Saturday, April 26, 2014

Felted Soap Workshop

What an action-packed weekend around here!  We hosted two workshops today, one in the morning on Wet Felting with wool, and one in the afternoon on Permaculture Design.

The Wet Felting Workshop was specifically focusing making felted soap - the idea is to have soap and wool "washcloth" all in one, and a bar is easy to felt in about half an hour.  It was nice to include kids in this workshop since working with warm water and wool is just about the most relaxing, kid-friendly activity I can think of!  Our daughter loved helping me lead the workshop by demonstrating her wool carding skills, and showing examples of the felted soap and wool felted acorns we had made beforehand as examples.  Everyone left with at least two bars of lovely felted soap.  Felting can be done with almost any fibre including animal (sheep, goat, rabbit, llama, alpaca), silk, plant fibres (milkweed), although some fibres really work much better for specific projects.  For example, we used merino wool in our wet felting because it was a medium grade of wool that felted fairly quickly. 

Materials needed to make felted soap:
- bars of natural soap
- large bowl of hot water (keep it hot during felting process, continuously dipping wool in)
- bowl of cold water (to shock wool at end of felting process)
- wool roving (enough to cover soap with at least 3 layers)
- something to agitate the wool (sushi mat, bubble wrap)
- cloth and elastic to wrap soap and wool while felting
- old towels to keep work area dry

Permaculture Seed Balls!

This may well be my favourite activity to do with kids in the spring.  We are aching to get our hands into the soil, so playing with clay and compost muck to shape seed balls is the perfect thing.  And this takes lots of hands to get it done, since the "recipe" makes a huge batch!  We made over 140 seed balls.  Our recipe was not exact - approx. equal parts clay and compost, and enough water to make a good sticky mix that holds a ball shape.  The wetter the mix, the longer it will take to firm up and dry fully.  Plus enough seed packages to get a large number of seeds distributed into each ball.  The idea is to fill the mix with seeds that are held in safe keeping until they have the right conditions to germinate - the clay protects the seeds, the compost is there to feed the seeds once the seed balls are tossed onto the ground and rained/watered to break them open.  We seeded our mix with a bird/bee/butterfly pollinator mix of perennial and annual seeds saved from our garden (bee balm/wild bergamot, poppies, new england asters, black eyed susan, purple coneflower, butterfly weed, borage, eastern columbine, forget-me-not, coreopsis, lemon mint, lupines, and more).

First spring greens salad

Even though spring has been so slow in coming it's astounding what is already growing all around us.  This is what our first spring greens salad looked like yesterday - dandelion, spinach, lettuce, kale, chard, tatsoi, endive, mizuna, chives, nodding onion, oregano, thyme, parsley, and some violets added in.  A mix of sweet fresh young leaves from the cold frame, with the deep bitter wild dandelion that our bodies crave after our long cold winter, what a taste of spring!  No salad dressing needed!

Little City Farm May Sales!

Local folks!  We are happy to invite you to come see us for two occasions in May!

Homestead Herbals at Bailey's Local Foods 
3:30-6:30 pm, at First United Church, uptown Waterloo
Interested in locally handmade natural soaps and herbal products?  Our Homestead Herbals products are made with locally grown organic and/or wildharvested herbs, local goatsmilk, local honey, local beeswax!  We have natural soaps, shampoo bars, shaving soap, bug spray, herbal first aid kits, pregnancy & post-partum herbals, and more!  Come check out our items during the Bailey's Local Foods pick-up in uptown Waterloo (16 William St W, Waterloo).  Everyone is welcome to come by.   Special discounts for this day only!  Cash payment.  Preview our Homestead Herbals products here.

Sat, May 24 - SEEDLING SALE 
12th Annual Seedling Sale
9 am-12 noon, at Little City Farm
Don't miss our exciting annual seedling sale!  This fun community event features hundreds of seedlings, including 20+ varieties of heirloom tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, brassicas, basil, herbs, perennials, strawberries, flowers and more!  This year we welcome back Fertile Ground CSA with their gorgeous seedlings; the Ever Lovin' Jug Band for lively music on the back porch stage; organic baked goods (pies, breads, and more) and a wood-fired oven; and Pollination Canada with important info about pollinators!  Also tours of our urban homestead...and more!

The seedling sale is held at Little City Farm, here at 508 Duke St W, Kitchener.  Please walk or bike if you can!  Bring your own boxes or baskets to carry home your seedling purchases - and CASH payment only.

See you then!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

honey, eggs & earth day

Happy earth day (every day!)

Our daughter told me she felt we spent today in the most earth-loving way possible - spending most of our day with earth-loving friends who inspire us: who also love growing food, caring for animals, keeping bees, getting their hands into the soil, raising their kids to be conscientious and kind, living simply and exemplifying creative, sustainable permaculture principles in so many ways (in approaches to parenting, unschooling, gardening, household routines).

Whenever we are at this friends' house we are served simple nourishing wholesome food that they have grown or wild-harvested, our daughter spends as many hours as she can holding all manner of their birds and animals from bunnies to quail, snuggling with cats and dogs, and we never leave empty handed.  Today we were gifted with a dozen tiny quail eggs wrapped in tissue to keep them safe in our bike trailer; a piece of sweet precious honeycomb from the first honey harvest of their top bar hive; and freshly cut willow for spring decor and to root for ourselves.  An inspiring family that I am so glad to have as members of our community.

For those who want more information on natural beekeeping, check out Gaia Bees site and Gaia Bees videos.  The section on alternative bee nests is quite beautiful (see the straw hive and sun hive).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Seedling Sale May 24 - One Month Away!

Our 12th Annual Seedling Sale is fast approaching - one month away on Saturday May 24!  (please note, it is NOT the Saturday of the long weekend this year).  Even though spring has been very slow in coming this year, it's time to think about gardens.  Our grow racks and green house are filling up with trays and trays of young seedlings, and a daily watering routine is a big part of the morning chores.  Soon comes transplanting! 

Come on our to our Seedling Sale just to experience a fun annual community event for urban gardeners and kick off your garden season - or find heirloom organic varieties of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, basil, kales, broccoli, other vegetables, herbs, flowers and more.  This year there will also be lettuce seedling mixes available, everbearing strawberry plants (yaa!), many varieties of sunflowers ready to plant (consider planting a cut flower section in your garden for making fresh bouquets all summer long - we plan to this year!); and so much more.

With farmer friend Angie from Fertile Ground CSA joining us as she does each year, with her interns and a huge selection of beautiful organic seedlings!  Plus, back by popular demand, music to keep the sale lively from local musicians the Ever Lovin' Jug BandDetails on our website here.

Spring in the garden

There are signs of spring everywhere!  Today: garlic shoots poking up from the soil, kale ready to harvest in the grow tunnel, new seedlings sprouting in the cold frame, bare feet running through the yard, splashing in the back pond, supper on the patio outside, and a night time campfire.  Lovely!

For those who wish to learn more about spring edibles, especially wild spring greens that are going to be ready to harvest shortly - consider taking our Wild Spring Edibles Workshop on Sat, May 10.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sourdough Workshop

We had one of our regular Saturday homesteading workshops here today.  This was the third workshop of a four-part "cultured kitchen" series which included four classes about creating live cultured foods at home - sauerkraut/kimchi, yogurt making, and sourdough bread (and apple cider vinegar is coming in the fall).

During today's workshop we walked through the steps of making and maintaining a sourdough starter, proofing the starter before bread baking (at least 8-12 hours), making the dough, and shaping loaves.  We were working with real sourdough (not preferments or recipes that use commercial yeast) - so ingredients are basic and wholesome - organic hard bread flour, cool filtered water, sea salt, and wild yeast!  The process really is quite simple, it's just a matter of making it part of a regular rhythm of your own weekly kitchen activities. 

Participants made their own sourdough starters to take home (which now need to be fed for the next 10 days, and maintained after).  We also sampled two sourdough breads I had made the night before, so that participants could see the full range of bread making from start (starter) to finish (eating) but still fit this all - a normally 2 day experience - into a 2 hour class.  We tried sesame caraway rye (made with a 100% organic rye starter); and wholegrain country sourdough loaf with millet & sunflower seeds.  Here are photos of the bread baking after today's workshop. 

Green & blue eggs

We absolutely do not need more eggs around here!  But who can resist blue and green eggs?  We traded a friend our handmade soap for a dozen of the lovely eggs that her Araucana hens are laying.  Perfect for Easter weekend coming up...