Wednesday, December 16, 2015

NEW Soap Workshops coming in 2016

Do you love beautiful natural handmade soap?  I know I do - although I have been making my own soap and teaching classes for almost ten years on this topic, I still gravitate toward handmade soaps at every new farmers market and health food store I visit.  There are just so many variations in how people make handmade soaps - different textures, colours, essential oils, shapes, patterns (marbling, layering), herbal additions, infused teas and oils, and more.  It's both science and art, that's what I love about soap making.  And I can customize it to suit my needs (organic ingredients, non-GMO oils), and my budget.  Endless creativity, always new ideas.

Do you want to learn all about the traditional cold process soap making method, using oils, lye and herbs to make your own soap?  Join us for one of the four Saturday soap making workshops we are hosting here at Little City Farm in the new year (Jan 30, Feb 13, March 5, April 9).  We'll walk you through all the steps for beginning soap making at home, plus each participant gets to take home their own small batch of soap made by hand from scratch during the workshop.  Sign up here or get more info.  They fill up quickly and we take limited numbers of participants, so please do sign up soon if you are interested.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Winter Sprout Garden in your Kitchen

We need our greens in winter.  And yet, most of us don't have gardens or greenhouses to grow what we need to keep ourselves healthy in the cold winter months.  However, all of us have indoor space that can work well for growing living sprouts and nutrient-dense microgreens.  Grow a winter sprout garden in your kitchen this year!  What a treat to eat fresh organic living greens all winter long. 

We usually have a rotation of various trays of pea shoots, sunflower shoots, and buckwheat going, as well as sweet brassicas (broccoli, kale, red cabbage) and spicy daikon radish as microgreens.  We also really like the crunchy bean mix and spicy lentil blend sprouted for only a few days in glass jars, the seeds purchased from Mumm's sprouts (a great company offering organic non-GMO sprout seeds, based in Saskatchewan). 

It only takes a few minutes a day to water your sprout garden, or harvest some greens to add to a salad or a breakfast green smoothie.  It takes a little planning to get the sprout rotation going smoothly - soaking seeds and sprouting them for a continuous harvest, but it's such a nice way to get gardening satisfaction in the cold dark days of winter, working with soil, seeds and greens, helping to coax the seeds to life - and to benefit from the living energy of these vibrant greens in healthful meals to keep us healthy all winter long.  Want to learn more?  We will be offering one sprouting/microgreens workshop in February here at Little City Farm - come taste a variety of delicious sprouts we grow, learn best tips for sprouting at home yourself, take home a sprouting chart as an easy reference, and a sprout starter kit to get your own kitchen garden growing this winter.

Local Superfood Sunchokes

It's time for our final harvest of sunchokes.  We can't believe it's mid December and we are still digging in soft garden soil. The ground is not frozen, there is no snow!  The sunchokes benefit from a light frost, as their flavour sweetens, so we were happy to wait.  Our final harvest is now in.

Sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are a locally grown, easy to cultivate superfood.  They are native to eastern North America.  The plant is tall with a yellow sunflower at the top (in fact they are in the sunflower family).  Once they are planted in one spot, the roots will spread quickly and are hard to ever completely dig up (so choose spot wisely).  They are also known as earth apple, sunroot, Jerusalem artichoke, and other common names.  They are incredibly healthy, offering high levels of iron, B vitamins (especially vit B1), fibre, potassium, vitamin C, and are low-medium glycemic so easy on blood sugar.

The down side is that they don't store for very long.  They need to be kept in the ground as long as possible until near the eating time, best dug fresh and eaten that day.  They taste something like mashed potatoes when cooked - they can be steamed, boiled, baked, shredded and fried, and used as you would a potato.  We like them steamed with butter and salt, and some freshly chopped herbs like parsley, chives, dill, sage or basil.  If we don't have fresh herbs, the sunchokes are wonderful with pesto.\

We are happy to share our sunchokes with locals - so if you want sunchokes in your garden next year let us know.  We can share sprouts or roots in the spring.

Crazy for Kombucha!

We love our ferments in this house - and there are cultures and starters on various counters, shelves and the top of the fridge in our kitchen.  Kefir, yogurt, sourdough, and yes, kombucha! 

Kombucha, for those who have not yet gotten excited about this delicious tonic, is an ancient probiotic health drink.  It originated in Russia, and has been used for centuries in that culture to promote longevity, general health and well-being, mental clarity, digestive health, immune boosting, and a myriad of other health benefits.

Kombucha is easy to make - it takes some diligence to keep it going, just like feeding a sourdough starter each week, the kombucha SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) needs attention each week or two as well.  There are 5 steps - a) brewing tea and adding sugar (usually black tea, but also green or white or rooibos can work well); b) fermenting the tea with the SCOBY "mother" culture (usually 7-10 days, depending on house temperature); c) straining the tea and reserving some of this fermented tea to use in next batch with SCOBY; d) adding flavour (juice, fresh fruit, dried fruit, herbs, spices); e) carbonation in glass bottles (usually 1-2 days).

Our favourite combinations so far have been: white tea infused with organic peaches and lavender; green rooibos infused with organic lemon juice and ginger root; and our homemade grape juice added to a black tea ferment.   By the way, this kombucha ends up being very low in sugar as the SCOBY feeds on the sugar, so in fact you (or your kids) are not drinking a sugary drink, but a lightly sweetened elixir.  We also drink it in fairly small doses, a quarter glass a day or so.  We think of it more as a tonic than a thirst quencher.  I especially love adding herbs into the mix to get some added herbal medicinal benefits.

Delicious!  Want to learn to make your own kombucha in one of our hands-on classes?  Sign up for our Kombucha making workshop coming up March 12, 2016. 

Simple Herbal Gifts for your home or gifting to others

We've been busy crafting, creating, sewing and baking here as we got ready for our Little Bird handmade sale (last weekend), and are preparing simple gifts for friends and family.  We also just offered a workshop (this past weekend) on herbal bath products here at Little City Farm.  During this fun hands-on class participants got to make a variety of herbal bath items to take home.

Here are some of the herbal gifts we made during the workshop.  These 6 simple herbal gifts can be made in only a few minutes, and are perfect for any occasion (holidays, birthdays, pregnancy, new mom, wedding favours, gifts for friends, when someone is ill, for kids, etc).  What we like is that they use simple ingredients (including herbs from your own garden if possible), are health-promoting, are consumable (i.e. they will be used up and not sit around as more "stuff" to clutter the home as so many gifts can), and are easy to make.  They are fun to make with kids, who will enjoy the hands-on mixing, blending and shaping, and using (our 7 year old loves to help make these herbals).  The recipes are below.

1. Herbal Bath Bombs
2. Herbal Lavender Sachets (or dream pillows)
3. Herbal Bath Salts
4. Herbal Facial Scrub
5. Herbal Lip Balms
6. Herbal Bath Oil

1. Herbal Bath Bombs (pictured above)
Yields: aprox. 17-20 small bath bombs/balls

1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup citric acid (available at the pharmacy, or from soap supply shops)
1/2 cup cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
4 Tbsp oil (light vegetable oil – e.g. almond oil, apricot oil, sunflower oil)
1 Tbsp water (or flower water/witch hazel)
2 tsp pure essential oil
+ pinch of dried herbs optional (e.g. rose petals, lavender, calendula, chamomile)
+ extra oil and water as needed to get proper consistency

1) Mix dry ingredients in one bowl.
2) Mix wet ingredients in a glass measuring cup.
3) SLOWLY add wet to dry, a few drops at a time.  Don't let mixture fizz.
4) Add dried herbs into the mix, or layer lightly in your molds.
5) When mixture is the consistency of wet sand (good enough to build a sand castle) pat into molds.
6) Great molds are mini muffin tins, silicone baking containers of all shapes and sizes, or shape into balls by hand (or purchase bath bomb molds from soap supply stores).
7) Let dry about 5 min, then unmold and let fully dry 2-3 hours until very hard.
8) Store in glass mason jars with tight lid until use.

2. Herbal Lavender Sachets (or "dream pillows")

Method 1:
Stuff organic lavender into cotton sachets, either small squares or rectangles sewn by you, or purchased cotton muslin pouches.  They can be embellished with embroidery.  Keep under pillow for a peaceful sleep.  Dream pillows can add a pinch of hops and mugwort for magical dreaming.

Method 2:
Dried herbs can be stuffed into a reusable muslin pouch and floated in the bath.  The herbs will steep in the warm water and give a healing, therapeutic bath.  Best done in a shallow sitz bath.  Lavender is relaxing and also soothes skin irritations.  Rosemary and peppermint are invigorating and refreshing.  Rose petals are soothing and luxurious, good for all skin types.  Yarrow is healing for minor skin irritations, nicks and scrapes.
3. Herbal Bath Salts
Epsom salts are amazing for our body's health on so many levels, cleansing, reducing toxin load, alkalizing the body, adding minerals, reducing muscle pain and skin inflammation, alleviating migraines and stress, and so on.
Yields: makes enough for 3-4 baths

2 cups epsom salts, coarse
3/4 cup sea salt, coarse (Dead Sea salt if you can get it)
1/4 tsp (15 drops) essential oil (e.g. lavender, citrus, rosemary)
1-3 tsp clay, optional (e.g. rose clay, white clay - clays add silkiness to water, and minerals to body)
1-3 tsp baking soda, optional
1 tsp dried herbs, optional (e.g. calendula, lavender)

Mix all ingredients well.  Store in tightly sealed glass jars until use.  Use about 1/2 cup per bath.
Use on a weekly basis to reduce toxic burden on body and maintain good health.
4. Herbal Facial Scrub
Yields:aprox. 3 1/2 cups cleansing grains mix

2 cups clay (e.g. white clay is good for all skin types)
1 cup oats, ground finely OR cornmeal
1/4 cup almonds (ground very finely) OR poppyseeds
1/8 cup lavender, ground finely

Mix all ingredients well.  Store in tightly sealed glass jars until use.  To use, take small amount in hand and add enough water to make a paste.  Use as facial or body scrub, rinse off with warm water.

5. Herbal Lip Balms
Yields: aprox. 14 lipbalm tubes

2 Tbsp sunflower oil  (or other light vegetable oil – apricot oil, almond oil, or even olive oil)
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp cocoa butter
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp pure beeswax
1/4 tsp essential oil (10 drops)
(choose one or more: lavender, grapefruit, mandarin, orange, tangerine, lemon)
a few drops vitamin E oil

1) Melt all oils (but not essential oil) and beeswax in a double boiler over low heat, until just melted.
2) Drop a small amount onto a cold metal spoon, let it cool to test for proper consistency.  Add a bit more beeswax if lipbalm is too soft, or more oil if lipbalm is too hard.
3) When consistency is right take off the heat.  Now add essential oil and stir.
4) Pour carefully into lipbalm tubes.  Leave off caps until the lipbalm has set.
5) Label and give away as gifts!  Best if stored in a cool location.

6. Herbal Bath Oil

1/2 cup (4 oz) light oil such as apricot, almond or sunflower oil
40 drops pure essential oil (e.g. cedar, rosemary, ylang, lavender, orange, lemon, bergamot, rose)
(if pregnant, please read up on essential oils before using them - some should not be used during pregnancy - rosemary and bergamot are to be avoided).

Mix oil and essential oil together in glass mason jar, cap tightly and shake jar well to combine.
Use 1-2 tsp in warm bath. These oils nourish the skin, and essential oils add healing, therapeutic and relaxation value to your bath.  Please note that bath oils make the tub slippery, so be careful getting out.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Practical Herbalist Series 2016

Register Here
An exciting unique 4-part workshop series, that includes hands-on learning, plus some "home" assignments and additional support between sessions.  Workshops will be held on 4 Saturday mornings at Little City Farm, from June to September so we can see the changes and experience the bounty throughout the growing season.  This series is led by Karin Kliewer (Master Herbalist).

Spring Leaves
Summer Blossoms
Fall Harvest
Winter Roots
 At the end of this series you will have gained:
~ confidence and knowledge of growing/using basic medicinal herbs at home
~ a well-stocked pantry of simple herbal home remedies you have made
~ hands-on experience making 10+ herbal products (e.g. oils, salves, poultices, decoctions, tinctures, cough syrups, etc)
~ familiarity with 20+ medicinal herbs (see list of focus herbs for each session below)
~ guidelines for herbal dosages and basic herbal first aid for home use
~ general understanding of plant identification and ethical wild harvesting
~ hands-on experience harvesting, storing, drying,using medicinal herbs (leaves, blossoms, roots, berries, seeds, bark)
~ basic understanding of herbal gardening, herbal propagation, planting and seed saving
~ simple outline for starting your own medicinal herb garden at home
~  knowledge of where to source quality herbs and herbal product-making supplies
~  a collection of herbal recipes, hand-outs and other useful resources

~ a network of other community members interested in natural herbal healing
~ 10% discount on medicinal herbs during the annual Little City Farm Seedling Sale!
~ please see below for more details on specific topics we will cover in each session
~ a copy of Rosemary Gladstar's book Medicinal Herbs: A Beginners Guide   

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.

Read more & register here...

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Winter-Spring 2016 Workshops for Sustainable Living NOW POSTED!!

Winter-Spring 2016 Workshops for Sustainble Living NOW POSTED!

We are so excited to share our new line-up of classes with you, coming this January through May (more classes to come for summer-fall).

Workshops fill up quickly so please check our website here to sign up for your choice of classes.  Consider giving a workshop as a unique holiday gift to a family member or friend.  We now offer gift certificates for Little City Farm classes, events and B&B stays.

Workshops include soap making, cheese making, fermenting foods, sourdough, kombucha, herbal winter remedies, and much more!

Also don't forget to check out our special Homesteading Club for Kids this coming March Break, our Family Whole Food Series (come make pie and bread with your kids!), and the Practical Herbalist Series

Dec 5 Handmade Holiday Sale - Introducing our Vendors!

Here is a sneak peek for the A Little Bird Told Me (and told you, and please tell your friends too) Handmade Holiday Sale - coming up here at Little City Farm next Saturday December 5 from 10 am-2 pm!

Our house will be filled with a talented assortment of local artisans and crafters, featuring their unique handmade items with an eco-conscience.  Items are made from natural or organic materials/ingredients, and/or from upcycled/recycled materials. 


Jesse from Black Arrow Cycles will be here with his unique jewelry and home goods made from recycled bicycle parts.  You will find earrings made from intricately cut inner tubes; candle holders made from cogsets; bottle openers made from bicycle chain; and more.  We love the black inner tube feather earrings!

Charlotte from Green Garb makes woolly boots!  They are soft, cozy, made to last, and come in sizes for the whole family!  The Green Garb table will also feature natural wool and felted toys, ornaments, wool accessories, and other cozy home goods.


Karin from Homestead Herbals provides a sweet smelling selection of natural soaps, herbal oils, lipbalms, herbal salves, and other botanical goods for the health and well-being of your whole family.  Many of the herbs used are from right here at Little City Farm.


Our youngest and most enthusiastic vendors from the newly formed Home Sweet Home Baking, will offer a mouth-watering array of organic baked goodies - including vegan and gluten-free options such as lavender shortbread, gluten-free gingerbread, and gluten-free mini cupcakes.  Decorating is their specialty!

Little City Farm will once again have our organic pies, vegan brownies and date bars, and famous raw nanaimo bars at the Little Bird Sale!  Unique pies this season include: apple-salted caramel pie; lemon-yogurt pie with blueberry compote; chocolate-walnut pie; apple-cheddar pie; pumpkin-sweet potato pie; chocolate-cherry pie; and other delicious surprises.

Little City Farm is also now offering Gift Certificates - available online here, or in person at the Little Bird Sale.  Consider a gift certificate toward one of our classes, our soaps/herbals, or a stay in our eco bed & breakfast.

Trevor from Once Upon A Tree will have his fine woodworking on display, featuring reclaimed one-of-a-kind “live edge” serving boards in a variety of styles and sizes: Baguette, Charcuterie and Entertaining; as well as other home goods such as butcher block, bowls, and wood coasters.

AND also at this table, Sarah will have her unique hand-felted wool toys, clothing and other accessories.

Theresa from Seed of Life Foods provides delicious handmade seed bars are designed to provide real and lasting energy derived from simple ingredients (gluten free, vegan, nut free, without refined sugar, made with raw seeds).  She will also have handmade natural toys, decorations, incredible chocolate truffles (!), and other goodies!

Carol from Your Time Boutique offers handmade hand-dipped pure beeswax candles made from top quality Canadian beeswax.  These candles are beautiful, long-lasting and burn well. 

Final garden clean-up

This extra extra long fall has given us a late November chance to do one last clean up in the gardens, our final outdoor herb and greens harvest (calendula is still blooming!), plus our latest garlic planting ever!  The greens are abundant in the cold tunnel, growing nicely under the hoop cover - and abundant in the indoor passive solar greenhouse too.  We are looking forward to winter harvests of kale, chard, spinach, chives, mizuna, arugula, tatsoi, and others.

First snow day...been and gone

We enjoyed the first snow a few days ago...gone now, but lovely while it was here as our first reminder of winter to come.