Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Little Bird Told Me Craft Sale Vendor Profile: Little City Farm

Over the weeks leading upto our annual handmade holiday craft sale, "A Little Bird Told Me", on Sat, Dec 10, we are highlighting each one of the participating vendors.  Here are a few comments from us (Greg and Karin) at Little City Farm.

Why we hold the A Little Bird Told Me handmade craft sale:

Little City Farm aims to promote sustainable city living through our workshops, events, and our "living example" of an urban homestead.  We also try to create unique opportunities for people in the community to meet, share their skills, and support each other's ventures.  Two examples of this are our annual Organic Seedling Sale (the Saturday of the May long weekend), and the "A Little Bird Told Me" handmade holiday sale (the second Saturday in December).

We have been holding the "A Little Bird Told Me" handmade holiday sale since 2007 in order to showcase unique eco-friendly well-crafted goods created by local artisans and crafters.  Each year the event grows, and we anticipate it with great enthusiasm.  We enjoy the way our little house is transformed, bursting at the seams with the crowd of folks who pass through the sale, and the busy bustle of the festive mood.  We love having many of our vendors return and welcome some new ones as well each year.  Yes, the sale is open to the general public (so please help spread the word!) 

What will Little City Farm be offering at the sale: 

Herbals & Baking!  

Herbals - We will be offering our usual selection of handmade natural soaps and herbal products (teas, salves, mama & baby items) all made in small batches using pure ingredients and herbs sustainably grown in our garden.  

Baking - One of Karin's dreams is to run a small eco-conscious bakery some day -- but for now she is satisfying this desire by providing artisan breads and wholesome baked treats on a small scale for the neighbourhood.  At the holiday sale we will have a good selection of these organic baked goods and will be offering them in a tiny cafe-like setting set up just for the day.  We use organic locally milled flour from Oak Manor, as well as organic local eggs, dairy, (or vegan alternatives) in our baked goods.  We will have fresh wholegrain breads, vegan shortbread, organic fair trade brownies, raw nanaimo bars, organic holiday cookies...also jams and jellies made with local organic berries...to name a few...

Make sure you stop by our cafe room to enjoy a baked treat while you are at our sale! 

Read more about Little City Farm at: 
www.littlecityfarm.ca
www.homesteadherbal.etsy.com






Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Little Bird Told Me Craft Sale Vendor Profile: Your Time Candles

Over the weeks leading upto our annual handmade holiday craft sale, "A Little Bird Told Me", on Sat, Dec 10, we are highlighting each one of the participating vendors.  Here is a short interview with Carol Kubassek from Your Time Candles:

Little City Farm: Describe the products you will have at the Little Bird Sale?

Your Time Candles: Artisan Beeswax Candles in a variety of styles and sizes, and natural stone candle holders. 
 
Little City Farm:  How did you learn this craft?

Your Time Candles: I had the fortunate opportunity to learn from a master chandler who, for 15 years, made it his mission to develop new beeswax candle making techniques and put to rest old myths of beeswax chandlery - gone were the days of half burned, inferior quality beeswax candles made with coarse natural fibre wicking that gave off a putrid scent.  As a former chef I’ve always been passionate about what I put on your plate - I want your approval so this demands my best offering.

Little City Farm: What inspires your craft?

Your Time Candles: I am inspired by quality - I wanted to offer beeswax candles that would burn properly.

Little City Farm: Describe how your craft is eco-friendly?

Your Time Candles: Pure beeswax is nature's renewable wax - no chemicals are used in the process. It all begins at the hive. I procure Canadian cappings wax from beekeepers who haven’t scorched or overheated the wax when separating out the honey. Then, in order to maintain the integrity of the wax, with patience, and through a gentle cleaning process, I purify the wax by filtering it down to one micron. When making the candles, in order to keep alive the full bodied aroma, rich yellow colour and texture, the beeswax is heated carefully in small batches until melted then poured into the candle moulds. Next, each candle is fitted with the perfect sized 100% cotton wicking. I'm also very passionate about recycling and all our packaging is very biodegradable made from recycled paper and hemp twine.

Little City Farm:  Do you have favourite music to listen to while you craft?

Your Time Candles: Bradfield and Anael.

Little City Farm: Do you have a website/blog/online store?

www.yourtimeboutique.ca
www.yourtimecandles.ca 


Find Carol and her pure beeswax candles at the A Little Bird Told Me Handmade Craft Sale, Sat December 10th at Little City Farm (508 Duke St W, Kitchener).








A Little Bird Told Me Craft Sale Vendor Profile: Once Upon A Tree

Over the weeks leading upto our annual handmade holiday craft sale, "A Little Bird Told Me", on Sat, Dec 10, we are highlighting each one of the participating vendors.  Here is a short interview with Trevor Ewert from Once Upon A Tree:

Little City Farm: Describe the products you will have at the Little Bird Sale?

Once Upon A Tree: Food grade salad and fruit bowls and cutting/serving boards in various sizes.
 
Little City Farm:  How did you learn this craft?

Once Upon A Tree: I've been involved in woodworking for over 15 years as a violin bowmaker and am now making wooden objects for a wider audience.

Little City Farm: What inspires your craft?

Once Upon A Tree: The materials I use are really the inspiration for the craft.  Domestic local hardwoods and burls present some of the most highly figured and beautiful wood that can be obtained anywhere.

Little City Farm: Describe how your craft is eco-friendly?

Once Upon A Tree: All of my bowls and boards are made from domestic species that have grown no further than 50 miles from here.  Much of the wood is salvaged from roadside work done by hydro or roads crews, and the rest is purchased from firewood/pallet operations.

Little City Farm:  Do you have favourite music to listen to while you craft?

Once Upon A Tree: Too noisy to listen to music with the machine tools running.

Little City Farm: Do you have a website/blog/online store?

www.onceuponatree.ca

Find Trevor from Once Upon A Tree selling his gorgeous one-of-a-kind wooden bowls and cutting boards at the A Little Bird Told Me Sale!




Monday, November 21, 2011

Winter Tonics : Elderberry Syrup

We like to prepare our herbal medicine cupboard with teas (e.g. a Winter Flu tea blend, and lots of peppermint), tinctures (e.g. astragalus, rosehip, elderberry, echinacea), and cough syrups (e.g. sage-horehound) before winter.  Recently a friend mentioned making elderberry syrup for her kids.  They loved it and it was a nice way to administer the healthful benefits of elderberries, without needing to use an alcohol base like a tincture would.  Syrups are preserved by honey or sugarand have a long shelf life.  So, we made a batch and yes, it is absolutely delicious.  It tastes sweet and rich like dense bursts of berries, and is thickened with local honey (we used buckwheat honey which made the syrup even darker).  Elderberries are one of the oldest remedies for colds, flu, respiratory infections, and many other conditions.  Elderberries are rich in antioxidants, contain 3 different flavonoids and boost the immune system.  The syrup can be taken by the teaspoonful (2-3 tsp/day as needed) or added to tea, juice, water, etc.  I like to spread it on toast or pancakes.  Isn't the best way to create vibrant health simply by "letting food be your medicine"?  Where to get elderberries?  I would highly advise planting at least one elderberry bush in your garden/yard, as this is such a valuable plant.  However, if you don't have a good local source, excellent quality organic dried elderberries can be purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Elderberry Syrup
1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried elderberries
3 cups water
1 cup honey (or sugar) for every 1/2 cup elderberry tea

1. Place elderberries and water into saucepan and bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.  Close lid and let steep for another 30 minutes after this.  You are making a very strong tea (infusion).

2. Crush berries, then strain the liquid through a fine-meshed cheesecloth.

3. Measure your liquid, and return it to the saucepan.  Add 1 cup honey per 1/2 cup elderberry tea.  Return to heat on low, stirring occasionally, and let the liquid boil down until you have the desired consistency you want for your syrup.

4. This is a very sweet syrup and can be preserved unrefrigerated.  Use 1-3 tsp per day, as needed.  Not for children under 2 years old.  If you wish to reduce the sweetness you can store your syrup in the fridge.


Make your own lipbalm

We've been busy stocking up our soaps and herbal products for the upcoming month of holiday craft sales and gifting.  A very simple project you can make at home is lipbalm, made with pure essential oils and healthful oils.  Lipbalm is a useful gift to give almost anyone, and practical for the upcoming cold dry winter months.  I make lipbalm in large batches with my 3 year old, who helps line up the tubes, stir the oils, and cap the lids on tight.  Here's our basic recipe (adaptable to the ingredients you wish to use):

Natural Lipbalm
20% local beeswax
25% coconut oil (or other cosmetic grade oil that is solid at room temp)
15% cocoa butter
40% sweet almond oil (or other liquid oil such as olive oil, sunflower oil, hemp oil)
1-5% vitamin E oil (adjust beeswax to get firm consistency of finished lipbalm)
a drop of pure essential oil per tube (e.g. lavender, sweet orange, peppermint)

Melt all ingredients (other than essential oils) in double boiler over low heat.  When completely liquified, do a consistency test by placing a few drops on a metal spoon and letting this cool (I put it into the freezer for a few minutes to harden).  If you like the hardened consistency then you are ready to pour the liquid lipbalm into your tubes.  If it's too hard add more oil; if too soft add more beeswax accordingly.  Add essential oils at the very end when your saucepan has been taken off the stove (do not heat your essential oils as this will degrade them).
 

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Little Bird Told Me Craft Sale Vendor Profile: Sustainable Cycles

Over the weeks leading upto our annual handmade holiday craft sale, "A Little Bird Told Me", on Sat, Dec 10, we are highlighting each one of the participating vendors.  Here is a short interview with Lauren and Jenn from Sustainable Cycles:

Little City Farm: Describe the products you will have at the Little Bird Sale?

Sustainable Cycles: Sustainable Cycles offers soft, absorbant and thin reusable menstrual pads made from organic cotton and bamboo viscose.  Jenn and Lauren also make one of a kind clothing, bags and accessories using reclaimed and earth-friendly materials like hemp and organic cotton.

Little City Farm:  How did you learn this craft?

Sustainable Cycles: Lauren's mom did a lot of sewing when she was growing up.  She taught Lauren how to sew and when she was 18 Lauren decided to start he own earth-friendly clothing company (then called Down 2 Earth Designs).  Jenn had some sewing skills when she met Lauren, but the more they crafted together, the more techniques Jenn picked up as she refined her craft.

Little City Farm: What inspires your craft?

Sustainable Cycles: We are inspired by the desire to create empowering, awesome wares, full of love and made with respect for the Earth and all it's creatures.  We hope that our art inspires others.

Little City Farm: Describe how your craft is eco-friendly?

Sustainable Cycles: We do our best to source the most sustainable materials we can find.  We use Canadian companies that carry oeko-tex and organic certifications.  We also use reclaimed materials from thrift stores and swaps.

Little City Farm:  Do you have favourite music to listen to while you craft?

Sustainable Cycles: Joanna Newsome.

Little City Farm: Do you have a website/blog/online store?

Sustainable Cycles:
www.sustainablecycles.ca
www.sustainablecycles.etsy.com 

Find Lauren and Jenn, and their beautiful wares (or should we say "wears"!) at the Little Bird Told Me sale, Sat Dec 10th at Little City Farm!


This Moment

{This moment} - This moment - an end of week ritual, no words, just a special photo to remember, savour, enjoy. 
  

Roasting coffee - a do-it-yourself method

We try to grow as much as we can of what we eat; if now grow then buy locally; if not locally available then buy fair trade and organic.  Coffee falls into this latter category.  Some would not consider roasting coffee to be a vital homesteading skill, but we have found it to be quite useful (operating a bed and breakfast and having at least one person in the household who enjoys coffee every day).  There are loads of fair trade, organic and shade-grown coffee brands available at health food stores, Ten Thousand Villages, most cafes, and even some grocery chains by now, and here in town we also have a few local roasteries that provide freshly roasted coffee beans. 

However, we have the do-it-yourself mentality and are always eager to learn new skills, so we set about learning how to roast good coffee (on a shoe-string budget, i.e. without buying an expensive home roaster).  Friends who have lived in various parts of Africa showed us the best way to roast coffee in a cast iron pan over the fire, but about two years ago we came across another interesting way to roast coffee - in the hopper of an electric popcorn maker.  We promptly found a used popcorn maker at the local thrift sore, and tried it out.  So simple, with great results!  Roasting coffee sends chaff flying everywere so it's wise to do it outdoors.  Depending on the roast you want, it can take from about 5-20 minutes, until the beans are crackling, dark and oily.  The smell is delicious!   Our popcorn maker takes a maximum of 110 grams of beans, and you need to stir occasionally to even out the roast.  Then let the beans cool in a collander, and voila, incredible home-roasted coffee.  We buy our beans green through a local friend who is directly involved with farmers in Guatemala through a project called Cafe Justicia.  They also sell their coffee roasted and ground, in various places here in town.




First snowfall (a hint of it)

First snow...didn't last more than a few minutes as it fell to the ground, but the weather has officially taken a shift toward winter now.  The garden is now mulched with straw and leaves, only kale and carrots still making a cheerful appearance; our clothing has begun to layer, our hat and mitten basket is full again, woolen scarves hang on the coat rack, and our insulated muck boots as well as winter footwear have been brought out from storage; our bicycle shed is nearly finished, but we'll continue to cycle to our errands around town (we love our children's bike trailer from Wike in Guelph) until the deep of winter is here; winter tonics, teas and syrups have been prepared and our herbal remedies shelf is well stocked up (read more on our favourite winter health tonics from last year's post here); the sky is more often grey than blue, the grass is brown and crackling, the air is chilly with occasional warm spells that surprise us..these are the slow rumblings of winter beginning in southern Ontario.  Very different from the brilliantly sunny, heavily snowy, unpredictably stormy Manitoba prairie I grew up in.






Friday, November 11, 2011

Back to soap making

I haven't had much time for soapmaking the past few months - garden and house projects have taken priority, and then I've also been busy teaching soapmaking classes this month (with more new classes coming in January), so it is exciting to get back into making new batches myself in time for the holidays.  My eager 3 year old helper was by my side for each of these four batches yesterday, wearing her long rubber gloves, doing a little stirring, sifting herbs, measuring the essential oils for me, and choosing the nicest lavender sprigs to lay on top of the goatmilk bars.  The bars featured below: lavender-oatmeal goatmilk; peppermint poppyseed; patchouli cedar and sage; rosemary lemongrass (it's light green from the french green clay, and strong infusion of rosemary tea).  Each batch we make uses as least one herb grown in our garden. 






Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Little Bird Told Me Craft Sale Vendor Profile: Elena Christy

Over the weeks leading upto our annual handmade holiday craft sale, "A Little Bird Told Me", on Sat, Dec 10, we are highlighting each one of the participating vendors.  Here is a short interview with Elena Christy (handmade eco-friendly accessories):

Little City Farm: Describe the products you will have at the Little Bird Sale.

Elena: Handmade accessories with a focus on using re-worked, second hand and eco-friendly fabrics and materials. Products include:
~ Chunky wool scarves and cowls
~ Jersey knit cowls
~ Laptop sleeves (ready made for mac laptops, pc laptop cases can be made to order as they all come in varying sizes)
~ Cloth napkins
~ Yoga bolsters made with green cotton (cotton that is not certified organic but has not been sprayed)

Little City Farm: How did you learn this craft/art?

Elena: I am mainly self-taught with a few one-day workshops here and there. 

Little City Farm: What inspires your craft/art?

Elena: I get great satisfaction out of making something for someone that they will love for a long time.  I also really enjoy the process of thinking through how to execute a project.  I make all my own patterns and love the creative challenge it offers.  I love turning an idea into reality and have a strong interest in aesthetically beautiful yet practically functional things. 
  
Little City Farm: Describe how your craft/art is eco-friendly?

Elena:  I try to re-work old clothes or use second hand fabric from thrift shops, or fabric people are trying to get rid of rather than buying new. When I do buy new fabric and materials I try to purchase eco-friendly fabrics and materials to make my items such as green cotton or eco-wool.

Little City Farm: Favourite music to listen to while you craft?

Elena: Right now I have been listening a lot of Mumford and Sons, Foster the People, Morning Benders, Bon Iver, Wintersleep and a little Broken Bells.

Little City Farm: Do you have a website/blog/online shop?
  
Elena: echristy.ca is coming soon…hopefully :)




In celebration of neighbourhood potlucks

There are so many disheartening stories that make it into the daily news, that is is especially encouraging when you read such a positive one as this - the celebration of community through the simple act of hosting weekly neighbourhood potlucks - read more about the Wednesday night potlucks hosted by Al and Wendy here.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Heirloom garlic project

We are taking part in an heirloom garlic project with Seeds of Diversity, Canada's non-profit seed saving organization.  There are over 200 varieties of heirloom garlic being grown and saved across Canada as part of this project, many on small urban farms or gardens such as ours, as well as many larger farms across the country.  The idea is to grow the garlic for two years, reporting on growing conditions each year, as well as saving the garlic to send back to the Seeds of Diversity seed bank.  We chose to grow 3 soft necked varieties, as the other garlic we usually grow in our garden is hard necked Rocambole variety that has scapes we also harvest and use.  The soft necked varieties don't form scapes, but tend to be longer keepers.  We were given varieties called Applegate (a superb mild Artichoke variety of garlic), Early Silverskin (white-pink skin, great for braiding), and Red Toch (another Artichoke variety with a little more heat than the Applegate).  We had fun planting about 100 cloves were today, labelling the plots well so they don't get mixed up, and we are crossing our fingers for a good crop next summer.  Seeds of Diversity is always looking for more participating in growing their vast selection heirloom varieties of vegetables, so if you are at all eager to learn more or get involved do check out their website. 


In our November greenhouse

We are still harvesting greens (kale, chard, tatsoi, parsley, bunching onions) from the cold outdoor garden, but in our mini garden inside the greenhouse new young exciting shoots and sprouts are starting to come up.  We'll be eating from these over the winter months (some as sprouts, some as full leafy greens) -- kale, chard, mizuna, lettuces, green onions, radish, cilantro, beet greens, spinach -- and we also have pots of herbs, kale, marigolds and calendula, and a few delicious sweet and precious strawberries that are still flowering.  Outside we'll put in our grow tunnels (greenhouse grade plastic pulled over a frame that sits on the raised beds), and I have filled a raised box with soil to use as a cold frame under old winter glass. A good standby for winter or cold hardy gardening techniques is Eliot Coleman's Winter Harvest Handbook, or the Four Season Garden.




Herbal order for local midwives

We were very pleased to be asked to prepare a batch of herbal post-partum packages for a new local midwifery office - the Blue Heron Midwives located in uptown Waterloo.  This beautiful new clinic has just opened and is having their grand opening event in a few weeks: Nov 25 at 2 pm.  The midwives that gave me the tour when I dropped off the herbs (i.e. post-partum bath teas and calendula healing salves) mentioned that they are very interested in taking new clients, so this is worth noting for our local readers who may be looking for a midwife.  It's often difficult to get a midwife here in town if you don't call right away, so it's wonderful to have another office open up to provide what is obviously a much needed service.


This Moment

{This moment} - This moment - an end of week ritual, no words, just a special photo to remember, savour, enjoy. 


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A Little Bird Told Me Craft Sale Vendor Profile: Jesse Robertson Re-Cycled Crafts

Over the weeks leading upto our annual handmade holiday craft sale, "A Little Bird Told Me", on Sat, Dec 10, we are highlighting each one of the participating vendors.  Here is a short interview Jesse Robertson, Re-Cycled Crafts:

Little City Farm: Describe the products you will have at the Little Bird Sale (e.g. materials you use, who your products are geared toward, your process, etc).
 
Jesse: I collect and recycle used bicycle components to make unique crafts. The pieces are professionally brazed, so are very sturdy. Things I’ll be displaying will include candle stands, candelabras, bottle openers, and more.  The candle stands hold tea lights or tapers, and the candelabras hold three of either. Some of the bottle openers include an integrated 15mm wrench, and all have been rigorously tested on a standard ¾ inch beer bottle cap. These re-cycled crafts are great for anyone who enjoys cycling, candle-lit dinners, one-of-a-kind conversation pieces or… well, opening bottles.

Little City Farm: How did you learn this craft/art?
Jesse: I’ve been working as a bicycle mechanic for over 5 years, and I’ve always been interested in finding potential new uses for the interesting looking bits of worn out components. The pieces are primarily brazed by a friend, and the rest has been trial and error!

Little City Farm: What inspires your craft/art?
Jesse: A love of bicycles and their parts, and re-imagining uses for things that would otherwise be thrown away.
 
Little City Farm: Describe how your craft/art is eco-friendly?
 
Jesse: The components I work with have all lived out their useful lives on bicycles, and would otherwise have been thrown away. No new components are used in the process.

Little City Farm: Favourite music to listen to while you craft? 

Jesse: Usually something by Tom Waits, but I’ve also been on a pretty serious Leatherface kick lately… or any good anarcho-punk.

Come find Jesse and his recycled bicycle artworks at A Little Bird Told Me Sale on Sat, December 10th at 508 Duke St W!



Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The great neighbourhood pumpkin patch

The first ever "great neighbourhood pumpkin patch" was held on our street tonight.  Inspired by the great  "pumpkin patches" that spring up in neighbourhoods in Toronto and Montreal (and last year uptown Waterloo), we spent a little time organizing for this same kind of event to take place in a nearby park.  The idea is simple: people bring their carved pumpkins to display in one large communal patch on the evening after Halloween, offering an opportunity to share creativity and simply give neighbours a chance to meet each other in an informal setting.  In Toronto many of the pumpkins on display have been grown in a community garden within the neighbourhood, which adds another layer of community involvement that we love.  On fairly short notice, and as a first time event, we think it was a grand success - there were nearly 50 pumpkins gathered and an estimated 75-80 adults and children mingling in the park.  We plan to do this again next year, and hope it can become an annual event that brings people from this neighbourhood together.