Monday, October 24, 2016

Announcing! Dec 10 Handmade Holiday Sale at Little City Farm!

Mark your calendars!  Our annual A Little Bird Told Me Handmade Holiday Sale is now only about 8 weeks away.  Saturday, December 10th, from 4-8 pm at Little City Farm.

We are excited to host this beautiful sale every year, bringing together a variety of local artisans who create unique items with an eco-conscious mind.  Many of the items are made with reclaimed or repurposed materials, and others are made using organic ingredients or natural materials. 

This year you'll find:
  • woolen clothing
  • natural wool and wood toys
  • jewelry from reclaimed materials 
  • organic baking (including the favourite gluten-free vegan gingerbread pictured below)
  • handmade chocolates & truffles (including our famous raw nanaimo bars - selling out quickly!)
  • paper lanterns
  • functional pottery
  • organic soaps & botanicals 
  • household accessories & decor
  • eco living books, and more...
We'll be highlighting this year's vendors over the next weeks, leading up to the sale, so please stay tuned!  We hope to see you there!

Sprouting basics for fall & winter health!

Thanks to everyone who dropped by our Little City Farm booth at the Kitchener Public Library's 2nd annual DIY Festival.  We were there to share basic homesteading skills, and we decided to talk about how to grow sprouts at home.  Here are a few basic tips and suggestions for successful sprouting, perfect to get started now that the weather is turning colder and we are no longer eating fresh greens (other than kale and chard) from our local gardens!

The Basic Steps of Sprouting

  1. Rinsing – water is key – use lots, rinse 2-3 times per day, keep sprouts in cool location.
  2. Draining – it is essential that sprouts are well-drained after rinsing!
  3. Air Circulation – keep sprouts in well-vented area with good air circulation, not in a closed cabinet.
  4. Cleanliness – start with clean seed, sterilized containers, and wash well between uses.
  5. Storage – store completed sprouts in fridge – some sprouts can keep up to 6 weeks if stored properly.

Hints and suggestions for sprout success

  • Alfalfa and other small seeds can be grown up to 4 cm long. A 25 g bag of alfalfa seed can grow 45 cups of sprouts!
  • Lentils & peas are best small, with sprouts up to 1 cm long. They get tougher with more growth.
  • Miss a rinsing? Just continue normally if sprouts seem alive and show no signs of mold. They should be fine.
  • Mold – if you see a spot of mold, remove it with a good margin of healthy sprouts. Don’t mistake the fuzzy white root hairs of radish, canola, mustards, and other crucifers for mold.
  • Taste – be sure to taste sprouts as you go along; use them when you like them.
  • Greening – to green up sprouts (chlorophyll), leave them without a cover for a few hours in bright light (not direct sunlight).
  • Temperature – sprouts grow best between 18C-25C (65F-75F). Use lukewarm water for soaking and rinsing in a cooler temperature, and cold water in a warmer room temperature.
  • Drainage – drain the sprouts well before they go in the fridge. Rinse in the morning, cover, and refrigerate in the afternoon.
  • Mung beans – grow best in a drainable tray or basket. They like extra rinsing, and are best grown in complete darkness to prevent bitterness.

Benefits of Growing Sprouts at Home

the fastest, easiest, most affordable way
to grow your own food!

  • very affordable food source 
  • accessible food source (grow right in your kitchen)  
  • allows you to eat extremely local all year round 
  • sprouts are nutrient-dense food, high in vitamins and minerals
  • enjoy unique flavours & textures 
  • sprouted food is easier on the digestive system 
  • sprouts are living foods full of health and vitality for us
  • sprouting makes nutrients more available to our bodies 
  • easy to grow (takes only a few minutes per day) 
  • sprout growing takes up little space (a kitchen counter or top of fridge) 
  • organic and non-GMO food source
  • gardening satisfaction for you (even in winter)
What can you sprout?
Microgreens (e.g. arugula, brassicas, chard, radish)Micro-herbs (e.g. basil, dill, cilantro, chives)
Leafy greens & shoots (e.g. peas, sunflower, buckwheat, wheatgrass) True sprouts (e.g. alfalfa, red clover, radish, mustards, brassicas)
Legumes & pulses (e.g. peas, chickpeas, lentils, mung, adzuki) Grains (e.g. rye, wheat berries, spelt)
Nuts & seeds (e.g. sunflower, almond, sesame) and more!

Simple Mason Jar Sprout Method

  1. Soak seeds in cool filtered water.  Use aprox. 2 Tbsp seeds per 500 ml jar.
  1. Cover with mesh lid and let soaking seeds sit at room temperature for 4-12 hours (depending on 
    size of seeds).
  1. Drain & rinse in the jar until water runs clear.
  1. Prop jar on angle to drain completely.

  2. Repeat 2 times per day. Sprouts are ready to eat in about
    4-8 days, depending on size of seed. Store in fridge for about one week (drain completely before storing).

Information, seeds & sprouting equipment

Mumms Sprouting Seeds (Saskatchewan) –
Sproutman Publications –
Toronto Sprouts –

International Sprout Growers Association –

The Sprout People –

Ann Wigmore Institute –

Sprout Master (Ontario) –

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Autumn Lacto-Fermentation

Last weekend's Kraut & Kimchi class is a favourite that we offer several times a year.  At this time of season the group make an autumn root-veggie inspired lacto-fermented kraut to take home.  We had lots of samples to taste and show the breadth of flavour and texture that can be done with lacto-fermentation.  Then the hands-on work began, at which point many hands made short work of a huge pile of carrots, daikon, beets, cabbage, turnip and more!

Waldorf-inspired art for kids: peg dolls

Today's art class was all about peg dolls!  The kids each made one doll to take home, little Autumn gnomes with wool capes and hoods.  We read a few stories about gnomes (or tomtens) to get into the spirit of making our own gnome friends, and talked about how they are sometimes thought of as guardians of the home, garden, forest or farm. 

Making gnomes really brought out the creativity in the kids - each gnome had it's own personality as there were numerous embellishments added (eyes, beads, buttons, long braided hair, shoes!); there were different coloured capes and embroidered stitching by the older kids; there were leaves, feathers and acorns pasted onto the gnome outfits; extra clothes and scarves made for the gnomes, and so on!   We hope these unique gnomes will become helpful little guardians in each of the children's homes!

Waldorf-inspired art classes for kids: wool felting

Last week the kids in our Waldorf art classes tried their hands at another wool project - wool felting.  Working with soft wool roving in vibrant colours is always a favourite kids activity.  The tactile nature of wool felting is soothing and relaxing, and the art that comes from it is always beautiful even for a beginner. 

In the class we talked about where we find felted wool in our lives - maybe as coasters, under table or chair legs, made into warm waterproof slippers or winter boot liners, wool diaper covers for babies, and even (in some cultures) traditionally made into houses such as the amazing wool yurts in Mongolia in which whole families can live!

There are many ways to felt wool - any which of us hasn't done some accidental wool felting at least once when we shrink a favourite 100% wool sweater in the wash?  The basic idea with wet felting is to use hot water, soap, and friction, to bring the wool barbs together tightly into a wool mat.  The more friction or agitation, the tighter the wool felt will become.  There is also needle felting in which a sharp felting needle is used to poke at the wool barbs to bring them together.  We used several techniques with the kids - the younger group wet felting using a simple ziploc bag method (see below), and the older group used bubble wrap and mat rolling method (see below).  We used white wool roving as our base "canvas" and layered colours on top.  There were such lovely art pieces that came out of this, and most of the kids could have keep going long after class was over. 

How to wet felt with wool:

Ziploc Bag Technique (great for younger kids)
a) Lay out base wool roving (white) on a table.  Mist with hot soapy water.  Press firmly down with both hands on wet wool to flatten.
b) Layer any coloured wool into a pattern as desired on top of the white wool roving.  Mist again.
c) Place wet wool into ziploc bag, then flatten it out as best you can before sealing the bag.
d) Agitate the bag, pressing, pounding and rolling it, to felt the wool.
e) Take out wool, let dry on flat surface.  It will tighten up and shrink a little as it dries overnight.

Bubble Wrap & Mat Technique (great for older kids)
a) Lay out bamboo sushi mat, and cover with one piece of bubble wrap that is a similar size to the mat.
b) Now lay out while wool roving on the bubble wrap, and mist with hot soapy water.
c) Lay out colours of roving into a picture or pattern as desired.  Mist again. 
d) Carefully roll up the sushi mat around the bubble wrap and wool. 
e) Agitate the wool by rolling and pressing the mat as firmly as possible.  The longer this is done, then more felted the piece will become.
f) Unroll then let wool art piece dry on a flat surface.  It will tighten up and shrink a little as it dries overnight.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Waldorf-inspired art classes for kids: knitting

In today's art class for kids, our second in the series of ten, we introduced the concept of knitting.  We started our group out with a classic story about wool, Pelle's New Suit - where a boy goes step by step from sheep to shirt (shearing, carding, spinning, dying, weaving, and sewing the wool).  The kids got to feel natural wool roving noticing how soft it was and a bit sticky from the lanolin still left on the wool.  They saw how it looked when it was dyed, and tried carding with simple carding brushes (just like grandmother does in the story!).  The younger group just got a taste for working with wool by doing very simple finger knitting and creating a wool flower craft with their finger-knit chain.  The older group had the chance to work with knitting needles, learning how to properly roll their yarn skein into a ball (working in pairs to do this was a nice teamwork activity), casting on their stitches, and starting the first rows of a small project.  They will continue to work on this small project over the remainder of our weeks together as a way to continue to practice their knitting skills bit by bit.

Sometimes knitting can feel frustrating at first as you fumble with holding needles and making stitches (for any beginner, both young or old) so working in small doses, with large needles and soft beautiful bulky good quality wool, will hopefully make this more manageable for our learners.  Our theme in all our art classes is simply to each try our best and find the beauty in using different textures, colours and natural materials, not to strive for perfection!  Since these classes are just a short introduction to our different Waldorf-inspired art forms we also hope the parents will continue to explore these various art forms at home with their children.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Practical Herbalist series 2016

We wrapped up our 4 month long Practical Herbalist series here yesterday, with a busy class of making winter remedies like tinctures, fire cider, and cough syrup.  This wonderful group of 14 students has been meeting here once a month (June through Sept) as part of this 4 part series.  Over the months we covered all the basic approaches to making "practical herbal" remedies using simple home medicine-making methods in order to feel confident to handle the basic aches, pains, coughs and colds, cuts and scrapes of regular life.  Students also had the chance to watch the gardens grow throughout the season, harvest and dry herbs, and make further projects at home.  We plan to offer this series again in the new year, and details will be posted over the coming months on our workshop page.

The grand finale of this class was an amazing herbal potluck to end the morning.  Each student brought something to share made with herbs we had talked about during the class (or other favourite herbs).   We love to take our "medicine as food", and so we savoured herbal pestos, herbal oils, salads infused with spruce tips dressing, baked treats with lavender, herbed potato fritatta, fennel-rosehip kombucha, and much more! 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Mendfulness Retreat at Little City Farm

This past weekend we held our first Mendfulness Gathering here at Little City Farm - an amazing day-long fibre arts retreat that focused on repurposing, reusing and upcycling clothes and working with natural fibres (e.g. spinning and felting wool, natural plant dyes on fabric).  There were 12 workshops that participants could choose from throughout the day, including pattern drafting, creative mending, cyanotype prints on fabric, rag rug making, basket making, and more!  Also great conversations throughout the day, yoga at noon, wood-fired flatbreads and wholesome delicious food at lunch, a free swap give-away area, and mini marketplace at the end of the day.  What a full, inspiring (and rainy) day filled with hands-on projects to take home, and wonderfully creative people all around.  Thanks for everyone's help in making this retreat wonderful, all our volunteers, photographer, workshop facilitators, and participants!

We hope to host monthly "mendfulness" get-togethers (like old-fashioned "mending circles") here at Little City Farm over the winter, to bring together friends, great food, and a chance to share our skills at repairing and repurposing our clothes.  By learning to mend, darn, patch and repurpose our clothes we are not only saving money for our families, but also keeping perfectly good clothes from going to the landfill, and empowering ourselves with new skills to make us more active producers as opposed to passive consumers.  Could you start a mending circle in your neighbourhood?

Here are a few photos from the day -despite the rain we had many busy hands sharing skills and doing beautiful work: