Saturday, March 28, 2009

seedlings are up & new tomatoes planted




Cupcakes, cupcakes, cupcakes and more cupcakes




I had a catering order for 300 vegan cupcakes this week! I have been putting the catering/baking on the back burner for the past year as I'm really trying to focus on the homestead, workshops, herbal business and of course, baby Maya. But, it was for a good local cause (35th anniversary of a local social justice organization), and I couldn't resist my natural inclination to take up a challenge. I love large-scale baking, and this order was not only vegan, but also called for using organic local flour and fair trade cocoa. What a treat to make custom goodies that were ethical, beautiful and tasty...the whole kitchen was filled with the wonderful vanilla, mocha and chocolate aromas and rows & rows of cupcakes for 24 hours, and yes, we were lucky enough to sample a few along the way.

Seedling Starting Workshop



This week has been a whirlwind of activity around the homestead - must be the onset of spring...

Our homesteading workshop this month was on starting seedlings - the workshop, held last Saturday, was widely popular with more than 30 people crowding into our kitchen to learn the finer points of starting their own seedlings! Good to see several old friends, and many new faces at this event. Angie Koch, of Fertile Ground CSA, provided lots of anecdotes from her farming experience and useful information on seeds, soil and seedling needs to get everyone equipped and inspired for getting their gardens started indoors. Thanks to everyone for being so accomodating about the full house - but we just didn't want to turn people away. We'll consider holding this workshop outside or in a larger space next season - it's great there is such appreciation and interest in growing our own food in the city.

Speaking of local food, the Bailey's Local Foods project has recently been formed into a non-profit. Nina (and now Rachael as well) will be supplying aproximately 300 families with 100-mile foods, everything from produce, to bread, to cheese, to eggs, to preserves! Wow! This is such a worthwhile business venture, and a gift to us who wish to eat 100-mile but don't have time to do all the background research into sourcing out quality farmers and suppliers! Nina is currently taking registrations - it's a $20 annual membership fee, and you can conveniently order weekly, monthly, or occasionally, as needed. Check out: www.baileyslocalfoods.ca

Sunday, March 15, 2009

March: Equinox, World Water Day, & Earth Hour

A few upcoming dates this month to watch for:

March 20 - Vernal Equinox (aka. First Day of Spring!)

A date most of us think of as the official changing of the seasons, the vernal equinox marks the date when the sun crosses directly over the equator allowing both day and night to be about equal (equinox = "equal night"). The equinox occurs twice a year (vernal and autumnal equinox), and these brief but monumental moments owe their significance to the 23.4 degree tilt of the Earth's axis. Because of the tilt, we receive the Sun's rays most directly in the summer. In the winter, when we are tilted away from the Sun, the rays pass through the atmosphere at a greater slant, bringing lower temperatures. If the Earth rotated on an axis perpendicular to the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, there would be no variation in day lengths or temperatures throughout the year, and we would not have seasons.

Modern astronomy aside, people have recognized the vernal equinox for thousands of years. There is no shortage of rituals and traditions surrounding the coming of spring. Many early peoples celebrated for the basic reason that their food supplies would soon be restored.
Taken from: www.infoplease.com

March 22 - World Water Day
www.worldwaterday.org

This is a day of action to promote water as a public good, not a source of profit. Access to clean affordable water is a human right, and work is being done around the globe to achieve the goal of water justice now.

Resources:
www.RightToWater.ca
www.canadians.org/water
www.blueplanetproject.net

Some Water Conservation Tips:

- use natural cleaning products to reduce harmful chemicals washing down the drain
- reduce water consumption in home bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry
- repair leaky taps, install low-flow showerheads & water-efficient toilets
- recycle water (e.g. dishwashing water can be used in the garden)
- replace lawns with water-wise natural landscaping and native plants & grasses
- collect rainwater in rainbarrels for watering yards/gardens


March 28 - Earth Hour, 8:30-9:30 pm
www.earthhour.org

An annual international event organized by World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund held on the last Saturday of March, that asks households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights and electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change. Started in 2007. Takes place on March 28, 8:30 pm local time.
Obviously one hour of reducing our power is only a symbolic gesture, but hopefully does get both citizens and governments taking futher action toward general energy conservation.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Making herbal salves



The last two days I've been working on salves for our Homestead Herbals business. I prefer to steep the herbs in olive oil for 4-6 weeks in a solar infusion, but they can also be done if need be in a low temperature crockpot. Then the herbal oil is strained, blended with beeswax and other butters (cocoa butter, coconut oil, hemp oil, etc) depending on consistency and quality you want. Finally the melted oils are poured into jars and a few drops of pure essential oils are added to each container. It's satisfying to make our own skin salves and other herbal medicines, knowing that only pure ingredients go into the products, and how carefully the herbs have been grown, tended and harvested.

We make a range of salves to meet a variety of needs for the whole family: for everything from cuts & scratches (All Purpose) , to dry skin (Gardener's Hand), to sore muscles (Back Ache Balm), to diaper rash (Bottoms Up!) , to pregnant belly rub (Mama Belly Rub)! Even my husband, who is not a usual consumer of any cosmetic products, swears by the back ache balm for after hockey muscle pains, and the all-purpose salve and gardener's hand of which keeps his own personal jars handy!

We'll be hosting several herbal workshops this summer, including one on making herbal oils & salves with much more indepth information than this post. It will include a hands-on practical component where participants make their own salve to take home from calendula we harvest in our garden.

Spring walks & a spring greens quiche...mmm



I was desperate for a taste of spring today! I had already been out for a long ramble with our dog and baby, looking for early signs of spring and the bright sun was making us feel giddy. We discovered snowdrops peeking out of the soil in a neighbours front yard, a few buds sprouting on trees, and the rose bushes in our garden shooting out green runners to the sky. When we got home I let the hens out, and they happily roamed through the garden, pecking for seeds and taking dust baths in their old favourite sunny spot near the back patio.

With the warmer weather, the hens have been back to their more regular laying routine, meaning plenty of fresh eggs again for us! With the hens on my heels, I wandered through the garden beds hoping for some fresh green shoots - I came up with just enough for a tasty quiche - nettle tops, new garlic fronds, and parsley sprouting in the coldframe. The greens in the coldframe were also growing nicely, but not quite ready to be salvaged for a salad yet, but by April we should have fresh salad greens again for regular meals.

seedling starting guide - when to plant your seeds


I have had requests to re-post the seedling starting guide which we posted here last year. Here is the planting guide, based on frost-free date being May 24 (for our Zone 5 here in southern Ontario).

PLANTING GUIDE (based on frost-free date of May 24):

FEBRUARY (the greens listed here can continue to be planted throughout the growing season of course)
Start lettuce, chard, other greens in greenhouse or in flats indoors (to be planted out to greenhouse). Start selected medicinal and culinary herbs by middle of February. Some take 6-8 weeks to germinate!

10 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. March 15)
Start seeds of celery, eggplant, leeks, onion, pepper and flowers like impatiens, lobelia, verbena and perennials indoors.

8 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. March 29)
Start seeds of early head lettuce and flowers like begonia, coleus, nicotiana, petunia and salvia indoors.

7 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. April 5)
Start seeds of tomatoes, hot peppers, and early basil indoors.

6 WEEKS TO LAST FROST(aprox. April 12)
Start seeds of early left lettuce, early cabbages including cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and kale, and small seeded annuals indoors. DIRECT SEED broad beans, carrots, peas, spinach, leaf lettuce, turnips, dill, parsley, and hardy flowers such as alyssum, candytuft, pansies, poppies, snapdragons, stocks, sunflowers and sweet peas. Plant onion sets or transplant onion seedlings outdoors.

4 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. April 26)
Start melon seeds indoors. If desired, start seeds of late basil, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, large-seeded annuals, and flowering vines indoors in peat pots. DIRECT SEED radishes, beets, cabbages, chard, head lettuce, and flowers such as godetia, hollyhock, and mallow. Plant potato eyes and transplant seedlings of early cabbages, except cauliflower.

2 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. May 10)
DIRECT SEED corn, tender bulbs such as glads, and annual vines such as morning glory. Transplant early lettuce seedlings.

WEEK OF LAST FROST (aprox. May 17-24)
Around the last frost date you can finally direct seed beans, cauliflower, cucumber, squashes, heat-loving flowers such as zinnias, marigold, and lavatera. Transplant your tomaotes. If you've got them, transplant cauliflower, squash and cucumber seedlings.

1-2 WEEKS AFTER FROST (aprox. May 31-June 7)
Wait for a couple of weeks after the last frost before direct seedling lima benas, soybeans, melons and herbs such as basil, summer savory and sweet marjoram. Transplant celery, melon, peppers, eggplant seedlings when the night temperatures stay well above 10 degrees C. Plant sweet potato slips. Start second crop of kale seedlings, and reseed spinach and peas for second crop.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

KW Urban Harvest (fruit harvest network)

A new website has been launched locally - KW Urban Harvest - a group of volunteers dedicated to caring for and harvesting the vast amounts of forgotten bounty in our urban area. The KW Urban Harvest group is looking for both tree stewards and volunteers, and possibly have someone working on mapping out the trees in our cities. See their website: www.kwurbanharvest.org. Here's their statement:

We are urban dwellers who try to appreciate and share in the bounty of nature. We are learners, researchers, explorers, and harvesters. And we are just beginning. Please join us.

We are looking for tree stewards. If you own land on which a fruit tree or bush grows, we are hoping you will share the harvest. After your tree blossoms, a group of volunteers will come to pick the fruit. The bounty will be shared by thirds between the tree steward (you), the volunteers and a local charity. Please contact us through this website. And thank you for your generosity.

In addition, we are looking for volunteers. If you are interested in joining us for a fun hour of gathering and picking, please contact us through this website. Thank you for your interest in urban fruit harvesting.

Urban Farming segment on CBC's Fresh Air Today!

Our friend Angie Koch (of Fertile Ground CSA) was interviewed today on CBC radio's Fresh Air program. The segment featured a story about urban farmers and Angie is an excellent example of someone who did not grow up on a farm, but believes in quality food, sustainable agriculture, and community - and now, though living in a city (Kitchener) she is farming on the outskirts and bringing her produce back downtown to her loyal and growing customer base. Here's the link to the CBC feature: http://www.cbc.ca/freshair/ (go to March 7, 2009). Angie was also recently featured with an article in Briar Patch magazine, a "fiercely independent" magazine (whose byline is "fighting the war on error"!) based out of Saskatchewan. This was a food/farming issue, and Angie again speaking on the topic of this new breed of "urban farmers". www.briarpatchmagazine.com

Farm fresh eggs


I wanted to write about some of the meals we serve to our guests at Little City Farm B&B. Since starting to offer our 100-mile breakfast, we get more requests for this option than any other (we also offer various vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian options). All of our breakfasts tend to use mainly local, seasonal ingredients as that is how we try to eat on a daily basis. However, the 100-mile options include a little card which describes where all the ingredients have come from. We appreciate all the support and interest we've had from our guests for celebrating local foods, and hope they in turn will be inspired upon returning home to source out their own farmers and food producers. This is one of our main goals at our B&B - to encourage others toward choosing their own ways to incorporating simple and sustainable solutions into their everyday lives, in particular realizing that these choices are possible for those of us living in urban areas - not only possible, but necessary and vital. We hope we allow a few more people to dream about their own versions of urban homesteads - be it starting a garden, keeping a few chickens, setting up a compost system, growing tomatoes in the front yard, conserving greywater, reducing mainstream consumption in favour of supporting handmade or homemade options, and the list goes on. Urban homesteads are magical places where the imagination can thrive! There are endless projects to keep us busy and satisfied through each new season, once we realize the joy in simply living in a way that meets our day to day needs in creative, ecological, community-enhancing ways.

So, my post was farm fresh eggs and local 100-mile breakfasts...I was feeling grateful today for our hens, and that with warmer weather the egg laying has increased again. I collected a basket full over the past few days - which was surprising given over the previous weeks we would often only get 1-2 eggs per day (over winter the hens developed a bit of an egg-eating habit, craving calcium and also I believe feeling slightly "cooped up" with all the snow outside and no green places to roam about!).

Today for our 100-mile breakfast we served:
- local apple cider, unpasteurized (made from wild apples we harvested last season)
- homemade rosemary biscotti, with fresh rosemary from our greenhouse and local organic flour
- wholegrain bread made with local organic flour and served with homemade peach and strawberry jams (from berries we picked in June)
- scrambled free range eggs from our backyard hens, with dried garden thyme and our own sundried tomatoes, and local goat feta
- locally grown potatoes made into homefries, served with locally made salsa

Tomorrow's guests will get another variation on our 100-mile breakfast:
- local apple cider (again)
- local organic yogurt with warm berry sauce (local organic blueberries) and a sprinkle of homemade granola with local organic oats & local maple syrup
- maple glazed tempeh (locally produced tempeh), with our own cayenne peppers and herbs
- pancakes made with local organic flour, served again with local maple syrup
and we do serve fair trade organic coffee that we roast ourselves, served with the option of local organic cream for those who indulge

Hemp soaps



Very happy with the new recipe for my test batches of soaps using Ontario hemp oil, from the Hempola Farm near Orillia. This oil makes a wonderful "luxury" bar as it's so nourishing for the skin! These are by far the nicest bars I've made and I'm going to use this as my base recipe from now on. Hemp oil is wonderful - not only healthy for our skin and rich in nutrients, but it's a sustainable oil as it's an annually renewable non-intensive crop that needs no pesticides, and in this case comes from a source that's within 100 miles of our home (basically local)! Here are some photos of my recent batches: workers hand (with cornmeal scrub); gardener's hand (with oatmeal scrub and antibacterial essential oils); and a nice woodsy patchouli spice bar...mmm. I let all my soaps cure a minimum of 4-6 weeks to get a nice stable, hard bar that is long lasting.

I hope to have my etsy store up and running soon, selling soaps and other herbal products under "homestead herbals". There is a whole line of mama & baby items, including belly salves, tinctures, teas, oils, bottoms up salve, and more. I love testing out these products with friends/family and on our own babe, who has used the bottoms up salve and cradle cap oil with great success! I also attribute my speedy labour and recovery with all the copious cups of birthing blend tea I was drinking (including red raspberry leaf from our garden!) These herbal items really work and it's a joy to use what is growing at hand to make these simple, beautiful, healthful, life-enhancing items. I'm working on a new logo right now for a fresh look - and also slowly sourcing local shops and venues (health food stores, yoga studios, baby shop, etc) to sell these herbal products. All in good time of course, while trying to balance these creative pursuits with caring for our wee one.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Working toward a human-powered house



We're slowly moving toward more renewable energy here at Little City Farm - not only switching to a green energy provider, but also trying to reduce the use of electricity in our home. We got rid of the dryer long ago (even in the winter I can "freeze-dry" the diapers or bedsheets!), have never owned a microwave, and naturalized our lawn so we don't need to mow (we have an old-fashioned push mower for that tiny patch of grass left). Around the house we are conscious to turn off lights when leaving the room, keep our thermostat low and wear extra sweaters and slippers (we keep a basket of slippers by the front door for all guests to choose from), and turn off idling computers or "phantom lode" appliances like the stereo or DVD player.

Now we're slowly moving toward hand-powered appliances and tools - in the kitchen we're looking for a handcrank blender, coffee grinder, and grain mill; for the workshop we have a nice collection of hand tools like hammers and hand-saws; and for lighting we have several hurricane lamps, and a new candelabra in the dining room (we don't have any electrical lighting in the dining room, so have "romantic" candle-lit dinners every evening whether intentional or not!).

Now the fridge and freezer are another story. We have a plan to build a great root cellar/cold room in a section of the basement that's being renovated this summer. That will take care of cold storage for bushels of produce, as well as storage for our canned and fermented foods. I'd love to get plans for an old-fashioned ice chest, and Greg thinks he can build this kind of box under the kitchen sink adjacent to the outside wall. In winter it would be cold enough from the outside wall (or, alternately we could just store fridge-necessary items outside or in our front porch which is basically like a fridge anyway). Maybe we just need to learn to eat even more in season - what do we really need to store in our fridge in summer months when fresh produce can be harvested daily for meals. We don't eat meat so there's no need for storage of that kind, and otherwise it's mostly condiments, the occasional cheeses, tofu/tempeh, ricemilk and sometimes left-overs taking up shelf space in the fridge! As for the freezer, I think we'll start moving away from storing food items longterm in there - it's questionable already given they are stored in plastic ziploc bags or plastic containers (doesn't the plastic leach into our food if it's sitting in that space for months on end?). Otherwise, berries could be canned or made into jam; beans and peas can be eaten fresh, dried, or pickled/fermented; and the other items in the freezer are excess baked goods kept for a rainy day (or when surprise guests show up). Seems that the freezer should be an obvious one to let go of, and probably not too difficult to make that switch.

Ok, then there's the computer...and though we don't have tv channels, we do use our very old vintage television to watch movies. I guess we could work toward these being solar powered...

We'll keep you posted on plans for the ice chest, and for now do some more research on finding the best grain mill out there. We've come across Berry Hill Farm (near London, ON - www.berryhilllimited.com) and Lehman's Hardware (Ohio - www.lehmans.com) who both have great catalogues filled with homesteading items. There is also a new book available from New Society Publishers out west called "The Human Powered House", with simple designs for various bicycled-powered appliances. Here's their quick review of the book:

The Human Powered House: Choosing Muscles Over Motors
By Tamara Dean

What if I could harness this energy? An unusual question for anyone putting in a long stint on a treadmill perhaps, and yet human power is a very old, practical and empowering alternative to fossil fuels. Replacing motors with muscles can be considered a political act -- an act of self-sufficiency that gains you independence.

The Human-Powered Home is a one-of-a-kind compendium of human-powered devices gathered from a unique collection of experts. Enthusiasts point to the advantages of human power:

  • Portable and available on-demand
  • Close connection to the process or product offers more control
  • Improved health and fitness
  • The satisfaction of being able to make do with what is available

This book discusses the science and history of human power and examines the common elements of human-powered devices. It offers plans for making specific devices, grouped by area of use, and features dozens of individuals who share technical details and photos of their inventions.

For those who want to apply their own ingenuity, or for those who have never heard of human-powered machines, this book is a fine reference. For those who are beginning to understand the importance of a life of reduced dependency on fossil fuels, this book could be a catalyst for change.

Bullfrog Power - Choosing Green Energy

We've signed up for Bullfrog Power, a clean green renewable energy provider! We have been meaning to do this switch from our regular energy provider for quite some time, so we're happy to have finally logged onto their site and registered. We were not unhappy with the service by our local provider, and if they too offered a green renewable source we would have been fine to stay with them. At this point Bullfrog is the renewable source available to us and we are glad to have this option. Just to give an idea of what this means: in Ontario, Bullfrog uses a mix of 20% wind, and 80% certified low-impact hydro; whereas the system mix uses only 1% wind, 2 % low-impact hydro, and 39% nuclear, 37% coal, oil, and gas, and 21% other hydro.

Here's a quick excerpt from their website - www.bullfrogpower.com

Bullfrog sources power exclusively from generators who meet or exceed the federal government's Environmental Choice Program EcoLogoM standard for renewable electricity. Our power comes from clean, emission-free sources like wind power and low-impact water power instead of carbon-intensive sources like coal.

Conventional electricity production is among the largest industrial sources of carbon dioxide, a primary greenhouse gas that is linked to climate change. Electricity production is also a major source of pollutants including nitric oxide, sulphur dioxide, mercury and particulates that contribute to poor air quality and smog conditions.

When you sign up for Bullfrog Power, you are supporting clean, renewable electricity producers who are displacing polluting and carbon-intensive electricity production on the grid. It’s a great way to support a cleaner, sustainable energy future.

Bullfrog is committed to increasing the amount of green power on our regional electricity grid systems in Canada by helping to develop new renewable generation facilities. Several new turbines have been commissioned in Canada to meet the needs of bullfrogpowered homes and businesses. So when you make the choice to support Bullfrog Power, you can feel comfortable knowing that you’re helping to advance the development of renewable power in your region.


Spring is in the air (today)




We couldn't believe it was March 6th! The weather was incredible today, alternating between warm gusts of wind, sunny patches, and the occasional glimmer of a rain cloud. We even saw someone walk by wearing a tank top (ok, that was probably pushing the season just a little bit)...

So, with all our snow basically melted, the chickens were having a hey-day free ranging in our yard finding bits of grass and leftover garden greens, and climbing all over our compost bins. While Greg was fixing the screening on the hen house I spread out a clean pile of straw, of which we have plenty leftover from our house addition, and the hens were clucking away excitedly as they scratched for grains and the possibility of finding a few bugs. They make such loyal garden companions, and express such happy sounds, that it really is hard to be annoyed at them for constantly being underfoot! With no tree cover to the front yard at this time of year, it becomes very apparent that we have hens for any passerby who takes just a minute to slow down and peer through our wooden fence. I happened to look out the front porch window, and saw a couple with young son walking up our path and watching the hens. What a great opportunity to meet new neighbours, so I went out to say hello and found out they live a few blocks away. By now, we know of about 10 other households in K-W who have hens, and we hope to keep hearing of others who join the ranks of city chicken keepers - keeping hens builds community spirit, brings joy to many (anyone watching the silly hens during their constant antics can't help but smile), supports fresh extremely local food, etc etc... I'd love to get a duck and am working on Greg to get his support for this idea. Duck eggs are divine - we had one from our farmer friend Brenda last season, and ducks are not as hard on the garden as the chickens are.

All our basil, other herbs and early brassica seedlings have now sprouted. Even the stevia (at $5 for literally 5 seeds!) has come up. These few stevia plants will be prized possessions this year. I won't be forgetting to bring these precious plants in for the winter. Although I've been sprouting edible greens for us to eat all winter, the concept of sprouted seedlings that we are intending to grow into mature plants is a whole new satisfying level. We have wrapped a plastic sheet around our grow rack, and the heat is now around 25-30 C in there. It's like a mini sauna and we need to constantly keep up the watering so the tiny seedlings don't dry out. Last year we used an old plastic shower curtain, and it worked just as well. Will post photos shortly...

Monday, March 02, 2009

Farmhouse Meal

Speaking of delectable, even gourmet local foods prepared in simple ways in the home kitchen (see previous post on fermented foods), we felt so lucky to consider our meals of the day. We eat many local grown or prepared foods including many from our own garden, and try hard to eat in season as much as we can. Often we can start to take this for granted, but the day's meals seemed especially wonderful in the context of the earlier fermentation workshop. Here is what we had - no photos were taken as we were simply enjoying the foods as a family.

Brunch with our friend who dropped in from out of town:
- buckwheat flapjacks made with local organic flour (buckwheat and whole wheat) and local free range eggs from our backyard hens
- served with local maple syrup, homemade organic yogurt and strawberry/peach sauce made from organic fruit we harvested and preserved this past summer
- maple glazed tempeh made with locally produced tempeh (produced in a small-scale production facility on the next street over from our house), made with local maple syrup, and cayenne, garlic and herbs from our garden
- herbal tea from our own herb garden
- our baby Maya, who's just started solid foods, ate local pure applesauce we'd canned in the fall for her (made from wild harvested apples, and apples from our own property)

Dinner as a family consisted of this:
- creamy roasted carrot soup with local organic carrots, herbs from our garden
- served with a small dollop of organic yogurt and fresh rosemary (from our greenhouse)
- herbed biscuits made with local organic flour, served with organic goat chevre
- assortment of ferments - stuffed local wild grape leaves and dilly beans made by one friend; the best sauerkraut I've ever had, prepared by another friend; sour cherry wine made by another friend who led a winemaking workshop here last year
- as we were finishing up dinner, the same winemaking friend made a surprise visit with another large carboy of freshly racked local homemade rhubarb wine he wanted to share with us!
- fresh greens are sprouting in the greenhouse and soon we'll harvest our first salad of 2009

We felt well nourished, and so blessed by our incredible array of talented friends who are making such bold and wonderful forrays into local foods!

Let your taste buds tingle - fermented foods workshop!





What an incredible weekend of fine local food flavours! On Saturday we hosted a workshop here on lactic acid ferments - a category that includes delicious and health-promoting foods like sauerkrauts, pickles, miso, kimchi, tempeh, sourdough, yogurt, beers and wines. The two hour workshop did not feel long enough, as our facilitator covered a wide range of information including history, astounding stories of the health benefits, cultural traditions, "how-to" of fermented foods, and of course a tasting of many of her homemade ferments. We were priviledged to try her brined garlic, carrots/daikon/burdock, dilly beans, last spring's asparagus, wild harvested brined grape leaves, and year-old sauerkraut made into a rich salad dressing. Mmmmmm. Yes, our taste and olfactory senses were tingling alright!

Her basic recipe for salt water brine is simple - 1 litre distilled water (as chlorine or other chemicals can destroy the living bacterias which are needed for fermentation) at a ratio to 2 Tbsp sea salt. She also suggests adding 2 Tbsp of whey (skimmed off her homemade yogurt) to each jar to help activate and speed up the fermentation process. Here is one of the recipes she shared, which we made together as a group - a colourful winter slaw made with locally grown root vegetables, cabbage, garlic, kale and more. Just seeing this gorgeous raw "salad" shredded into a huge bowl on the table was enough to make us all salivate. Everyone took home a sample jar, and after watching these wonderful colours bubble and meld, and tasting the changes to our jars over the next days and weeks we will all be hooked on fermentation.

Colourful Winter Slaw
3 1/4 cups peeled & chopped roots
3 1/4 cups chopped onions or leeks
several garlic cloves, peeled
1 large bunch kale, chopped
add other spices as desired (bay leaf, horseradish, ginger, mustard seeds, dill, tarragon, clove)
Salt water (2 Tbsp sea salt: 1 litre water)

Mix all ingredients except the salt water. Crush slightly by hand to start breaking down vegetables making them more susceptible to absorbing the brine. Pack into sterlized jars up to 3-4 cm from the lip. If using metal canning lid, consider layering a piece of waxed paper inbetween so the vegetables don't react with the metal. Add 2 Tbsp whey and fill the jar to cove the vegetables by 1 cm with the salt water. Store at room temperature for 10 days, then in a cool dark place. When desired level of fermentation has been achieved the jars can be stored in the fridge.

An excellent book that covers a wide range of fermentation lore is Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. It's just worth reading on it's own, regardless of whether you plan to ferment or not, as he is such an engaging writer drawing the reader into this tradition of foods. He describes fermentation as a form of activism! Fermentation is unpredictabile, unique, strongly influence by local conditions, and engages the eater directly in the process of its preparation (often for years before the ferment is "ready" - e.g. 10-year old miso, cheese or wine that improves and changes flavour with age). This in opposition to mass produced consumer culture food that is denuded of nutrition, uniform to the extreme, and controlled by corporations leaving the eater powerless. He describes a society without "culture" (i.e. fermented food traditions) as having lost its culture, and encourages us to find ways to engage in our food and food histories again - be it growing, cooking, baking, fermenting...

Thanks to everyone who came - what a great group of food enthusiasts! We could have used another hour after the workshop just to get to know each other and share more recipes and ideas. We plan to offer this fermentation workshop again in the fall, at harvest time when we are all thinking of best ways to put food away for the winter. Not all of us have root cellars or solar dehydrators, not all want to use loads of electricity for canning or freezing foods, but fermented foods are simple, require no electricity, and retain optimum nutrition (in fact, nutrition is enhanced by the fermentation process). Stay posted on our website for updates on the next fermentation workshop date.