed out to the backyard we were astonished by dozens and dozens of orange and black butterflies flitting around the yard - lifting out of the grass, resting on the flowering cherry tree, dipping near the pond, sunning themselves on warm patio stones..all day these colourful visitors (which we identified as Red Admirals using this great Ontario moths and butterflies guide) stayed around passing through on their migration back north.  On such a warm windy day it seemed fitting to have so many butterflies arriving, as if drifting in on the breeze and bringing warmer days with them.

We love spending time discovering the re-emerging insect life in the garden - our daughter spends hours turning over rocks and rotten logs to see what life will be discovered underneath - sow bugs, centipedes, spiders, ants, earth worms, slugs, snails - all are greeted with surprise and delight when she discovers them.  Life in and around the soil is wonderful.  Today she spent much of the morning with a ladybug which she eventually brought into our greenhouse to be sheltered from the wind (and help prevent aphids in the green house plants).

One of the garden goals for this spring is to work at attracting more benenficial insects to our yard.  Beneficial insects help to keep pest problems under control and keep your garden thriving.  Of course incorporating features like ponds, compost areas, and beneficial host plants, as well as using organic pesticide-free methods of gardening, are good ways to begin to attract beneficials.  Think about food, shelter and water as aspects that insects need.  Some herbs we use here include dill, fennel, angelica, queen anne's lace, coriander, dandelion, sunflowers, butterfly weed, tansy, etc to attract ladybugs, lacewings and other beneficial insects.  We are also inspired to build a "bee hotel" like this after seeing a great model at a friend's yard, and this beautiful idea for a "bug mansion" really caught our attention too.

Friday, April 13, 2012

This Moment

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Backyard ponds and homemade pajamas

A pair of ducks came to visit our pond - we had just hooked up the greywater pond system again after winter season.  We reuse our household greywater in the garden by filtering it through a series of two small pond wetlands and tiny gravel stream - and the ducks arrived the very same evening as if they knew this fresh full clean pond was here waiting just for them.  Our little one ran out right before bedtime, in her farm boots and pajamas, to watch them.  By the way, her pajama shirt was sewn using this Long Sleeve Peasant Dress pattern with beautiful cozy flannel from Greenwood Quiltery in Guelph.

Seedling Sale - correct date Sat, May 19

Just to clear up any confusion - the annual seedling sale here at Little City Farm is indeed on Saturday May 19th from 9 am to 12 noon (or while seedlings last).  We are not accepting more vendors as we are full at this time, but the sale is open to the public to attend. Thanks for helping to spread the word!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Seedling Sale - only 6 weeks away!

Six more weeks to go until our annual Little City Farm Seedling Sale (Sat May 19th).  Our list of morning chores is growing, now including the careful watering of hundreds of little seedlings each day (and lots of transplanting to come in the weeks ahead!).  The indoor racks are brimming with these seedlings - eggplants, peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, basil, other herbs and flowers...and in the next few weeks the brassicas, zucchini, cukes, and more.  Busy time, exciting time!

New babies in the house...

There are new babies in the house...six fluffy peeping day-old bundles of feathery down.  Sleeping in our living room near the woodstove, in a large box lined with bran, with an old wool sock as a bed, and a heat lamp for extra warmth.  And a little "mother hen" constantly watching them carefully, attentive to their every need. Their names: Star, Blackberry, Stella, Sam, Daisy and Buttercup. Now it feels like spring is finally here! 

Natural egg dyes

Whether you celebrate Easter or not, decorating eggs is such a lovely way to welcome spring.  Here in the neighbourhood we have an annual egg hunt in a nearby park, which has become a great gathering moment for reconnecting with families we haven't seen during the long winter hibernation. We like to colour our eggs using natural dyes, and this year we used the method described in the exciting first issue of the new Taproot magazine (which we are loving!).

To dye eggs:
a) Using onion skins for reddish-copper colour, turmeric powder for sunny yellow, frozen blueberries for blue, and coffee grounds for brown, we came up with a nice variety with just items found in the kitchen. 

b) The recipe calls for 1 quart water and 2 Tbsp white vinegar, plus dye agent.  This is simmered for at least 20 minutes.

c) Then uncooked white eggs are added and again simmered for about 30 minutes (until they achieve desired level of colour).  Simple, effective, fun that little helpers can easily enjoy lending a hand with.

d) Other ideas - wrap strings, elastic bands or cloth around the white eggs before dyeing.  Wax the eggs with melted wax or draw on them with wax crayons before dyeing to get variety of patterns and shapes.