Homestead Junction

Home Grown Green Tea April 26, 2016 09:43 1 Comment

Make your own green tea from scratch! It's the perfect pick-me-up on a chilly morning.

Tea is great. It's the perfect cozy drink on cold rainy mornings, the perfect pick me up in the morning or in an afternoon slump, and cold and refreshing on hot summer days.

What a lot of people don't know is that black, green, white, yellow, and oolong tea are all from the same plant - Camellia sinensis

Green Tea Tree

All the varieties can be made from the same plant depending on the age of the leaves, if they're wilted, oxidized, bruised, crushed, or fermented. 

A basic run down on tea varieties:
Black - top 2 or 3 leaves and a bud, wither in a cool, dry area for up to 20 hours, rolled, dried in a single layer at room temp.
Green - top 2 or 3 leaves and a bud, lightly steamed, rolled, and dried/roasted
White - very young leaf buds (no mature leaves), withered in the sun for 3-4 hours, and oven dried

Since green tea takes the least amount of time and is the least picky about when the leaves are picked, I decided to try that. 

Green Tea Leaves

First, you'll want to pick fresh leaves. You'll want to pick the youngest two leaves with a third leaf bud in the middle (so really it will be three leaves at a time). Older leaves will be too tough to process and should be left on the plant. 

Since my plants are still pretty young (three years old), I wasn't able to harvest much this year. 

The next step is to separate them. Don't worry if there are some twigs! 

If you have a bamboo steamer, use that. If not, a metal steamer will work just fine. 
Steam the leaves for 2-3 minutes and immediately take off the heat.

Carefully peel off the leaves and gently roll in between your index finger and thumb until they stay rolled up. 

If you want, you can try to make leaf pearls by rolling the leaves in a circular motion (in theory, it didn't really work for me).

Crushed Green Tea Leaf

Once all the leaves are rolled there are two options for drying. One is in the oven at 215°F for ten minutes with a quick toss after five minute. The other, which I did, is to roast them in a dry skillet. 

Green Tea Skillet

I just pushed them around the pan until they were fully dry and put them immediately in a bowl to cool.

Pour boiling water over 4-6 leaves per cup and you'll have a nice, refreshing cup of green tea!

homemade green tea

Bonus - if you have a coffee plant, dry and lightly crush the leaves for a tea similar in flavour to green tea

Special Order Salt Spring Seeds March 31, 2016 13:07 1 Comment

Special Order Salt Spring Seeds

It's officially spring and we want to help you get ready for gardening season. Here's how it works:
  1. Take a look at the Salt Spring Seeds website and decide what you want
  2. Submit your orders using this Order Form. You have until 8am on Tuesday, April 5th to place an order.
  3. After you order, we'll email you an invoice. Please pay online (credit card or Paypal), by phone, or in person by 10am on Friday, April 8th.
  4. You should be able to pick up your seeds after one week (Friday April 15th) but we will confirm the date once the shipment has arrived. Pleas pick up your seeds within a week of their arrival.

poppy seed flower

Making Candles for a Candle Mountain! March 16, 2016 09:41

My roommates and I recently dubbed our living room side table "Extravagant Candle Mountain" and proceeded to layer it with eclectic waxy joy.

Look how extravagant it is! Goodness. It's practically overwhelming.

I've been inspired to partake in the art of burning wax-sticks. Yesterday I picked up a few supplies from Homestead Junction: 

  • 100% Beeswax (locally sourced!),
  • red and blue candle dye chips
  • four wicks.

Pretty basic ingredients - altogether the bill came to about 15 bucks.

I set right to work soon as I arrived home.

Unceremoniously, I jammed some chunks of beeswax into an old pickle jar. This was set in a pot of boiling water. The wax melted completely within 15 minutes.

Then I set up a cooling station and a line of string from which to hang the candles as they cooled.


I gently stirred in the blue dye and attached the first wick to a quilt pin.

And so begins the fascinating process of "dip, dop". Let me explain to you the strategy:

Step 1: dip

Step 2: dop

And repeat. Until... candles!

Woohoo! I think they're completely amazing, if a little unusually shaped. I think their gloobiness lends them personality.

The leftover hot melted beeswax was poured onto Extravagant Candle Mountain in odd designs and stuck with the new candles.

The candles burned majestically into the night.

Next time, I'll purchase longer wicks to make taller, less glooby candles. I'm also excited to try mixing in essential oils for that marvelous scented ambiance only a candle can achieve.

Maybe you'll start your own candle mountain? I hope so!












Goodbye Grass! Gardening on City Boulevards August 19, 2015 06:30

Walking around East Van, it’s pretty fun to check out all the amazing gardens. Every garden is its own character with a story to tell. Sometimes they are picture perfect pretty. Sometimes they are ingeniously planted with squash growing up and hanging off kiwi vines. Sometimes they’re messy. Sometimes there are chickens running around. Sometimes the soil is replaced by little white rocks and plants are accessories to funny stone statues. Whatever the case, gardens in Vancouver are pretty great to have around and look at, which is why I love growing them.

Like a lot of folks in Vancouver, I'm a renter in a house divided into multiple suites. With a shared yard, we filled up our growing space pretty quickly. Fortunately for us though, the City of Vancouver encourages the take over of city boulevards, so that’s what we did!

Food Not Lawns! Boulevard gardening

Here are a few good tricks to reclaiming grass boulevards and growing food and medicine for folks in the neighbourhood!

1. Get city support first.

Because of the City of Vancouver's Greenest City by 2020 Action Plan, they are in full support of residents that want to garden in their boulevards, so asking them for permission is really no big deal at all. Plus, if the city is supporting your initiatives, your landlord most likely will too - which is important since they are responsible for the boulevards in front of and adjacent to their properties.

2. Apply for Neighbourhood Small Grants.

Every year the Vancouver Foundation offers up to $1,000 for residents to help make their community projects happen. To put in our boulevard garden, we received a Neighbourhood Small Grant of $500 which ended up covering the costs of topsoil, manure, and first round of plants. Pretty sweet!

3. Dig Down or Build Up? Some considerations when building your garden:

Assess the land and check out your surroundings. Do your neighbours use herbicides for their perfectly green grass? How old is your home? Sometimes landscapes closely situated around older homes (especially those built around the 1920’s) can be contaminated with heavy metals like lead and cadmium from old chipped off house paint. In these cases, it might be safer to build garden boxes. Also, it’s good to consider dogs and what I like to call the "dog pee zone" when planting edibles next to sidewalks. 

Goodbye Grass! Hello New Neighbourhood Garden!

4. Make friends with some gardeners.

We were given a whole bunch of free plants from gardener friends and landscapers. Plant costs can add up pretty quickly when you buy them, and starting perennial plants from seed can often be super tricky (for example lavender, rosemary, and fruit shrubs). We saved a lot of money sourcing out plants that would have otherwise been thrown into the green bin.

Pearly Everlasting

5. Get Neighbourhood Support - Make Signs!

We made a point to grow perennials that reflect our immediate environment. Being aware of the Coast Salish land we are on, we planted native species like salal, elderberry and saskatoon berry. We also wanted to find plants that folks from our neighbourhood might be stoked on too. We live in a neighbourhood with a lot of migrant families, specifically from places in China and the Philippines, so we are growing Asian medicinals like goji berry and sea buckthorn. In considering the bug populations and native pollinators, we’ve planted echinacea, lavender and comfrey, under which we’ve installed a bumble bee’s nest. Our next step is to make signs describing our efforts, and to encourage passer-bys to munch and take whatever they like (though it would be nice if they didn’t take entire perennial plants - we recently just had a blueberry bush taken out of the ground). We are planning on asking friends and neighbours to translate our signs to be written in English, French, Chinese and Tagalog. Hopefully, this will help folks feel comfortable taking part in the new neighbourhood boulevard garden!

elderberry, goji, salal - medicine patch
(Left to right: elderberry, a flowering goji, and salal berries)

6. Drought Tolerant Plants and Watering Systems:

This year’s drought was a big wake up call that my house is also taking as a warning for what’s to come ahead. Our soil was so dry it actually became hydrophobic - meaning no matter how long we hosed into the soil, water just rolled off the top. There are old school techniques we can learn from to get the water in deeper, like swail systems and water spikes, store bought or DIY style. It is also smart to be realistic about how much you and your housemates will actually water your boulevard (which might be a bit more awkward to get water to than a front or backyard). This could affect your choice of plants. For a few years, friends and I shared a boulevard garden with super awkward water access. Wheelbarrowing bags of water back and forth from 3 blocks away got annoying pretty quickly, so we decided to plant a bunch of drought tolerant and resilient species like raspberry, comfrey and buckwheat, then garlic in the fall. It worked out super well!

Planting Drought Tolerant Gardens(Watering the boulevard food and medicine patch)

So that’s pretty much it! 
Low energy + low cost + free garden space = free food + more neighbourhood friends!
Get that boulevard!

by Kelsey Cham Corbett
Aygust 19th, 2016