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organic stone soup

surprise me beans

Tomorrow is the Organic Stone Soup event. If you have time to come and learn more about local organic food with fun hands-on activities and family story-telling time, plus yummy organic soup, please come to Guelph! The event is sponsored by the Canadian Organic Growers. There will be a mini farmers’ market, plus some demonstrations/take-home items for the kids.

I’ll be there doing some organic gardening demonstrations. My take-home activity is a planted bean seed. In the photo above you can see my daughter modelling her trial run. I have a jar of “Surprise Me” bean seeds, which is a mix of purple, green, and yellow beans. Children will get to fill their container with soil and plant one or two of the seeds, then guess which colour the beans will be. The containers will be taped shut with masking tape so nobody ends up disappointed when their lid pops off and the contents spill all over the inside of the van.

Come if you can! Saturday, March 19, from 11 am until 2 pm at St. George’s church in Guelph: 99 Woolwich St.

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learning from TED

tedx

Hubby and I had a great day yesterday at the TEDx Waterloo conference. So many great speakers with ideas and challenges. I’m still digesting, but I thought I’d try to distill a bit of it for you.

There’s so much to share, but first I have to say that I was blown away by some of the experiences of the presenters. JF Carrey, who was the youngest Canadian to climb Mt. Everest. Abby Sunderland, who was just 16 when she sailed solo around Cape Horn, the Everest of sailing. Vicki Keith, marathon swimmer who swam for 3 days straight during one of her more difficult swims. Roberta Bondar, Canadian female astronaut, neurologist, photographer, who is 65 and still learning about who she is.

Amazing, inspiring people.

We learned about interacting with a computer using hand/arm gestures to move the mouse on the screen – even got to try it out in the lobby! We saw some interesting data visualization and learned that it’s important for our biological brains to visualize everything, because it really helps us understand and gives us new insight into solving problems. The hurdy-gurdy was a fascinating new instrument (well, new to me, but it’s been around for 500 years). Shelley Ambrose talked about conversations that we have, and how it’s important to communicate in ways that are understood by the other party.

There was more, too – such a full day of being challenged and playing. IQC was a sponsor – Institute for Quantum Computing – which means that we got to see a quantum computer and also learn about quantum cryptography, which is something the institute is working on. The Blackberry Playbook was available to touch and explore for a few minutes, which my hubby thoroughly enjoyed.

So now, my job is to think about how everything I experienced yesterday can be internalized and personalized and affect new changes in my life.

For starters, I was challenged by Vicki Keith to make Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals – and never give up. Shelley Ambrose challenged me to be clear about where I stand and communicate my thoughts in a way that people understand. JF Carrey validated my burning desire to make T-Shirts. Roberta Bondar spoke about change and reminded me that our human brains need repetition in order for new habits and changes to stick.

It was a fabulous day.

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Today I’m off to the Stratford Garden Festival, on all weekend if you want to check it out! I’m just visiting this year, scoping it out for possibly being a vendor next year.

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workshops

sprout drawingI’ve switched a few of the workshop dates around, and was thinking I should probably emphasize what’s going to be happening around here fairly soon!

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March 12 is the first workshop, called Planning Your Garden. It will cover the basics of where to put a garden, what to grow in the location you have available, and how much you can possibly squeeze into whatever space you have, among other things. It’s coming up quick, so please register by emailing me at:

sarahskitchengardens at gmail dot com

The next workshop after that is called Garden Potions. This will take place in April at Little City Farm, so you can register through them. If that one fills up there’s potential for opening another of the same workshop at my place.

Please visit my workshops page to read about other workshops I’ll be offering, including a honeybee workshop and a seed saving workshop.

And as always, I’d love to hear from you if you have any suggestions for me.

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final official organic decision

oh snapWell. I’ve done a lot of thinking. Here are my reasons for not becoming officially organic certified THIS year.

First of all, it costs a lot of money and it will take a lot of my time to do all the paperwork and documentation. I didn’t take this into consideration when I set my prices for the seedlings, and I don’t feel right about increasing the prices now. I feel like it’s not fair to everyone who has looked at the catalogue and figured out what they wanted to buy.

Second, I want to make sure I do a good job of it, and I feel that having a ‘practice year’, where I follow all the rules to the best of my ability, will help me be better prepared for when I get certified for real.

So please consider me to be unofficially organic. I have gone far out of my way to ship certified organic potting soil to my yard, I use certified organic amendments like composted cow manure and fish emulsion fertilizer, and I use organic seeds wherever possible. I don’t use any synthetic chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

My plants will be labelled so you know which ones are 100% organic (non-certified, though) and which ones are started from conventional seeds. Where I use conventional seeds they are guaranteed untreated and non-GMO.

I hope this delay in certification sits well with everyone; I’m doing my best to be as certifiable as possible, and learn as much as I can this year, so when next year rolls around I will be ready for it.

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on being certifiable

ecocert papersSome days I feel more certifiable than others – and yesterday was definitely one of those days! I spoke with a rep from the EcoCert group, and he told me that if I had everything in order I could be certified organic by May!

Wow.

After hearing from others about how many years they had to go through inspections and deal with soil issues, I was expecting that it would be a long and onerous process. What I didn’t realize is that being a greenhouse grower, using potting soil, makes the process a whole lot easier.

Still difficult and time-consuming, but quicker and comparatively easier.

So.

Here I go.

I need to rethink a bunch of my seed purchasing plans, because I’ve been told that some of my suppliers are not as reputable and may not be accepted by the certification body due to the potential for contamination. Even though the seeds are labelled untreated and GMO-free. Doesn’t that sound interesting.

I spent a lot of time last night searching through seed catalogues again and trying to find replacements. I haven’t yet updated my own online catalogue, but I’m hoping to get to that soon. In the meantime, if you’re looking through it and are particularly interested in a certain variety and wonder if it’s one of those that need to be swapped, just send me a quick email (or post it here so everyone else will know too) and I will let you know.

Thank you for your patience as I go through yet another set of growing pains in this wee business! I think it will be for the best, though.

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new pin designs

veggie pin setMy children found the new pins this morning in the office, and both insisted on wearing the full set on their shirts to school today. I love it! The first question from one of them was “Can I wear this pin today, since I’m a Tomato Lover?” From there, it snowballed when the other one wanted to wear ALL THREE.

Things have to be equal, you know.

So this morning, in between using my brain for stuff, I’m also mounting them on cardstock so they look all pretty for the Guelph Organic Conference. The Expo/Tasting Fair is FREE to the public, so please come check it out on the Jan 29/30 weekend!! I’ll be downstairs near the books table, selling these pins and letting people know that Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens exists and wants to help them grow their own organic food.

Spread the word!

come to the organic tasting fair

guelph organic conferenceI’ve been pouring a lot of energy into getting ready for the Guelph Organic Conference. It will be happening Saturday and Sunday, January 29 and 30, at the Guelph University Centre. Please come and check it out – it’s free for the general public! There are lots of yummy food samples and opportunities for learning about organic gardening. A number of seed vendors make an appearance as well, so if you’re looking for certain organic varieties and don’t want to pay shipping, this is a great occasion to take advantage of.

I’ll be downstairs near the book table – come and say hello! Tomorrow I’ll show you one of the things I’ll be selling: the new pins that came in the mail today!! <happy dance>

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I had a meeting today with Amy at Cute Gecko. She helped me think a bit about the business, and we also talked about ebooks because that’s one of the things I have in mind…. and paper books too! It was good to get out of the house and chat with someone who has a depth of knowledge that I don’t have. So thanks Amy for the great visit!

One of the things she asked me was whether the business was local or national or global. Well. I wasn’t sure how to answer that. I feel like it’s a split personality, really…. seedlings are fairly local, unless I get into mail order seedlings – in which case I can’t ship outside of Canada, so… national? But if I write an ebook it has the potential to go global! My workshops, on the other hand, happen wherever I am. That’s very local, unless someone wants to fly me farther afield. See? I’m confused.

However. Confusion about my local/national/global identity will not keep me from growing seedlings, preparing patio pots, speaking at events and organizing workshops. It all comes down to making organic gardening easy for whoever wants to grow their own food.

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something pretty

beehive artWell, I promised yesterday that I would show you something pretty today, so here it is. An artist beekeeper friend of mine makes these gorgeous, one-of-a-kind stained glass window ornaments. The beehive is in the shape of a traditional skep, and the bee is just way too cute. The photo doesn’t fully capture the bee but it’s the best I could do at this point in time, with a broken camera away for repairs and my poor phone doing the best it can.

If you would like to buy one, please come to the “A Little Bird Told Me” Craft Sale at Little City Farm on December 11. I will have them there, selling them at my table.

I was thinking I should probably explain some of the other things I will have available, too, so this post will be full of pictures today.earring display

Earrings in the shape of veggies! And strawberries. And my pins – ‘go organic’ with a sprouty, and ‘I heart Local Honey’.

sprout kit contents

Sprout kits!! Come with 3 different kinds of seeds to try, plus the container and soil and a bit of composted manure.

gardening apron

Garden aprons, useful for holding tools and seeds and other garden items while you work.

apron fabrics

Aprons are available in a number of different types of fabric, as demonstrated by my lovely assistant.

Here’s something special – the next item on the list is my personal favourite. Basically, it’s a pretty gift bag filled with manure. For that person who has everything. Or your favourite gardener who can take a joke. There’s a poem attached, to help explain to them why they are getting  nothing but poo for xmas.

gift bags

Here’s the poem:

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Checking his Christmas lists once and then twice –

Santa sees all who are naughty and nice.

So sad but so true I’m sorry to say,

Those on the naughty list don’t get to play.

Instead of nice presents, only some coal;

But sometimes it’s hard to find at The Pole.

This year has been even harder than most;

Elves were creative, and finally boast:

“The reindeer helped too, so don’t step in it –

Your gift this year is a bag full of $h!t.”

Merry Christmas!

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I know not everyone has my sense of humour, but I’m hoping enough people like the bags and want to give them to certain wonderful people in their lives this season.

Here’s the bag inside the bag:

bag of composted manure

This organic composted manure is great in the garden, but it can also be added in small amounts to houseplant pots to give them a little boost. Tomato lovers, add a cup or so to every hole you dig to plant a tomato in – your plants will thank you by making the most delicious tomatoes ever.

Of course you can also buy gift certificates for that gardener on your list, and there will also be opportunity to sign up for my newsletter.

AND a free draw for $20 gift certificate for next spring.

So please come to the sale! And tell everyone you know who might be interested in locally hand-crafted gift items. There will be 8 vendors at the sale, selling everything from sock monkeys to baby quilts.

Please also share this webpage on facebook or twitter, to help spread the word – thanks so much!

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sprouts and lumber

lumber

I had a little help with my sister’s chop saw today, for which I am very grateful. Even if I was confident using it, I don’t think I could manage 8 foot lengths by myself. They’re now 4 feet long and ready to be made into garden kits. One cedar and one spruce.

The other shorter pieces will become a balcony planter. I’m hoping to have them ready by the end of Wednesday for the La Leche League garage sale happening Thursday morning. If not, I’ll just sell my xmas presents and sprout kits and earrings and pins. And give away a gift certificate for Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens.

Today I also took a photo of the sprouts, to document their progress. The radishes were most interesting, with their little tails showing. Sorry for the fuzzy pic, my real camera is semi-broken so I used my phone.

radish sprouts

Today was a good day. I also learned about how to manage sending email newsletters to people who want to hear from me, and I was encouraged in my endeavours by some good friends. Not to mention I had fun shopping with my mom. Lots happened!

Look for new buttons on the website to sign up for email newsletters! Coming soon.

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remembering

girls in shades

Forgive me, readers, for it has been 8 days since my last post. I’ve been working on Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens, but only in fits and spurts since my SI joint has been acting up and that makes it hard to sit for too long without painful consequences. AND – we went to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair! What fun. You can see my movie stars in the photo above.

The petting farm was a big hit – we loved the llamas! And they had some Silkie chickens, poor things, that got easter-egged for some strange reason.

llama 1

silkies

So the days have just flown by, and I’ve written a few blog posts in my head that never made it to cyberspace. I can’t really remember them now, but I’m sure they’ll come back eventually.

Today I’m remembering that many people lost their lives defending my right to live in peace. I hate the thought of war but I want to honour those who are willing to fight for us.

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