Sunday, December 22, 2013

Woodland fairy world

Our living room table has turned into a woodland fairy world.  With a few pieces of bark, some rounds of wood branches, a collection of nutshells, seeds and dried beans, the imagination has been sparked and this lovely setting has evolved over the past few days.

Icy morning garden

After the late night freezing rain the garden looked like this! All that lovely packing snow has melted and the world outside is now a sheet of ice.  I headed out first thing to take a look.  Absolutely stunning!  Every seed, pine needle, twig and stalk completely and perfectly encapsulated in ice.  Drops of water frozen as if in mid-motion.  Beautiful, but treacherous.  Everywhere branches are cracking from the weight of all the ice.  You can hear tinkling like glass chimes when the wind blows and the branches sway, and then the ominous slow cracking as another large branch comes down and crashes in the yard.  Power seems to be off and on today too, with ice or branches falling on the nearby power lines.  This kind of ice storm comes at least once a winter to us here in southern Ontario.  Today will be a mostly indoor day!

First big snowfall!

A few days ago...finally!  The first real snowfall!  In the morning it was so pretty topping each dried flower stalk, roof line, and tree branch in the yard.  Our daughter thought the echinacea garden looked like a jaunty field of little gnomes with snow peaked caps. Snow shovels are out and the piles have been started for snow fort building...just waiting for a little more snow.  The hens are not sure if they like it.  We spread straw sprinkled with sunflower seeds & buckwheat (their favourite snack) on the snowy ground to coax them out from the coop just so they can stretch their legs.  Luckily, all the hens who molted in October now have their new winter feathers grown - but just barely.  If it would have been this cold a few weeks ago they would not have fared so well.  Surprisingly, they are still laying eggs.  Usually by solstice they are slowing down with egg production (presumably reserving all their extra energy for keeping warm instead).

Solstice lanterns

We had a great time hosting a lantern making session with a group of neighbourhood kids here this week.  The kids had fun making water colour lanterns with tissue paper cut-outs, a perfect lantern that all ages can easily complete.  We also made lanterns with tissue paper pasted onto mason jars and paper-mache onto balloons (for lovely simple round lanterns).  In the neighbourhood friends of ours have been organizing an annual Solstice Lantern Walk (postponed this year for Dec 23), with everyone bringing along homemade lanterns of all shapes and sizes, as well as hot drinks and plenty of warm gear for walking through the streets on a cold night.  We come back for a little street party and bonfire, and for this our household also prepared a huge basket of cedar & sage bundles, which participants can toss in the solstice bonfire as we speak of hopes and joys for the coming year.  All are welcome to join the lantern walk coming up this Monday.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Handmade Holiday sale

Today was our annual "A little bird told me" handmade holiday sale.  What a full house!  A beautiful, cozy, festive day, filled with so many great conversations with neighbours, friends, and new acquaintances.  We had 8 vendors with beautiful handmade goods, all with an eco and/or recycled focus to their work - including cutting boards (from reclaimed fallen trees), woolen clothing (from upcycled wool sweaters), slippers, wool dolls, felted ornaments (with local hand-dyed sheep's wool), organic breads pies & cookies (with locally grown flour), organic chocolates & truffles, jewelry and belts and bottle openers (from recycled bicycle parts), chickadee bird seed feeders, beeswax candles (from pure local beeswax), and more!  Our thanks to the vendors, and everyone who came out to support local and handmade artisans at our sale!

In case you want to find this year's vendors again:
Sew Oiseau (on etsy and website)
Once Upon a Tree (at KristKindel this weekend, and through his website)
Your Time Candles (at KristKindel this weekend, and through her website)
Green Garb (on facebook)
ReCycled Crafts (find him locally at Recycle Cycles)
Theresa - organic chocolates & bars (find her bars at Queen Street Commons)
Lisa - we can put you in touch directly if you want more of her lovely dolls
Homestead Herbals/Little City Farm (at our home location, our website, etsy)

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Let's make pie!

Who doesn't love pie?  Sweet, savory, vegan, gluten-free, or just old fashioned with real butter...there is a way to make pie work for almost any palate.  We held our first pie making workshop here this morning.  What a delicious way to start the day!  We used a vegan recipe with organic coconut oil, organic spelt flour, sea salt and water - which makes for a healthful flaky pie crust that rolls out easily and tastes great for either a sweet or savoury pie.  The two hour workshop also covered tips about pie making tools (e.g. pastry rollers and pie weights), differences to watch for based on what type of pie pan you are using (e.g. glass, ceramic, tin or aluminum), ways to creatively top and edge a pie crust, and what each ingredient does in the recipe.  For example, the fat creates a flaky pastry but this only happens if it is chilled before rolling and baking.  The water activates the gluten, but too much water can create a tough dough that is not flaky...etc.  We tried to cover all the best tips for creating perfect pie, and in the end there was a table filled with beautiful pies made from scratch and satisfied participant who went home feeling confident to keep on making pies.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Teas now available from Homestead Herbals

Our herbal teas for 2013 are now ready!  For now we have five varieties, including a new delicious Immune Boosting Herbal Chai just in time for winter cold and flu season!  We love these teas, and have tried to create blends that can suit a variety of needs - there is
  • After Dinner Tea which is a relaxing digestive blend; 
  • Women's Vitality Blend which is rich in iron, calcium and hormone regulating herbs; 
  • Sweet Dreams which promotes rest and relaxation; 
  • Winter Flu Fighter which has herbs to ward off coughs and colds; and the 
  • Immune Chai blend which is a sweet spiced rooibos & immune herb blend
The herbs we use are grown using sustainable methods in our own gardens, ethically wild-harvested, or purchased for certified organic sources.  The teas will be available during our Dec 7 Handmade Holiday sale, through our online shop, and also by pre-order online from Bailey's Local Foods here in town.  Here are some photos of tea herbs as they were growing this year, and the finished product.   What a sweet reminder for summer in our garden when we sip these teas.

Calendula in blossom
Fennel and echinacea in flower
Hops on arbour
Sage in flower
Calendula drying
After Dinner Tea
Immune Boosting Herbal Chai Tea
Sweet Dreams Tea
Winter Flu Fighter Tea
Women's Vitality Blend