Monday, June 29, 2015

First calendula

The calendula is ready to blossom.  In fact, the first flower opened a few days ago, and the others are coming soon.  We harvest the flower tops continuously so they keep blooming all summer long.  They can be dried in baskets or on screens, to make into calendula oil and salves.  Calendula is another one of those herbs I would not do without, right next to lavender as being a favourite in our family herbal first aid remedy stash.  Calendula salve is great for dry skin, minor cuts, eczema, rashes, and other skin conditions.  Check out our popular calendula healing salve here.  We've been making this salve for many years now, and have had great success and wonderful reviews from happy customers.  We also offer regular workshops on making herbal salves so if you are interested and want to take a course with us, please look at our workshop schedule here.

After the rain...

The rain barrels and pond are full again!  The garden looks so lush after the rain...with gorgeous perfect droplets left on leaves, flowers and stems.  Here is what our garden looked like yesterday.  Yes, that's the black swallowtail caterpillar too (discovered just after the rain on our dill patch).

Gratitude Sunday

We are grateful for so many things.  Here is what comes to mind from this past week:

~ discovering several tiny toads in our garden (we think they are Tiny Eastern American Toads) - this one was about the size of a quarter - we are so happy to have toads in our yard as they are an indicator of a healthful environment, and of course to help with eating garden pests, and listen to them calling to each other at night

~ lovely friends who brought over delicious homemade drinks: homemade ginger beer and elderflower-lemon verbena water kefir for us!

~ simple nourishing meals that are still being spontaneously dropped off on our doorstep by friends since the arrival of our baby

~ lots of rain so we haven't needed to water the garden at all this week

~ first calendula blossoms (I love calendula and would plant it all over the garden if I could spare the space)

~ the arrival of summer!

~ peas, peas, peas and kale, kale, kale from the garden, and garlic that's almost ready to harvest

~ finding a Black Swallowtail caterpillar in the dill patch which our family is going to watch as it hatches into a gorgeous butterfly

~ a very inspiring topbar beekeeping workshop we hosted here on Saturday

What are you grateful for this week? 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Service berry season & pie recipe

The service berries are ready!  Service berries (aka. June berries, or Saskatoon berries) are small trees or large shrubs, with delicious edible sweet berries that almost have a taste similar to wild blueberries.  It's looking like an amazing year for these berries so far, as all the trees that line boulevards in our neighbourhood are loaded with berries.  We have been so pleased for discover the service berry over the past years, as we wild forage around the city.  It seems to be a common tree to be planted by the city as part of their landscaping design, and we counted 30 service berry trees lining the sidewalk of one street not far from our house.  These trees eventually get too big to fully harvest without using ladders, and the birds do love the berries too (so they take the higher ones which works out just fine).  However, on our daily walks around town (now always with extra bags and containers along, just in case we need to harvest something) my daughter and I have been able to gather small handfuls from various trees we pass - enough to make a batch of mini pies, a few dozen muffins, and put away some berries in the freezer for winter.

Service Berry Pie with Butter Crust

Best Butter Crust
1 1/2 cups spelt or kamut flour (or wheat, or combination)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup chilled organic butter (or coconut oil)
3-4 Tbsp ice water

Mix flour, salt and butter with hands to form small pea-sized bits.
Add water one Tbsp at a time, mixing just until dough comes together.  Do not overmix.
Chill for at least 30 min, then roll out dough using extra flour on table top.
Makes 1 large pie.

Service Berry Filling
4-6 cups service berries (or mix of berries)
2 Tbsp arrowroot
a few Tbsp water
maple syrup

Mix filling, add to unbaked pie shell.  Bake at 350F oven for about 30 min.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Lovely lavender

It's time for the first lavender harvest!  This is one of the herbs my daughter and I love most that we grow here in our gardens - it's such a pleasure to harvest as it's easy to snip off in large bunches and quick to tie up to dry.  We dry it in many different ways - laid out in wicker baskets, hanging in tied up bundles, woven into braids) and then there are the many wonderful uses it brings us later this fall and winter. 

We make this lavender oil to use for burns and scrapes, and when ready this medicinal oil is also added to many of our salves; we use dried lavender in calming bath blends; we put lavender bundles into drawers to protect our woolens from tiny wool moths; use lavender for cooking and baking (...lavender ice cream, lavender cookies); and of course give our lavender bunches away as sweet-smelling gifts.  Lavender is an effective and powerful herb, yet gentle for sensitive skin and babies, so it's one of the go-to-always-keep-in-the-herbal-medicine-chest herbs here at Little City Farm.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

June 1st garden! Glorious greens

Here's what is coming up in the garden on the first of June this year - after weeks of hot dry spring weather that became near drought (apparently the least rainfall we've had for this time of year since the 1920's), then a downpour the other day/night with flooded streets, and last night a near frost where we had to bring our basil into the greenhouse!  What a strange spring we've been having, and yet there is so much life coming up in the garden.

We are loving:
- the wild greens: nettles (leaf), dandelions (root, leaf and flower), lambs quarters
- the garden greens: arugula, Asian greens, lettuces, mizuna
- the spring sours: sorrel and rhubarb
- asparagus, asparagus, asparagus
- all manner of spring onions: green onions, walking onions, chives, garlic greens
- the darker greens: kale, chard, spinach, red orach, and mustard braising greens
- violets, marigolds and other edible flowers
- the fresh salad herbs: dill, thyme, and parsley in everything
- the fresh tea herbs: mint, lemon balm, bergamot, catnip, fennel
- watching the berries form: currants, raspberries, gooseberries, strawberries
- wild grape tendrils and leaves

New sprout at Little City Farm: It's a boy!

For those who don't know yet, we've welcomed another little sprout to Little City Farm.  Our son Finley Cedar was born at the end of April, and is already being introduced to the busy life of spring on our homestead.  If you were at our seedling sale you may have glimpsed his little head peeking out from behind the baby sling.  A huge thank you to the amazing team from Blue Heron Midwives who assisted us in a beautiful home birth.

WILD - Taproot Magazine now available!

We are so pleased to mention that we'll have an article featured in the upcoming Taproot Magazine, Issue 14::WILD.  We encourage you to check out this magazine if you have not already come across it.  It's a beautiful visual magazine, filled with lush photography, gorgeous unique artwork, delicious recipes, soulful articles, and practical hand skills, all along the themes of homesteading, homeschooling and community living.  We always eagerly look forward to getting our copy of this magazine in the mail and anticipate each new issue.  Our daughter looks forward to being the first to find it in the mailbox and peruse the photos and artwork, as well as asking me to read her the editorial "story".   Look for our article in this issue about making your own permaculture seedballs and "rewilding our landscape".