Friday, May 31, 2013

Compost Tea

I lucked out the other day and a friend of mine had a bunch of liquid that had drained out of her vermicompost.  It's not a fancy mix like you might see in certain books or websites but in a time strapped city life, this is pretty grand!

For those who don't know what compost tea is (I didn't until about 6 months ago), compost tea is a great natural fertilizer. There are fancy recipes with many ingredients and processes, but the basic idea is a (vermicompost)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

My Spring and Summer Garden is Planted!

The last of my garden is planted–my tomatoes and peppers!  We got a batch of late season coldness (down to 1 Celsius at night) so I was waiting to not kill my most delicate plants.  But now, my spring and summer home garden is fully planted! All I'll be planting now is potentially some successively planted kale, radishes, lettuces, basil, parsley, things like that.  And then later–my winter veg!  Although I'm also hoping to have another plot come up for those....  We'll see soon enough...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rain Barel Overflow Solution

I realized after setting up my rain barrel that I might have a problem with this water conservation solution....  Overflow if it rains a bunch a few days in a row....   My hopeful solution–planting watercress!!  Watercress loves water as it tends to grow on the edges of bodies of water.   So, crossing fingers that this solution keeps up the moisture enough for the cress to grow!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More of the Last Frost Planting

I did a whack more of my planting and have almost finished up my home plot!  I added carrots, some more bush beans, and parsley. I also prepped the soil for planting tomatoes and peppers tomorrow (tilled the soil a bit, pulling out any leftover tree roots) and hammered in a bunch of stakes. It's been cold the last few days so I've been waiting to plant out my tomatoes and peppers.  I don't want them to die in an overnight frost....  Soon they will have a new home!

Monday, May 27, 2013

My Second Plot!

Planted out my amish paste tomato seedlings today and lay down some mulch to keep in moisture when I water. I have about 8 tendergreen bush beans coming up in the back, not everything survived germination (maybe squirrels? There were some empty seedpods lying about...) so I'll plant a few more soon.
My pattypan squash don't seem to be coming up, though...  And I'm out of seeds...  Need zucchini!  Plan B may have to start soon...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Strawberry Patch!

I'm so excited for this!!!  It was completely unexpected and unplanned.  My friend Derick gave me a whole flat of alpine strawberry seedlings, and I had 6 everbearing plants given to me from various places.  Now i have strawberries, rhubarb, AND raspberries!  What a wonderful fruit bearing surprise!  Next year, I'm totally adding currants to this beautiful perennial garden that developed!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Planting Out Leeks

So I'm a bit behind with these but I planted out some leeks today.  They were given to me by a friend of mine and I hadn't gotten around to planting them until now!  Oh well, going as fast as I can! The onions in behind are doing great, though!)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Barter Gardening

I planted a chunk of seeds and seedlings in my friend's garden that i'm planting as a barter for drum lessons.  It was a beautiful day! I'm always amazed at how time flies when I'm gardening–I tend to forget to eat...

We made a bed of beans, tomatoes, peppers and spinach, and a second bed of bok choy, beets, and arugula.  Yum!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

First Compost Use

I set up my outdoor composter to use today.

To start: I dug out a square about an inch deep that was the size of the composter itself.  I put the composter itself into place and covered the edge with a bit of the leftover soil (no nothing could climb in the bottom).

To compost: My roommates and I keep our compostables in a container in the freezer. When the container was full, instead of putting the waste into the city compost, I put it in the new composter, covered it with some dried grass clippings and some dead leaves as well as a bit of compost accelerator (just to start).

This was the email I sent all my housemates:
Hello housemates!
I've set up the black composter outside for use. Save up any fruit or veg clippings (no meat, dairy, or dog or cat poo) and put them in a bunch at a time into the composter. Make sure you cover it with some of the dead grass, leaves, or sod (on the side of the tree nearest the composter) to keep the smell from attracting unwanted friends.
Here is a great simple resource:
I'll deal with everything else.  Free beautiful compost for next year?  Yes please!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Little Bit of Cheer

Nothing beats a few cut flowers on a stressful kind of day... Lily of the Valley mean it's spring. And my favourite smell!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rain Barrel!

I finally got my rain barrel together!
It was actually quite simple to drill the hole–there is an attachment in the DIY rainbarrel kit I got from Canadian Tire:

In the past I had covered the lid with a fine plastic mesh to keep our mosquitoes (so very high tech):

I slit the plastic mesh to fit in the downspout and propped up the barrel with rocks so it wouldn't roll away:

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Beautiful Weekend!

Today I did a whole bunch of weeding (surprisingly not as much as I anticipated considering the space I have).  I also planted a few cucumber and zucchini seedlings that my upstairs neighbour didn't have room for, and additional bean, pea, and cucumber seeds. I planted more bok choy where my spinach seeds didn't come up, sowed more mixed greens where they didn't come up (trying a method of sprinkling soil overtop of the seeds instead of raking them into the soil) and planted more beet seeds where the others had been trampled by the upstairs neighbour's dog. What a weekend full of joy!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Beautiful Day

I spent the day today planting a bunch more of my garden–so revitalizing!

I planted a few herb seedlings: basil, rosemary, and lemon thyme (soooooo tasty!)

I also planted a bunch from seed: calendula, korean mint, callaloo, more radishes, a few mammoth sunflowers, basil, feverfew and sorrel, more spinach, more kale, more swiss chard, and more romaine lettuce. Phew!

The day was beautiful, the sun was shining, and I had 3 friends helping me–it worked out so that as one friend left, the next came!  I shared a meal with each one and we planted and dug together!  I'm realizing how tied together community, food growing, bartering, and questioning our current economic model are...  Work doesn't seem like work when I'm with friends, things go faster, and there is something so soul nourishing about being helped and helping in return at another time. The knowledge that we can give when we have the capacity and will be supported in times of need. What a beautiful day it was indeed!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Shared Raspberry Plants

I was at my parents place today and they have a significant raspberry patch in their backyard.  The way raspberries grow, the top of the plant will reach down to the ground and, where it touched, will root itself to spread. My parents usually just throw out these "babies" since they have no more room but I took them this year to start my own patch :)

Take a spade and dig down around the rooted plant in all directions.
Pull up seedling with as much root mass as you can.
Move to it's new location.
Water well in the first few days so that the roots really establish themselves.
New raspberry patch!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Least Expensive Dry Shampoo Ever

A way to stretch the value of your baking soda shampoo even further is by introducing a "dry shampoo" on some of the days in between. I find that I will now only wash my hair every 4 or 5 days. On that 4th or 5th day (when I start seeing a bit of grease, and really only in my bangs), I will apply some corn starch to my hair with a "blush brush" or some other fairly large soft bristled brush and then comb it out.  Apparently it soaks up the grease and moisture and when you brush your hair, that all goes with it! Magical dry shampoo! Corn Starch! Woo!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Best Shampoo I've Ever Used

A year or so ago, I started getting frustrating dandruff, even when using "natural" shampoos like Alba or Jason from health food stores. I looked around for natural shampoos on the internet and came across what sounded like a bizarre solution: baking soda. I have used it for about a year now and I've never been happier:
1). It's inexpensive–buy a bunch in bulk from a natural bulk food store, store it in a jar and it lasts you weks.
2). It keeps your hair clean for longer–I've heard that regular shampoos actually make your hair greasier so that you have to buy more of them. I believe it. I wash my hair every 4 days. It's great!

How to use it:
Scoop approximately 1 tablespoon into a small bowl.
Add enough water to make it a thick paste.
Shampoo yourself!  It won't froth but it does it's business well.

This can also be a body wash!  It's got a mild grain so it's a good mild, non-harsh exfoliant. So many good things!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

High Tech Railing Planter Hanger

I couldn't find planter hanger anywhere and am sure they're not cheap so I came up with my own solution...
It works!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Living with Roommates–Part 2

A tricky part about living with neighbours...  When they have dogs your beautiful beds might look like this when you come back from a weekend retreat... And your heart might break a little...

So you might have to suck it up and buy some fencing from the dollar store, which will hopefully keep the dog at bay...  Crossing my fingers!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Buying Direct from Farmer

The Organic Council of Ontario has a great local, organic food guide that has just been made electronic.  Have a peek at pages 6 and 7 for a great list of organic vegetable, dairy, and meat farmers in Ontario:

I also just discovered that Culinarium does chicken, meat, and vegetable CSA shares if you're up in Midtown Toronto:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Seasonally Appropriate DIY

In case you've forgotten how to dress for the summer and get burned like I did last week (I swear, I was wearing a winter coat last week!  How do I dress not in sweaters and furry socks? Toronto forgets spring EVERY YEAR)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Living With Roommates

It's spring and part of the roommate deal for growing food on my kitchen window ledge was that I'd get rid of the clutter of it when I had lots of food growing outside.  I'm headed away for the weekend and have been taking up all the window space with other seedlings so the indoor free food ledge is done for the year.  I'm particularly impressed with the beet tops:
 and the celery:
although the lettuce was also pretty spectacular and beautifully tender.  You really do forget what literally just picked produce tastes like!  Everything is divine!!!  I snuch a bit of a beautiful kale plant that was growing at my community garden plot–SO TENDER AND SWEET!  Yes, KALE.  Tender and sweet–PHEW!  Getting me extremely excited for the upcoming harvest!

On a side note–look at the size of my potato plants!  Wow!! And I only planted them 2 weeks ago!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dandelion Root Tea/Coffee

In starting my second plot the other day, I collected some dandelion root that I'm going to try and roast to use for tea or as a coffee substitute.  I didn't collect much because I didn't know if I'd like it.  But I keep hearing about how its great for digestion and full of nutrients so I'm going to give it a go.
Here's a great resource I found:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bartering–Baby Steps

I'm trying the bartering thing.  In doing all the considering about money that I've been doing, I can't help but consider what things I can barter for.  It's fantastic to do a run down of all the things you have to offer and make a list of all the things you spend money on.  It's nice to categorize the things you spend money on and think if there's any way you can sart spending less money on those things–whether it's exchanging time to get those things for free–who you could ask for some of those things (the internet and social networking is your friend!) or if you can live without.

To start, I'm exchanging planning and starting a friends veg garden for hand drumming lessons–a great skill for when I'm singing, and great for when I'm teaching!

Sites like SwapSity are great for skill and product exchanges.  And never overlook Kijiji or Craigslist if you're looking for things–try to find used before you go new!  I've gotten free haircuts on Craigslist and there are always "Curb Alerts" about things seen on the side of the road.  There really is no need to spend money on new products ALL the time, and you'd be surprised how many skills your friends have....

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Composter, Rhubarb, and Chives Delivery!

I got a fantastic delivery from my mum today:
A composter that my parent's neighbours don't use
 A rhubarb plant from my grandma
 Chives from my mum's garden

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Starting my second plot

The before...
 Planting beautiful tendergreen bush beans:
 Planting pattypan summer squash in next to re-sprouting dill:
Tomatoes to come in a few weeks!

Monday, May 6, 2013

First homegrown ingredient recipe of the year!

This recipe came out of my organic food box containing magoes, which I haven't eaten in YEARS (my ex was deathly allergic), not much in my fridge because I'm going away for the weekend, and an organic chicken breast sitting in my freezer. Also, my garden's first green onions!
1.5 cups organic quinoa ( cook 15 mins in 3 cups water–bring to boil then simmer until water is gone)

2 ripe organic mangoes, diced
1 sweet red pepper diced
5 large stalks organic green onion, diced

1 roasted chicken breast in bits (My second only chicken that I've ever cooked in my life! I now only buy hormone-free, nitrate-free, free range, organic chicken.  After being a vegetarian for 10 years, my body has begun to crave meat-based protein and I can't deny it that.  I don't eat meat often, and when I do, I make ethical choices.  One day I know I will have to kill an animal in order to justify eating it's flesh and I'm willing to do that to fully understand the meaning of my choices.  But I know that I can't deny my body what it needs. I cooked this defrosted chicken simply on 375 in my toaster oven for 40 mins with some dijon mustard, salt, and pepper put on before putting it in the oven)

5 cloves garlic, minced
1inch piece minced fresh ginger
approx 1/2 cup organic sunflower oil
approx 1/8 cup organic apple cider vinegar
approx 1/8 cup organic white miso paste
approx 1/4 cup mango smoothie (apple, banana, mango)


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Spring Easter Revels

I spent the day today at an event that I was co-planning with the folk collective I am a part of, called Kosa Kolektiv (
We sing together, dance together, farm together, craft together, cook together, preserve together, forage together–it really feels like an urban folk village inside a massive city.
Here's some photos of the event, including some of the handmade crafts make from scrap materials, donated paints, and foraged natural supplies:

I feel blessed to be a part of this community, which I know will teach me much.  I am already beginning to understand the wonderful value of doing things as a community–it makes washing dishes, canning, cleaning, and digging feel just as satisfying and fun as singing together, dancing together, and living together–in fact, the singing accompanies much that we do!
Folk culture really has some things right at its core–it is unencumbered by the need for the new, new, new–it see's the value in making things that last; it values the handmade, the craft, the beauty of function–instead of the value of ego over art; it sees the strength of community, doing things together, and sharing skills–instead of seeing strength in an individual's exclusive idea and branding that. There are more things, I'm sure. But for now, I must sleep and smile at the love I am full of.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Free salad

I harvested a lovely baby greens salad from some of my lettuce "garbage"(stumps) that I was regrowing.  Living food in a time where you're waiting for the new growth to flourish is such a gift!  I realize that as the weather starts to turn cool this year, I will definitely begin regrowing from stumps and sprouting again to keep me in living food until next season!  The stumps are being replaced by seedlings lately (I only have so much window legde space, unfortunately)
Of course season extension is going to be tried and root cellar ideas will come out on here sooner or later, but nothing quite beats a living salad in the early spring!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Direct Seeded Seedlings!!

I got WAAAAAAAY too excited the other day when I came outside to THIS
 Swiss Chard!
 Romaine Lettuce!
Snap Peas!
It really is the best feeling in the world seeing seeds you planted start to grow. You are filled with so much awe at nature's ability to flourish and really connect to weather and rainfall in a way you never have before.  The best feelings ever :)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Red Wiggler Babies!

In harvesting some of the vermicompost the other day, I was noticing some strange little round things in  my bin.  I guessed that they were eggs, but I wanted to be sure.
Ensure you don't harvest these if you're using the vermicompost for something.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Potting Out Tomatoes

After your tomato seedlings develop a few "true leaves" (not the first ones that come out, but the second set) and they are getting well established, you can "pot-out" into larger containers (like the ones you get if you buy them from a market or store). 

1).  Fill some small pots, clean yoghurt containers etc with some good potting soil.  Water until damp.
2). Optional–add some vermincompost into a hole you make for the seedling to go into (mine's not quite ready–it still has other bits in it–but I think it's ready enough to add a bit of a kick to their growing process).
3). GENTLY lift the seedling and surrounding soil out of it's original seeding tray and place into the supplemented hole in it's new home, ensuring you're getting all the roots covered.
4). Add a bit of extra soil if you need to, gently tamp it down around the plant, and water a bit more.  
5). Place in the sun and keep loving them as they get bigger!
Woo!  So many tomatoes!! (And I have more, hah!) This is where sharing comes into play :)