Tuesday, April 30, 2013

DIY Rain Barrel

So apparently Canadian Tire has these here DIY rain barrel kits:
All the parts are are included in the package and it's really not that expensive. $30 gets you all the pieces to convert any large bin or container into a rain barrel!  Strangely, I've never seen rain barrels cost less than $100 to buy outright.  Considering you can use a free, unused old garbage can–I think you can get yourself a pretty good deal!
Rain barrel building, soon to come!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Clothing Sustainability

One of the best skills I ever learned as a teenager was how to sew.  I was just generally interested and made up a lot of stuff in high school (ooooh boy Grade 10 fashion show!  There were handmade wings...  That's all I need to say, I think, haha). I did at one point do a short 6 week course at a sewing store to learn some basic sewing machine technique and my mum taught me some basic stitchwork.  Needless to say, I'm no professional seamstress but I've saved a lot of time and money doing my own alterations.  The only things I generally take in is changing zippers (so finicky!  but totally doable) or alterations on really fancy clothes.  I think I'll put some basic stitchwork on here soon...  To be continued...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Juicer "Garbage" Pate!

I was making a carrot and orange juice today and was wondering what other kind of recipe I could make.  I juiced all the carrots first and decided to try making a carrot pate.  I love carraway seeds so after looking around for a carrot-carraway pate recipe, I made up my own!

Juicer garbage from approx 2.5lbs carrots (a bag and a bit)
Approx 1/2 cup tahini
Approx 2 tbsp toasted carraway, crushed after toasting
salt and pepper

Mix it all together and voila!  Delish!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Homemade Decongestant / Mind-Body Health

I just came across this natural decongestant recipe that sounds wonderful. I'm hoping never to need it but if I do...

As a note on hoping never to need it...
I have found incredibly strong proof (experience over and over and over again) that mental and emotional health are INEXTRICABLY tied to your physical health.
When I am calm, chew well, and am in good company–my digestion is unnoticeable (and so healthy).
When I inhale my food, rush, am not paying attention to it, and am stressed–My digestion immediately fails (read bloating, indigestion, gas, stabbing pains).
When I am stressed, overloaded, overwhelmed–I get sick.
When I take time for myself, breathe, sleep extra, do nice things for myself when I'm getting sick–I get better quickly.
If I stay stressed, overloaded, and overwhelmed when I'm getting sick–I'm sick for 2 weeks.
When I'm feeling like I'm about to have a panic attack and I choose to breathe, settle, and be 5 minutes late for work–I am ok again.
When I'm feeling like I'm about to have a panic attack and I choose to rush to work and stress about lateness–I burst into tears there and cannot stop crying.

Your mind and body are inextricable connected.
Take a moment to pay attention to your body, just a moment, once a day.
See where it can take you.
Your body is full of it's own intelligence, you just need to remember how to listen.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Free Garden Edging

As we were digging out my plot, there were TONS of rocks coming up and being shifted out to the yard. Today I started collecting those and making a free edging for the plot!  Free and cute!
If I can't edge the whole plot with rocks from my own garden, I'll start collecting them in my walks.  It will be a nice habit to start!  The city is beautiful when you keep your eyes open for little treasures :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Just Do It

It's that easy.
They listen.
(Except when people are campaigning... Apparently that's not jumk mail...)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Another "Garbage" Recipe!

I came across a pretty awesome easy recipe that I've used a bunch of times now whenever I steam a lot of large greens like kale and swiss chard. I've seem people just throw away the stems... Don't! Eat them! Delicious!

Steam kale, chard, and any other hearty green stems for a few minutes until mostly cooked through
Mix together with some tomato sauce, a freshly blended tomato or tomato paste
(I usually do it just with these but I fot fancy and added some sauteed onion and garlic and grated fresh zucchini too)
Top with breadcrumbs, organic cornmeal, crushed nuts, or any other crunchy type topping.
Top that with cheese, or vegan cheese, or nut cheese.
Bake until cheese is melted and everything is heated through.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Gardening Journal

Do it!
First time I've remembered to do it and I'm already relieved! Especially since I'm doing things on such a large scale.  Mostly I'm looking forward to not having to figure out dates as much next year as I'll know when I planted everything! Further I'll know what worked well where when I did what–supremely valuable info!

Monday, April 22, 2013

First Potato Planting!

I'm building a stacking potato planter instead of needing to pile up soil on the ground.  The sprouts will shoot up and you just keep adding soil and potentially new seed potatoes to the bag as they grow. They will stack tall.  At the end of the season, you dump the soil and have a whole whack of potatoes! I have 3 bags going so I won't need to harvest everything at the same time. Here's how it goes:

My happy chitted potatoes, ready to go into the ground:
As I ran out of time to sew my own, I copped out and purchased 3 of those fold-y laundry-type bags from Dollarama (I know, I know!!) I punched a few holes in the bottom for drainage:
 Tied down the sides with the ripped up pant ties I made yesterday, through a little hole I made 2/3 down the side of the "planter":
Filled the "planter" with about a foot of soil, a bit of ash for potassium and blood meal for nitrogen (unfortunately I don't have any phosphorus, which potatoes really love...  Oh well, we'll see what happens!)
I made 4 holes a few inches deep (bag itself is approximately 2.5 feet in diameter), placed a potato with 3 sprouting eyes (or three small potatoes with one eye each) in each hole, with the eyes facing up, and covered with an inch or two of soil.
Water and wait to see what happens!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Better Plant Ties

Old ripped up pants?
Or beautiful new plant ties? (They'll be softer than twine so won't dig into the tomato stems!)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Seed Companies

I just discovered recently that Monsanto keeps trying to patent more of our food! Have a read here:
and sign the petition here!

In buying my seeds, I will now check in on these forums and make sure I ask to make sure none of the seeds came from Seminis. I lucked out and most of my previous purchases are safe. The rest came from knowledgeable organic farmers so I'm assuming those are safe as well:
Moral of the story, keep your eyes open!  Don't buy those mystery dollar store or Canadian Tire brands without checking where they come from first!

Friday, April 19, 2013

More Direct Seeding and Bean Teepees

More cold-tolerant veg in the ground:
Garlic Seeds
Mixed Greens
Shelling Peas
Scarlet Runner Beans

Also, here's my hopefully not too rickety bean and cucumber teepee structure!
Simple to build and free!  I used donated bamboo and wood stakes, and simple twine–
1). Dig deep and narrow holes in the ground for your stakes
2). Put in each stake and fill in with soil (should stand on it's own)
3). Creatively tie together with twine (I am not a girl scout!)
4). Lay the longest top pole across and tie to other stakes with more twine.

I tied my whole structure to a stairway overhang so hopefully it won't fly away or topple over anywhere!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Plot Planning–Timelines

6 weeks before last frost
-Start indoors:

3 weeks before last frost
-Start indoors:

As soon as soil can be worked–under row cover until last frost
-certain peas and beans (sugar daddy snap pea / scarlet runner bean / tom thumb shelling pea)
-Beta vulgaris (swiss chard + beets)
-Lemon Balm
-Korean Mint
-Watercress (may not get to it this year)

After Last Frost (May 9 this year in Toronto)
-Bush beans (Royal Burgundy Bean + Tendergreen)
-Trionfo Violeto pole beans
-Morning Glories
-Pattypan Squash
-Plant out seedlings:

1st Week July
-Start indoors:
          -Winter Squash

1st Week August
-Plant out seedlings:
          -Winter Squash

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

First seeds planted outdoors!

Today was an exciting day: the first of my seeds got planted outdoors!
Heirloom Organic Romaine Lettuce
Organic Ruby Red Swiss Chard
Pak Choi
Organic Russian Red Kale
Organic Bloomsdale Spinach
I was going to plant more but ran out of time...  Tomorrow maybe?

Seeing as all my cold hardy veg are nitrogen hungry, I mixed in a bit of extra coffee grounds into the soil before I planted my seeds.

For speed of planting, I used a tool that I don't know the name of that I got from my parents house to make narrow troughs to lay the seeds in.
I spaced the rows according to the directions on the seed packets or information that I found online and recovered with the displaced soil.
After I finished and lightly watered the ground where I planted, I covered the plot with a floating row cover (with rocks on the corners) to keep the soil warm on the still cool nights:
So soothed :)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Plot Planning–Layout

Here's the layout of my plots.
My house:
A small collection of garlic, tomatoes, basil, and giant sunflowers near my front gate.
Potatoes in sacks along my fence with morning glories climbing for some privacy.
A west-facing perennial and herb garden, with a few callaloo near my my stairs and some blue cherry tomatoes to climb by railing near my porch.
A corner full of radishes and peas to be replaced with winter squash.
A slightly shaded (by the giant maple) south facing wall of cool hardy veg.
Wild ginger to be planted under my maple.
A larger south-east plot of climbing beans, peas, cucs and a few okra plants (if they germinate!)

My plot at Scadding Court:
An simple and easy to maintain collection of bush beans, pattypan squash (also bush) and delicious paste tomatoes.  Simple and easy to maintain because it's farther from my house than last year. I may potentially plant some radishes in what will become the shade of the tomatoes if I don't have enough room at my plot (if I decide to plant more peas!)
It's very exciting and kind of terrifying.... Beauty!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Biking Rain-Gear

I went to Mountain Equipment Co-op today to buy a new backpack as both of the straps on mine have broken, fabric has ripped, and the shoulder straps are mashed. It's been a good 4 years with the current bag, I think... (I'm bad at purchasing new things!)

While I was there, I also walked by the clothing section and realized that I should invest in a pair of rain pants for biking. I don't need anything super fancy–I managed to get a pair for $40–and even that will be a good investment. I'm getting to the point that I care less and less about weather, and am happy to bike far more often then most around me, the self-proclaimed "fair-weather cyclists". It's empowering to have control over when I need to go where I need to go, to get my exercise, and to get a daily dose of fresh air too.  After acclimatizing to that, it's really hard to shift to relying on transit in the winter or when it rains–it screws with my travel timing, efficiency, and sanity! Sexy....

I realized that I don't need a jacket at the moment, seeing as I'm usually wearing a jacket anyway, which I take off when I get where I need to be (so it can dry off). Also I can't afford a 170$ jacket at the moment... (eek!) In any sase, I think this will give me more incentive to bike in the rain, which I don't mind doing, but I definitely hate the soaked leg effect...  Problem, solved!  Let's see if I need to save for a rainjacket...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Growing from Kitchen Scraps

My beet greens don't seem to be loving this whole re-growing thing....
But the green onions:
Speediest growth yet!
Carrot tops are doing ok too :)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Green Living Show

I had a wonderful time at the Green Living Show today.  A few highlights for me:

The Organic Council of Ontario booth
I ha a lovely chat with the girl there (how could I forget to ask her name!) about great things happening in Toronto and in Guelph, got some info about meat CSA's, some direction on where to look for Ontario-grown bulk grain purchase, and picked up their guide to buying local and organic food, a handy little document.

The Ontario Culinary Adventure Pavillion!
You buy tickets. You pick little sampley sized foods from various regions of Ontario. You feast on a smorgasbord! Such delicious beauty emerging from Ontario!
A millet-crusted whitefish taco from 'Hooked', topped with coleslaw, mayo, and lots of cilantro.
A beautiful celery root and pear soup from 'The Table'
A Chocosol blue corn tortilla (the freshest I've ever tasted–they grind and nixtamalize the corn themselves) with beautiful mole, a lovely red cabbage salad and pea shoots.
'The Grange of Prince Edward County' Gamay Noir–a gorgeous fruity, bold, and slightly spicy red. A perfect way to end off the meal!

I had a lovely chat with Kevin and signed up for their monthly donation program. I know that I am not the kind of person to do the kind of work that they do so I am glad to support them in their endeavours.  For a small amount a month, I help them do the work they do in the best way that I can at the moment, at the amount that I can at the moment.

Ananda Chocolate
I purchased the most decadent sugar free banana sweetened 80% chocolate, as well as a gooseberry 80% dark–both gorgeous!!

Tradeshows are a little overwhelming at times, but this time, for free admission, I got to see a decent overview of what's happening in the "green" world right now, get a delicious local smorgasbord, and chat with some lovely folk. A pretty decent Saturday afternoon...

Friday, April 12, 2013

LiveGreen Card

A little while back the city of Toronto launched a decent organization with a free to get membership card, Live Green:
The site itself has a variety of affiliated organizations which offer discounts to card-carrying members, some great education resources, community grants for green initiatives, green living ideas, and some suggestions on how to green your business.  It's a government organization so it's not fully thorough, but it feels like a pretty good start.  It is in it's 5th year of existence now and some awesome sounding stuff has come from it's Community Animator funding, but that seems to have been discontinued for this year...
In any case, free admission to the Green Living Show tomorrow! I can live with that!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Water Conservation: Baby-Step 1

I've been thinking about water consumption. I can't just right in and build a grey-water processing station in my yard (oh daydreams....) but I can take baby steps:


Vegetables: Fill a container with water to wash away dirt. Do a whole bunch all at once instead of using running water or washing one apple at a time.

Dishes: I shock myself when I leave the water running but put the plug in. The sink fills up unbelievably quickly. Really, you only need an inch or two of water to wash a whole stack of dishes, a bit more for rinsing. This is probably one of my worst consumption habits. I make excuses when my roommates have their dishes in the sink "There's too much stuff to move." SUCK IT UP! MOVE THEIR DISHES OR WASH THEM TOO. I'm working on this one....

These are the two hardest but simplest for me at the moment. They're very easy to make excuses about. But I think it just starts with awareness. And writing it down as an intention helps. So here it is:

I will aim to wash vegetables in a container in bulk when I buy them, not individually at time of use.
I will try not to wash dishes with running water, but with a filled sink.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Soap Nuts

After I finished my last batch of eco-laundry detergent, I was looking through my neighbourhood organic store called Nuthouse and inquired about these. Apparently they were an absolutely natural, biodegradable, petroleum free version of what we have come to consider a cleaning product! Of course there was something before there was laundry detergent.... And it was a fruit!

Soap Nuts/Soap Berries have a lot of saponin on their shells, which lowers the surface tension of water and so allows it to act as a cleaning agent. Or something like that.... 
There's some actual great information here!

Generally things recommend 4 or 5 nuts per wash but I do a triple loader only once every 3 weeks or so, so I put in 10 nuts per load. They come with a mesh cotton bag that you just throw in the washer with your clothes, and then you hang it out to try for next time! I've heard of varying re-uses from 4 to 10 times. See how stuff feels as you go.  A homemade science experiment! 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Reusable Snack Bags/Storage Containers

I bought a few of these organic cotton bags at the Guelph Organic Conference in January, and had purchased the mesh-like larger produce bags at No Frills (I think) or possibly Metro in the past.

They are super handy for buying bulk nuts/dried fruit/pasta/rice etc. The produce bags are great when I remember to bring them to the store (if I don't have them I just annoy my cashier and have 5 loose apples or the equivalent rolling around). The small cotton one is nice for bringing dry snacks with me as I go around. I've tried using them for apples, raw balls etc but they just tend to squish and guck up the fabric.  I stick to small mason jars or small tupperware for moist goods.

I use the tupperware because I have it, I wouldn't buy new plastic tupperware now. If anything, I'd buy tiffin tins:
or glass tupperware:
But also, saving glass jars as you use them is greatest (and free-est!). Try to buy products in glass jars when you can (pasta sauce, peanut butter, etc) and save your roommates purchases as well! You'll be needing them now, before you start making all your own preserves and don't need to buy any from the store!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Community Mind-Body Collaboration

I had a meeting with an ESL school for young students the other day and the owner, Sarah, and I were chatting about the possibility of having me and my company, bodymind ConfiDance, come in to do some movement workshops once a week.

The school's summer camp has each afternoon set aside for active learning–trips, workshops, hands on activities.

I was supremely excited by Sarah's desire to engage all types of learners, not just focus on rote "book learning", and explore different interesting topics as a tool to learn a new language.

In our discussion and brainstorming on structure and topics, I threw out the idea of food awareness. In talking a bit more about it, Sarah jumped right on board and we chatted for a good 15/20 minutes about potential trips, collaborations with outside organizations, subjects, and even went out on their space's back patio to see if we could grow any food back there. All I had to do was ask.

I'm hoping to use this opportunity to develop some food and consumption based mind-body workshopping to use with youth if Sarah is interested in having me in for the week.

I'm so glad I asked!  ALWAYS ASK!  The worst that can happen is you get a no.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Double Digging

There was a lot of hard work to be done at my plot as the majority of the space was covered in grass and the large maple tree on the south end of the yard had its roots reaching far towards the house. What we ended up doing on the south end of the lawn was double digging:
1). We cut off the top layer of sod
2). Dig down about 2 feet
3). Pull out all the tree roots
4). Lay down sod, grass down
5). Add some compost, coffee grinds, and banana peels with the soil we dug up
Hard work but lovely with friends, snacks, and tea. 

My beautiful friends digging away at the sod:
 Erin writing a blessing for the plot:
 Double digging away:

Friday, April 5, 2013

Germination Help

So my tomato seeds weren't germinating in my south facing window and I was getting a little worried...  I realized it probably wasn't warm enough (I suppose it was March...) so I ended up placing them over the heat vents on my living room floor.
Success!  Some happy Amish Paste tomatoes on their first day in the sun :)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Starting Okra

As part of my garden this year, I'm trying a few exotics, one of which is–OKRA! 

To start okra, soak it for 24 hours in water:
Plant it 1/2" deep in some good soil:
Cover with cling wrap until seeds germinate. Crossing my fingers on this! I'm hoping for 3 plants.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pet Beet Greens?

In making my beet preserve the other day, I decided to put my beet tops in some water and see if the greens would grow. I cut the bottom off a mushroom container that my roommates had bought–a perfect shallow dish! We'll see how this goes!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Successful Juicer "Garbage" Wraps

So my second attempt at using my juicer "garbage" (beet, celery, apple, orange) to make a fruit leather turned into a wonderful mistake–I turned it into wraps instead!

For some reason, this time around, all the sweetness disappeared from the leather so it was great with savoury foods.  I think by leaving it in the stove longer (I forgot about it and ended up leaving it a day in the stove) it had longer to dehydrate and all the sweetness disappeared...  Maybe... It was also quite dry so I wouldn't eat it by itself but hummus or guacamole or a bean dip would have also been nice!

It worked much better on parchment paper, where it came off in one whole piece instead of in chunks (as it did off the tin foil). I rolled up the parchment paper to save for next time. Yum!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter-y Beet Preserve

With a desire to preserve one of my favourite bits of my Ukrainian Easter remembrances, I took it upon myself to make a simple version of one of my favourite dishes. I took 4 medium sized beets, grated them finely into a bowl, then grated a medium sized stick of horseradish in there with it (careful! It will make you cry! Do it outside or put on a stove hood fan)

I didn't necessarily want this to keep forever (it's too delicious!) but generally the more preserved stuff has some vinegar in it. Its also usually blended with cooked beets. As I said, my version!

I usually ate it with pressed cottage cheese on a sweetish egg-type bread, but am currently eating it with goat cheese on home-made wraps–see tomorrows recipe!