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.