Monday, November 17, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nature Girl's Wonder Tale - Hansel and Gretel - 2019

A child's rendering of what is important. A home made of collected sticks, a spiral path from a pile of seeds to a carefully placed collection of edible berries and fern arrows spiralling back out pointing the way home.

I wanted to say...this child is having a very hard time learning to read. When she came home from making this installation in the woods she got out my edible wild plants field guide. She correctly id'ed the tree the berries came from, and noted how much longer it would be before they were sweet enough for pleasurable human consumption.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Repurposing sweaters into pants for babies/toddlers

Repurposing sweaters into pants for babies/toddlers.

The best thing about wool pants is that you don't need a diaper cover as well. Great for nighttime!

You have two choices plain sweater or gently felted sweater. I tend to use gently felted sweaters because I find they work better as diaper covers and it is when a sweater goes from functional to too small for wearing and needs to be repurposed.

Gently felted women's size small lambswool sweater

Lay sweater flat with sleeve extended.
Slice off both sleeves vertically in the same place at the armpit .
Lay sleeves flat side by side. If the sleeves taper (most do) put the taper on the inside.

Now take a pair of pants that fit your baby - not snugly - and copy the rise - measure down from the waist to the crotch and cut the inside edges of your sweater arms/legs to that point then cut down another 3 cm so you have room to do a waist band.

Turn the sleeves inside out and sew around the U of the crotch with good sides together - first a running stitch then go back and reinforce it with a zigzag on the machine or blanketstitch by hand.

Fold back the top and make a casing either for elastic or a knitchain tie (fingerknit or icord) Feed that through and you're good to go.

The final product on sad sick baby...

What to do with the remaining sweater body? Well it can repurposed into MANY things but if you need more diapercovers here's a pattern I've held onto since 1998! By Phan:

Butt Sweaters are easy to make without a pattern. Felt a recycled soft 100% wool sweater by washing in hot water and drying two times. Once your sweater is felted, cut off the sleeve cuffs (just a few inches of them if they’re really long) and the neckline (from a crewneck) and save these. Cut 2 big triangles from the front and back of the sweater, with the waistband of the sweater being one side, and the point being up near the neck. Fold the corners so the point is in the middle and meets the waistband. The waistband of the sweater will be the soaker’s waistband. Sew from the waistband down about halfway on each side. This will connect the 3 points, and leave leg holes. Sew the cuffs in the leg holes as you would any standard sleeve. Trim the leg hole seams if needed. Cut the neckband in half and sew the ends of each half together so you have two circles. Sew these into the leg holes of the second soaker.


Getting back to the yurt I needed to build - 2019

We finally got around to finishing the yurt for my mom to move into. It's a small one - 12 ft. but really she just wanted a bit of quiet away from the kids so it's perfect. We set it up in the goat's pasture. They love it too.

My 40th birthday present was a yurt building workshop. It was on my list of things I wanted to do before I turned 40 and it happened to fall on the weekend before my birthday. I'd been totally enamoured with yurts (or in Mongolian - ger) since I saw my first traditional Mongolian one in my early 20's. There was something about that little round blanketted space that felt right and settled deep in my bones.

The ones I've built have been designed to have minimum impact on the environment. I learned how to build them from the wonderful folks at Little Foot Yurts. ( They're made from coppiced hardwood from our property and locally made felt.

I approached a meat sheep farm about shearing for free in exchange for the fleeces. Shearing costs more than they can get for the fleece and traditionally all that wool got composted - dumped in a trench in a field and buried. Shearing is dirty, exhausting work. These aren't pretty pampered wool ewes, there's a whole lot of poop and straw to clear out of the wool before it can be processed. I worked with a mill in New Brunswick to turn it into felt for this one, but on the toyshop I felted it traditionally by hand, foot and by horse.

My mum brought back traditional Mongolian quilts years ago when she was doing development work with teachers in Mongolia so we used those to insulate the bottom walls. The snow here isn't deep so we didn't bother with a platform. We scraped back the ground inside the perimeter laid a tarp, and filled it in with sawdust then laid rugs on top after it was tamped down. Mum's bed is up on a platform though to protect it from humidity and it provides storage too. It's pretty luxurious - we made a cover with all these rabbit skins I've had sitting around.

Looking up through the wheel like this, warm and toasty with the little stove, ah quiet. Now I'm thinking maybe I'll move in instead of mum!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


With resources stretched thin municipalities have had to cut back on waste management programs. WM, the largest waste management company in North America, has come up with a bold new bright green plan - they are ending garbage collection. Instead their formidable resources wil go to a pet project they have been funding for over a decade. THE FREECYCLE. Municipalities have embraced this plan as it cuts down on the funds needed for other social service programs.

The trucks are freshly scrubbed and will begin freecycle collection later this week. Stiff fines will be levied against those that abuse Freecycle Collection Containers - the new bright green bins were delivered this week - by dumping waste in them. Collection agents carry tagging devices to mark contents before they even arrive at the sorting warehouse.

Spokesperson Oscar the Grouch of Sesame Street fame said "We've been harping on the 'One man's trash is another's person's treasure' theme for a long time and in accordance with our new bright green principles we've decided to get out of the garbage business and "Waste Not Want Not" is our new official motto."

Industry workers are breathing a sigh of relief as their jobs turn from garbage sorting to product sorting and the stocking of freecycle shop shelves. Empty Costco's and Walmarts have been given a fresh coat of bright green paint and are opening for business this Saturday.

20 year veteran garbageman, Francine's Dad, said "I won't miss the disco rice! I've always been an enthusiastic garbage picker and our union negotiated "First Dibs" for all collection agents so I'm really happy!

What can you expect at your local Freecycle? More of the same goods that have always been offered on the Freecycle. Half used bottle of peach bodywash? It's on the shelf waiting for you to snap it up and put those dollars into your grocery budget instead.

More money for food, more parts for fabbing, fewer necessities to buy, fewer things in the landfill. It's a win win situation all around!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Farm Foster Family Program - 2019

We have a couple new additions at Wild Culture Farm!

With harvest our WWOOFER (willing worker on organic farms), Josee, left for a new experience at a wild boar farm in western Quebec.

I'm thinking this started because the house was feeling empty and I was feeling broody. With the winter stretching before me I thought "We need a project!" So we signed up to be a host family in the Farm Foster Family Program.

Did you ever hear about how British children came to Canada during WWII to be safe from the air raids? Or how after Chernobyl they sent children to spend summers in Canada where they had a chance to spend a few months a year eating less irradiated food and breathing cleaner air? Well this is the same kind of thing, except the culture shock may be greater, the children coming here are from Toronto.

The King's County Chapter of FFF is sponsoring 30 families of children from Old Toronto. Our family is from Leslieville. This is where they live:

Leslieville began in the 1850's as a community around a nursery. Most of the residents were market gardeners. We thought it'd be a good fit. And besides, I lived there for a few years when I was at OCAD (by then it was a rough dirty industrial neighbourhood that stunk of the tannery and the Hell's Angel's.) It's been transformed since then into a major site for public housing projects.

The girls arrived tonight. We've nicknamed them Maple and Aspen. Maple is 8 and Aspen is 4 and they're both cute as can be. Maple is being brave and solid so Aspen isn't as afraid; a solid maple and a trembling aspen. Their mother was an airline attendant and died from ReDS related complications, their father is in quarantine. Poor kids have been being shuttled from elderly relative to relative ever since then. They'll be with us until the spring equinox.

Nature Chick knelt down before them when they arrived and helped them undo their zippers even though they knew how. She had coaxed smiles out of them before their coats were off. She was so attentive and interested in everything they said that they were chatting like old friends by the time they had taken their backpacks upstairs. She is so good with children it almost breaks my heart apart to think she won't have any and that I won't get to be a real Oma.

We fed them a late supper (spaetzle and sauerkraut and big glasses of goat's milk) I realized afterwards I should have picked things they'd be more familiar with but my own kid's comfort foods was what sprung to mind and it was too late to change things when I saw the look of shock on their faces as they tasted the milk. They didn't say a word though, and ate every bite.

They're sharing the double bed in what was Darkmirror's room. We packed away all his creepy Cthulhu decorative accents before they arrived. I gave each girl a doll I'd made as I tucked them in. I had asked Nature Chick what story we should tell, and she had suggested an old favorite of hers - The Star Children
by Lesa Sevin of Natural World Arts ( I don't have permission to post it on my blog so go to to read it there.

I asked them if they did prayers before bed at home and Aspen nodded but neither could remember the words. So we did the one my children said as little ones.

"Oh God, guide me and protect me, make me a shining lamp, and a brilliant star, thou art the mighty, and the powerful.

I turned out the light and left them looking up through the skylight at the milky way. This would be the first time they've ever seen real stars too.