Homestead Junction

Our Friends at Briarpatch Community Garden November 18, 2015 09:40

Briar Patch Community Garden
This week, we wanted to give a little shout out to our friends at Briarpatch Community Garden, located right around the corner from us on Princess and Cordova in the DTES. Briarpatch is a little community garden that grows communally and makes space for people living in the neighbourhood. This fall they completed their first full growing season and already they've made a huge impact within the neighbourhood, which I've come to recognize first-hand. Whenever I walk to the gardens to meet with their coordinators (or sometimes they share their hose with us or offer their space for workshops), folks walking along the sidewalks stop to tell me how great the gardens are, and how much they appreciate them. I wish I could take credit for the grateful feedback, but really that credit is for Briarpatch's coordinators Rebecca and Ashleen, and all the many volunteers responsible for maintaining the garden.

Briarpatch has already grown tons of food and hosts many community gatherings and dinners. From seed planting parties to pizza parties (they've got their own cob oven), Briarpatch is connecting neighbourhood kids, adults and seniors to healthy food and nature growing right here in the city.

Briar Patch Pizza PartyBriarpatch's pizza party seems like a really good time!

From Rebecca, Briarpatch's garden coordinator:

This summer, the corner of Princess and Cordova was filled with bright yellow sunflowers, sweet cherry tomatoes, children playing, the smell of delicious pizzas, people laughing, brilliant dahlias and colorful carrots. Two years ago, with the help of many neighbours, we were able to transform an abandoned lot overtook by blackberries into a beautiful space for growing vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers. The Briarpatch Garden truly took off this year, growing a bountiful harvest of strawberries, carrots, beets, beans, peas, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, squash and even grapes! At the heart of the Downtown Eastside, this once abandoned lot has become a gathering spot. We hosted over 12 community parties this past summer. Mission Possible’s potter in residence Shelimar, designed and built a cob oven in our garden, allowing us to have homemade, oven baked pizzas all summer long! As the garden grew, it gathered people in as a place of peace; a place of beauty and connection to nature that is difficult to find in a concrete city. We believe in the power of beauty, nature and connection to the earth to bring healing and restoration to a neighborhood and to individuals. We want to create a peaceful space where people are able to engage in nature and connect to community.

The garden is managed by a community group called Servants Vancouver; however it was built, planted, maintained and looked after by countless volunteers. We wouldn’t have been able to survive without the help of other community organizations. We have been incredibly blessed to partner with Homesteader's Emporium this past summer. While we were able to offer an outdoor space for workshops, Homesteader's has supported us by sharing the knowledge, as well an incredible amount of donated supplies. One of my favourite things about the DTES is the strong sense of community. This is not only true of the neighbors, but also the organizations. It has been so neat for us to partner with an organization that equips people with tools and knowledge and to see their generous spirit equipping us as well. I look forward to continuing to partner with Homesteader's Emporium to spread knowledge and nature throughout the DTES.

 Briarpatch Garden Times

Considering all the ways Briarpatch Community Garden affects our surrounding community, we try our best to find ways to support the work they do. In many ways, we at Homesteader's have a lot of access to resources and very knowledgeable and skilled people. When possible, we offer workshops at Briar Patch that also benefit the garden. For example, we recently had an outdoor mushroom cultivation workshop where participants built an edible mushroom bed for Briarpatch, and a few weeks ago we asked Lynsey from City Farmer to facilitate a composting workshop that would also help Briarpatch with their compost system. 

Homesteader's Workshops at Briarpatch(Top: Lynsey's composting workshop; bottom left: king stropharia mushroom patch; bottom right: aspiring mushroom cultivators working together to install some mushroom beds and logs for the Briarpatch Garden)

Even as a small business with limited resources, we believe in sharing when we have the opportunity. As the winter season approached this year, and folks put their gardens to bed, Homesteader's found ourselves with an excess of gardening supplies. From soaker hoses to hanging baskets, we decided to ask Briarpatch if they thought our overstock would be useful to them - and they said yes. So this past weekend, Rebecca came by and picked up $1500 worth of garden supplies they'll be able to use for a long time coming. 

  Garden Coordinator RebeccaBriarpatch's garden coordinator Rebecca receiving our donation last weekend

 Briarpatch is little community garden doing really solid work in a pretty unique and vulnerable neighbourhood. As we push toward living in a more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable world, we want to do our best to recognize and support the people who are taking the steps to make this more and more possible everyday. So thank you Briarpatch for all the awesome work you do! We hope you enjoy your new goodies!! 

Mushrooms, Mushrooms Everywhere! October 21, 2015 06:00 1 Comment

Walking around the city, we've been noticing a bunch of mushrooms popping up this fall. Wanting to learn a bit more about them, we asked local expert mycologist Paul Kroeger to take us on a mushroom tour of the neighbourhood. Paul agreed and took us along some city blocks surrounding our store in East Van. We went from Strathcona and walking toward Chinatown by cutting through Strathcona gardens.

Paul Kroeger - Vancouver Mycologist
Paul Kroeger, Vancouver Mycologist

Walking past MacLean Park, it was quite interesting and not surprising to hear that some of the trees that line the city have been imported from pretty far away. For those who know a bit about fungi, you might realize when transplanting trees, the tree is not the only thing you'll be taking with you. This is because there are fungi (among other organisms) that live symbiotically with trees and plants, passing them water and nutrients and receiving plant sugars in return. Pretty much every tree and plant that has been studied have either or both mycorrhizal and endophytic fungi living either at their roots ("myco" stemming from the latin word mykēs meaning fungus - and rhiza, meaning rhizome or root), or within the plant itself (endo meaning within, and phyte as in plant). Knowing this, you might not be surprised that 45 years ago (this is about the time when scientists finally took fungi out of the plant kingdom and gave them their own kingdom fungi), when the city brought in hornbeam trees from California - the trees didn't come on their own.

We learned that Hornbeam trees - Carpinus betulus - have a symbiotic relationship with a mycorrhizal fungi called Amanita phalloides otherwise known as the death cap. Since 2004, folks have been seeing these deadly poisonous fungi pop up around Vancouver. Paul noted that it's most probable that the fungi have been living at the roots of these hornbeam trees since their move here, but we've only started seeing the mushrooms come up recently because they can only fruit when their tree hits full maturity. We checked under the hornbeam trees that line MacLean Park, but there were no death caps fruiting yet. Nonetheless, this was definitely a good lesson that even though there are very few deadly poisonous mushroom species in North America, they are around and they can also look like other yummy mushrooms. So, it is really important to know your mushrooms before eating them!

Hornbeam Tree by MacLean ParkMature Hornbeam trees line MacLean Park in Strathcona

 Our walk took us on a journey learning about mushroom identification, and several common species growing locally. Paul spoke of a few identifying features to look for in a mushroom, including whether or not they have gills, the shape of their caps and stems, how delicate they are, and what they smell like. 

Mushroom GillsThis little gilled one smells a lot like salmon!

 If you're around Strathcona a bit, particularly in the areas along Princess and Adanac, you might have seen mushrooms like this one growing wildly in groups along boulevards or in lawns:

Brown russula growing on Prior and Heatly

Mushrooms of the same family can have totally different traits while still looking incredibly similar. Boletes for example can have either pores, tubes, or gills under their caps!

The blue spots on this bolete are impressions marks and age spots

Often times, characteristics can even be masked or unveiled with age. It's really common to miss hiding stems or veils on young mushrooms. Older mushrooms can also change drastically from their younger selves. For example, as inky caps get older, they start to dissolve and drip into black ink. For this reason, it's really great practice to get to know mushrooms at all stages of their fruiting lives.

New and Old If you can believe it, these two mushrooms are the same species!

Some delicious edible mushrooms can grow in suitable spots in your garden. This shaggy parasol is super good to eat, and also likes to grow from compost! An important point to note is that the shaggy parasol has a doppelganger called Chlorophyllum molybdites responsible for the most mushroom poisonings in North America! In this case, a simple way to double check if you have the right mushroom is by doing a spore print. Leave the mushroom cap gills facing down on a white piece of paper over the course of several hours. If the spore print comes out white, you are good to go. If they are green, you can appreciate the mushroom's prettiness but don't eat it - it's poisonous!

Shaggy Parasol
Shaggy Parasol hiding in Strathcona Community Gardens

A few feet away from the Shaggy Parasol growing from soil was this little deadly lepiota. Again, it is a good reminder to know your mushroom species, and be very careful of what you are picking because you don't want to end up eating a poisonous mushroom by mistake!

Deadly LepiotaDeadly Lepiota growing Strathcona Community Gardens

Another good thing to learn when identifying fungi is what they like to grow on or with. For example, all pine trees depend on mycorrhizal fungi to survive and thrive. When they die, primary decomposers eat them and break them down. When you learn to identify trees, you can learn about the relationships they likely have with other species. Then you can make some pretty good educated guesses about what kind of mushroom is growing where, or where to look to find specific kinds of mushrooms.

 5 Needle Pine Tree By Union Market5 Needle Pine Tree by Union Market 

 Of course, deadly poisonous and edible mushrooms are not the only types of mushrooms that exist. All along Princess Ave south of Adanac we found the legendary Amanita muscaria commonly known as the Fly Agaric mushroom. This mushroom can be toxic, but has also been consumed by many cultures all over the world in ceremony as a psychoactive. In Strathcona and all over East Vancouver, this mushroom is all over the place! In David Aurora's field guide All That the Rain Promises and More... it suggests this red and white amanita to be the inspiration of Santa Claus and the flying reindeers. In Northern Europe, reindeers have grazed (and probably still do) on the hallucinogenic fly agaric. So there you have it, flying reindeers!

Fly Agaric - Amanita muscaria
Amanita muscaria popping up along Princess Ave.

There was a lot to learn in the few short hours we spent on this walk, huddling together to pass and sniff at different mushrooms growing in abundance in the city. More than for identification and edibility, mushrooms are short windows we can look into for a hint about the thousands of relationships that exist beneath our feet, even when it seems like we're just walking on concrete. 


by Kelsey Cham Corbett
October 21st, 2016

Mushroom Logs -The Stuffing Method (No Dowels!) October 06, 2015 06:00 1 Comment

Last week, we were honored to have mushroom cultivator, soil enthusiast, and permaculture food producer Danielle Stevenson of D.I.Y Fungi in to teach a 3 day mushroom cultivation course/workshop series. She focused on low-tech skills to grow mushrooms from easy to access materials - like grains, straw, cardboard, and household waste - to teach folks how they can grow mushrooms all year around.

Danielle's Palm Inoculator

For Sunday's outdoor mushroom cultivation workshop, we learned some low-tech skills to grow mushrooms outside. She showed us an alternative method to growing mushrooms out of logs that doesn't require dowels (log-specific mushroom plugs that can be harder to access and more expensive to purchase).   

So before I go into it, here are some things you'll need:

-Fresh hardwood logs: between 2 weeks and 3 months old and 4"-6" in diameter. If they have been felled for less than two weeks, your log may still be acting as if it were alive and push out fungi or bacteria. If it's older than 3 months, it is very likely that it is already populated with too many bacteria, fungi, and and/or mold to compete with. Different mushroom species prefer different food sources (just like people), so it's a good practice to look up which tree species work best with the mushroom you want to grow. We used oak for reishi and shiitake, plum for reishi, and cottonwood for oyster - all of which we scavenged from the windstorm last month. Alder and Maple are also really great hardwoods that works for many species. 

-Spawn: You can use several types fairly mature mushroom spawn that works with the logs you have (if it's fully eaten it's food and the spawn bag is looking pretty white with mycelium, it will be totally fine to transfer to a new substrate - aka food). Like people, fungi like diversity in their diet and don't like to eat the same thing all the time. It's good to change up its food sources. So if you have some fungi growing on and eating coffee grounds, bits of straw, sawdust - anything other than grain spawn, which will attract rats and pests (yum, it's pretty much tempeh!) - as long as you can get bits of it to fit into small pinky sized holes you're probably good to go.

-Alcohol OR Hand Sanitizer: It's really important to remember we have TONS of living organisms we can't see on our hands. These little guys can be a real burden to the fungi we want to grow for food and medicine, so it's really important we keep our hands sanitized. A cheap way to do this is to keep rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle, which you can then use for your hands, plus any other surfaces that you or your fungal friends might come into contact with. On this note, it's important to remember we also have a ton of micro-buddies living in our mouths, and so it's best to practice not to be breathing into your bags of spawn, or talking too much while handling your spawn. 

-Palm Inoculator OR Nitrile Gloves (Optional): You can get a palm inoculator online for about $40-50. It essentially sucks up the sawdust spawn and then you can pop it right into the holes in the logs in a more sanitary way (rather than using your hands which is touching everything from the spawn bag to the logs themselves). However, you can also experiment with just using nitrile gloves, or really good sanitizing practices - keeping your hands really clean and avoiding touching too many surfaces.

-Drill: You want a pretty powerful drill with good battery life, or a really long extension cord. The bit size should be on the bigger size, about the size of a pinky finger (like a pinky finger, the size doesn't need to be exact). 

-Beeswax + Pot + Stove: You want to melt some beeswax to seal and protect your logs from other microorganisms that may out-compete your fungi culture. 

-Sponge, Paintbrush OR cardboard: To brush beeswax onto your log with

-Big Piece of Cardboard: For your finished log to sit on. Some mushrooms species we grow are native to this climate, like the oyster mushroom pleurotus ostreatus. But some species we want to grow for food and medicine are not from here and are don't connect well with other bacteria and fungi. So to lessen your odds of contamination, you can put your log(s) on a piece of cardboard. 

-Friends! This method is easiest to do when there are at least 3 people working together. 1 person to drill, 1 person to plug, and 1 person to follow with the beeswax.


 The Steps:

1. Drill Holes: Again, these should be about the size of your pinky, and two knuckles deep. You can wrap tape around your drill bit to mark the maximum depth you want to drill into (a drill stop).  Drill holes about 1 to 1 and a half fist distances apart all along the log on all sides of the log. The holes can be drilled in a diamond or checkered pattern.Drilling Mushroom Holes

2. Stuff Holes with Mushroom Spawn: One of the benefits of sawdust, grain, or coffee ground spawn is that they have a higher ratios of mycelium than a dowel plug which may increase your chances of success. Spray alcohol on to your palm inoculator, hands, and/or whatever makeshift items you can think of (we tried stuffing small funnels to insert into the drill holes, and then poking the spawn out with a stick. We also tried using a large modified syringe. Neither worked as well as using our hands.) Carefully stuff the holes with spawn. If you are using multiple mushroom species and/or cultures, remember to disinfect your hands and tools before moving on to a new species. Different strains of mushroom cultures will also have a tough (nearly impossible?) time growing on the same food source - even if they are the species.

Stuffing Logs with Sawdust Spawn

3. Seal with Beeswax: While your friends are drilling and stuffing, melt some beeswax in a pot. Some folks say to use a double boiler to avoid burning the wax, but you can use a single pot as long as you are mindful of the temperature. When the wax is melted, use either a sponge, paint brush, or some cardboard to seal the already stuffed holes with beeswax. This will help keep competitors out. On this note, it is also important to seal off any major exposed wounds or scrapes on your log where bark has been torn away. Dipping Into the Beeswax

4. Seal the Base of the Log with Beeswax: After all of the holes have been drilled, stuffed, and sealed, seal the end of your log by dipping it into your pot of beeswax. Only seal off one end so moisture can still get in. The unsealed end will also be an indicator of successful myceliation in the future.

4. Place your logs!

For Shiitake and Oyster Logs: The logs are best placed outside in a  shady and naturally moist location. Logs can be placed horizontally on pallets, cinder blocks or even cardboard if it's all you have, off the ground to prevent competition from soil dwelling fungi. 6-9 months after inoculation, you should see white at the ends of the logs. Once you see this, you can stack them "log cabin" style for fruiting.

Lion's Mane and Maitake: After 6-9 months, once you see white at the ends of the logs, bury about a quarter to a third way upright in the soil in a shady moist location.

For Reishi: Bury upright in sand in a black planter pot. Reishi like more heat and does well in greenhouses. Just make sure they don't dry out!

Buried Logs (done with Fungi for the People in Oregon)

(Some fungi are social and like to interact with native soil dwelling species. In some of these cases one option is to semi-bury your logs)

5. Many Days of Moisture: Just like humans, mushrooms are made up mostly of water so it's very important after inoculation to keep your logs moist! Water 2-3 times a week and do not let them dry out. It takes about 6 months to a year for mushrooms to fruit for Shiitake, Oyster and Lion's Mane, Maitake and reishi can take even longer, so it's really important not to forget about your logs during this process and make sure they maintain moisture.

6. Grow Mushrooms! If all goes well, watch your mushrooms fruit! If you can see mycelium (that white stuff growing in a net-like pattern) growing at the end of your log, and the timing is right according to the mushroom (blue oyster is winter fruiting for example), but still no signs of fruiting mushrooms, soak your logs! You can force fruit logs by completely soaking them in water for 12-24 hours every five weeks. Your logs should produce for about 1 year per inch in diameter (so about 4-6 years). Shiitake and oyster will fruit multiple times a year, and Lion's Mane about once a year. 

Enjoy y'all! And thanks Danielle for the tips! 


by Kelsey Cham Corbett
October 6th, 2016


Talking Sourdough! With Tamiae Squibb June 29, 2015 08:28

No-Knead Sourdough

Tamiae Squibb is a lover of all things food. Former market farmer at the Linnaea Farm on Cortes Island, she is a practiced gardener, artisan bread-maker and has started sharing what she knows as an instructor at Homesteader’s Emporium. Tamiae is one of the most humble, hard-working and thoughtful humans I know - which is probably why her bread is so dang delicious! I am very happy and honored to have the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the beautiful things she does!

tamiae's bolting lettuce

Hey Tamiae! Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions with me! Do you want to take a tiny moment to add to my introduction and share a bit about what you do and what you’ve been working on?

Whoa, Kelsey, thank you for that very generous introduction! You're quite right: i do have a deep appreciation for all aspects of food; everything from growing it, processing, preserving and fermenting it, to producing yummy meals i can share with my near and dear. Since returning to Vancouver this winter I've been busying myself with maintaining a lovely little home garden (a welcome shift from larger scale projects that kept me busy on Cortes [Island] in recent years) and yes, I bake a lot of sourdough. Although my baking schedule keeps me fairly busy, I hope to continue exploring and learning more about the world of real bread.

I know you are really into the art of no-knead sourdough bread making. How did you get into this practice? Can you talk a bit about what it was like for you when you first started?

I was introduced to this specific style of breadmaking about two and a half years ago by a friend whose excitement about it really resonated with me. I grew up eating very little bread (rice was my childhood staple) and was already well-versed in the delicious world of fermented foods, so I didn't have to re-educate myself about what bread ought to be; it was a natural progression, getting my hands into sourdough. The loaves I first tried -of this tartine-style sourdough- were so beautiful and delicious I immediately began baking (and eating) a lot of bread. Through my early experiments I quickly acquired a lineup of eager bread-eaters who asked that I bake for them. Since then, I have been baking a minimum of a dozen loaves a week. often many more.

Bread Dough Baskets

When you were still working and living at Linnaea Farm, I remember seeing you on a few occasions walking around outside carrying an unbaked loaf of bread. Can you talk a bit about the No Knead sourdough style and some of the advantages that have drawn you in? And also why you treat it like a little baby?

Ha ha ha, very funny! I remember those days... if I had accepted a dinner invitation at someone's place nearby but was already underway with the initial fermentation I would often take the bowls of dough with me in order to 'turn' them at the recommended intervals. Now, with more experience, I know how to fit the whole process into my day in a much more graceful way. This particular style of no-knead sourdough actually calls for some gentle handling (as opposed to none at all) and this 'turning' of the dough strengthens the gluten, thereby creating that signature open crumb (lots of big bubbles!) and impressive oven spring. The tartine style of sourdough was created and popularized by a baker named Chad Robertson who learned most of his tricks in France. This type of artisanal loaf has its roots in old world French bread-making but with Robertson's personalizations. The loaves are moist, chewy, with well-developed crusts, and although they are naturally-leavened, they do not necessarily possess that distinct tangy flavour people often associate with sourdough.

Tamiae in her Garden

Interesting! Let’s take a step back for a moment. Can you talk a bit about what sourdough is and what are some of the nutritional and health benefits that it comes with?

Yes, good idea - sourdough is so simple (and beautifully complex at the same time)! To make bread with a sourdough culture (which is just flour and water activated by wild yeasts) all you need is flour, water and salt. and in my opinion, bread that is made only with those three ingredients is often the best. Long before commercial yeast was synthesized to help accelerate rising times and increase production, all bread was created with wild cultures. Using sourdough to make bread means that the grains in the dough are predigested through the process of fermentation thus making them more nutrient- and vitamin-rich. The lactic acid in sourdough breaks down phytates (which is an organic acid present on all nuts, grains, and seeds) which actually block the uptake of minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc. Also, the acetic acid which is produced during fermentation also helps preserve the loaf by inhibiting the colonization of mold. I guess that's a lot of information for now... maybe to recap: sourdough transforms grains into nutrient-rich foods that our bodies can digest, and possesses the power to transform a sticky mass of water and flour into a beautiful piece of edible art.

Yum! So much to learn! Since I've got your attention, I’ve noticed a lot of people (myself included) feel a bit intimidated about the idea of maintaining a sourdough starter. Do you have any tips or tricks you can share with us?


There is an abundance of information out there promoting varying styles of maintaining a sourdough starter, and often some of this information leaves people feeling like maintaining a starter is a lot of work and takes time, careful planning or endless amounts of flour. If I had to encourage someone totally new to sourdough and fermentation to get comfortable with their starter I would definitely suggest they give it a good week or two of regular feedings to ensure they 'know' their starter and to ensure that it is healthy. Once the baker is at a point where they understand their cultures' behaviours and is confident they know how to care for it, then it is perfectly fine to put the starter into the fridge if baking isn't a frequent affair. When I go through periods of only baking once a week, I will remove my starter from the fridge two days before I wish to mix my dough (which means it will receive 3-4 feedings before I use it for the bread, and this gives it time to reanimate and get strong) then I will put it right back into the fridge. When I put my starter back into the fridge, I always precede this with a feeding.

Wow, thanks for that! So, having had the privilege of trying your breads, I know you use a selection of flours. I'm wondering, what are some of your favorites and why?

Hmm... I suppose when I bake for myself I tend to use sprouted grain flours now, mostly because I love the flavour profile, but it is also so darn good for you. I really enjoy baking with wheat flours, especially unbleached, as the gluten strands become so strong and the doughs are easy to handle. I love eating rye but it can be a messy dough to deal with. I'm also really excited about ancient grains like einkorn -which in particular, is super high in nutrients- and because i'm a fan of heritage varieties of seed, I like to find ways to reintroduce these gems back into people's diets. It is probably also worth mentioning that I only use organic grains and prefer to mill my own flour fresh before mixing the dough.


Freshly milled flour - that makes sense! Any last thoughts or ideas you want to throw out there?

YES! I think everyone is capable of baking their own bread! Real food made with your own hands is so much better in so many ways. I want to encourage newbies to try using sourdough and not to get discouraged - a sourdough culture can be used for so much more than just bread too! Be imaginative, adventurous and share your experiments. Even if something doesn't taste or look right to you, chances are someone else will love it.

Tamiae's Raspberry and Kale Patches

Yay! Thank you Tamiae!

by Kelsey Cham Corbett
June 29th, 2016

Whole beast butchery for hunters November 07, 2014 16:04

For last year I've been accumulating training, licenses, and equipment to begin hunting deer. Having never butchered a large animal before, I found it helpful to attend two workshops with EatWild, a really cool local company that specializes in hunter education for city slickers (my description, not theirs). I had a bunch of pictures from their Hunter Field Skills Workshop, a comprehensive 3 day course located at beautiful Singing Lands Ranch just north of Kamloops. In particular, I wanted to show some pictures from the "Shot to Table" exercise, wherein we skinned and butchered a lamb (a stand-in for the buck that wasn't in season). Sadly the memory card malfunctioned. The second course was right here in town - EatWild's Butchering Workshop held at Harkness & Co Butchers on Broadway near Fraser. DSC_1368

In the workshop we worked with two animals to learn about two totally different approaches to butchery. Patrick of Harkness walked us through the professional meat cutter's approach to breaking meat into retail cuts, and Dylan of EatWild worked with us on the hunter's technique.


Seen here, Patrick of Harkness shows how a professional butcher breaks the carcass first into large "prime cuts" and then into smaller portions. It's an orderly method that employs saws, mallets,  and cleavers to make nice neat cuts. It's an ideal way to break down a carcass if you have an orderly, well equipped facility and you aren't worried about getting the animal out of the woods and back to your truck. Everybody got a chance to practice their technique.


Here you see the advantage to the butcher's method - it's more involved, but you can get really deluxe cuts like the rack of lamb Patrick's working on here.


While the butcher uses just the right tools to prepare neat cuts, the hunter uses minimal tools and works with the anatomy to separate meat and bone. I was surprized to find a certain zen to it; the hunter's knife follows joints and muscle groups and takes the animal apart along its natural seams. Here, a participant fillets the muscles off the rib cage.


If you're carrying a harvested animal out of the field on your back, it's ideal to pack out only the parts of the animal you're planning to eat. That's one reason the hunter's approach emphasizes shaving as much meat as possible off the bones. Above, Dylan holds up the strip of meat we filleted off the rib cage.


The neck is loaded with great stew meat. Slicing the meat away from the cervical vertebrae requires some dexterity and a good sharp knife.  We used a narrow filleting knife like you would for fish. The hind and forelegs are visible in the right of the image. I lost the photographs, but these were removed with the same small-but-sharp knife by cutting all the way around each joint. Dylan had a good trick for removing the feet too, but the images were on the dead memory card.


The very best cuts are the tenderloins, located under the spine in the lower back. Here, a participant easily slices the whole muscle group from the carcass as a unit, rather than cutting across the bone to form medalions.


This shows a tenderloin removed as a unit, and a participant removing the sinewy fascia. Removing the muscle whole preserves the integrity of the cut, and requires only a small sharp knife. It can be frozen as a unit and cut into medalions before cooking.


Protect your hard work by packing the meat well for freezing! We used folded butcher paper here. Thanks again to Patrick and Dylan for their instruction!  For upcoming EatWild workshops, see the calendar here. Questions, comments, other thoughts?  let me know what you think!

New Series: Second Sunday Show and Tell October 06, 2014 10:59

Hey Homesteaders!  

Whether you're a seasoned back-to-the-lander or just got your first community garden plot, we know you're doing interesting things and we want to hear about it.  We're starting a new monthly series called Second Sunday Show and Tell so you can come share with us and your fellow urban homesteaders samples or pictures of your cool projects.  As the name implies, Show and Tell will take place on the 2nd Sunday of each month.  We're envisioning an informal gathering of local DIYers, homesteaders, and urban farmers. Actually, this series was created in response to the many people who have come through the store and expressed an interest in teaching workshops.  Many people in the homesteading community want to share what they've learned through workshops, but they don't know where to start.  Maybe you've thought before about teaching workshops, but you don't have access to a classroom space or an audience... then consider signing up for a presentation time slot to get your feet wet! Each month we want to pre-book two or three urban homesteaders to speak for 15-30 minutes.  Topics could be loosely tied into the theme of the month (as in, October is "Fermentation Month"), but don't have to be; you could present a slide show, bring in samples of something you've made, or show people how to do a craft... whatever inspires you!  These presentations will be followed by an "open-mic" opportunity for community members to briefly share a pet project.  Whether you built a straw-bale house in the 70's or you just canned your first batch of jam, you're sure to inspire someone with your story.  Of course, you don't have to share if you're shy; you may just want to sit back with a cup of fresh home-roasted coffee and listen.  As an incentive to share, speakers' names will be entered in a draw for a Homesteader's Emporium gift certificate! The inaugural Second Sunday Show and Tell takes place this Sunday, October 12th.  Come meet others in this amazing community and be inspired! Give us a call at 604 568-7675 or email for more information or to sign up to speak.

Summer Gardening Workshops August 24, 2013 11:45

If you haven't made it out to one of our summer gardening workshops, you're missing out!

 Summer Harvest
A share for the DTES Neighborhood House

Last week everyone got to go home with a bag of mixed-variety tomatoes, some sprigs of rosemary, and one or two deliciously crunchy cukes. Participants learned all about plant sex and how it affects seed saving on a small scale.

 Snap peas are eaten whole--pod and all--and these were so sweet and delicious!
Snap peas are eaten whole--pod and all--and these were so sweet and delicious!
In July, we pigged out on super-sweet Oregon Giant snap peas; luckily, we overcame the urge to eat them all so we could save some for seeds, which we planted last week for a late fall crop.  Now, the question came up whether pea seeds need to be exposed to freezing temperatures before they'll germinate and I didn't honestly know the answer.  Essentially, would August be too soon to plant peas that had just been harvested in July?  In Nature, of course, most seeds dropped at the end of a plant's life cycle would be exposed to winter weather before conditions are right again for them to germinate.  Some seeds, like asparagus, seem to require this, but many others clearly do not or else seeds stored indoors over winter would never germinate.
 Planting peas for a late fall crop.
Planting peas for a late fall crop. These pea plants were harvested in July and hung upside-down to dry.

 Will the lack of a winter rest period prevent our peas from germinating or will we get a bumper crop because the seed we used was so fresh?  We'll see... Experimentation is part of the fun of gardening and the results can be surprising! I did consult one of my favorite gardening writers on this question of whether pea seeds need some freezing temperatures before they'll germinate.  In her book The Zero-Mile Diet, Carolyn Herriot does recommend freezing pea seeds after they're thoroughly dried out, as a way of killing the eggs of an annoying garden pest, the pea weevil; but she doesn't say freezing is necessary for germination.  

In looking through The Zero-Mile Diet I did, however, find the answer to another question that came up in the gardening workshop: what is the difference between snap peas and snow peas?  Basically, both are edible pea pods, differing from shelling peas in that you don't remove the peas from their pods.   Snow peas are harvested when the pods are full-sized but the peas inside have only just begun to swell, whereas snap peas are harvested and eaten with fully formed peas inside. Peas, by the way, are one of the easiest garden plants to save your own seed from because they have "perfect" flowers, meaning they're self-fertile.  

Participants at last week's gardening workshop got a lesson on flower anatomy and will remember that self-fertile plants reproduce true-to-type, meaning the next generation of plants will be like the plants from which seeds were saved.  Self-fertile plants like beans, peas, tomatoes and lettuces are the best place to start for small-scale gardeners wishing to save their own seeds. Participants at last week's workshop also went home with a list of things to do in their own gardens at this time of year.  Late summer garden chores include: Sow seeds for a fall crop and over-wintering for a spring crop Add compost or manure to top-off fertility for late-season fruit production "Deadhead" flowers and herbs to keep them producing longer Harvest herbs to use fresh or hang them to dry for later Leave some annuals to self-sow for next year Plant trees, shrubs and perennials and keep them well-watered Start saving seeds as they become ready

 The addition of a few ripe mangoes makes a great salsa out of home-grown tomatoes, onions, peppers, and herbs.
A few ripe mangoes makes a good salsa great!

To this list, you might add harvest-relevant food preservation projects.  If you're into home canning, you've probably already put up some jams or jellies since we're coming to the end of the season for all of the local berries--although you'll still be able to find lots of blackberries!  Mangoes are apparently in season somewhere since they're so plentiful and cheap right now at local markets; of course I'm a fan of local produce rather than imported, but I do love the way a few ripe mangoes dress up a home-grown salsa recipe.  We're now into tomato harvest season, so get your quart jars ready! I'll address in a later post the question of how to save seeds from tomatoes.  The farmer's market is brimming with interesting heirloom tomato varieties and since many of them won't be available from seed catalogues next year, saving the seeds from your favorites is sometimes the only way to be able to grow them yourself.  Stay tuned!

Bees just around the corner July 01, 2013 18:47 1 Comment

With all the beekeeping workshops we host, we are often asked if we have a beehive on the roof or in the back parking lot. No, but they're very close! Our neighbors Bruce Carscadden Architect ( have generously offered to host our two langstroth hives in their back courtyard. We've had one hive there since March and a second since May.

Here's a picture of me (Rick) taking a peek in the brood box of the newer hive!

 This is my first year as a beekeeper, but I am trying hard to make do without gloves (better dexterity!). This is the hive that's doing well, with lots of brood and several frames of honey. It's the one in the foreground in the last photo with two boxes.

something is seriously wrong here...

 Here's a shot of the upper box of the same hive! Beekeepers will immediately notice something amiss. In a fit of daring idealism, we filled this box with foundationless langstroth frames. The rationale goes something like this: conventional plastic foundation deadens bees' communication and is unnatural. All-wax foundation may contain pesticides or antibiotics if it originates with a commercial hive. Both force the bees to conform to a certain comb size, which may not meet their specific needs. Getting the bees to build their own comb is, seemingly, the solution!

Here, however, we've met with grief. That beautiful, pristine white comb is supposed to be VERTICAL, but it's NOT. If allowed to continue, the bees could fill the whole box with "cross comb" spanning multiples frames and making it impossible to remove each frame for inspection. Note the jumble of bee-covered wooden strips - these were wedged in the top of each frame in the hopes of enticing the bees to build neat vertical comb. They fell out, obviously. Retrieving them was sure a hoot!

some modern bee-art

 Here my friend Gerald who went through The Bee School at Homesteader's earlier this year bare-hands the miscreant wax. He is wearing shorts! My own bee zen is not developed enough for that.

beating a hasty retreat to conventional use of foundation

 With the cross comb wax removed and frames cleaned, we replace them with wax-coated plastic foundation. With one failure under our belt, we'll get some advice and perhaps try going foundationless again another day. For today, the priority was giving the bees room to expand. The blackberry flowers are out, so there's no time to lose!

everything back in place

 With the hive reassembled, the bees seem no worse for wear after this invasive procedure. We also tried another trick today that didn't get photographed. The first hive (left in the above photo, yellow box) has so far failed to thrive. We've observed K-wing (a sign of tracheal mites) and nosema stains, and a high varroa mite count. For nearly a month we've been unable to find the queen or observe eggs or young brood. Today, to our dismay, we observed a spotty pattern of drone brood! This is a sure sign of laying workers in the colony. This is the last ditch reproductive effort of a queenless colony on death's door. Oh NO! The only way to save the colony at this point is to introduce a new queen. Though salvation of a queenless hive is more likely if action is taken before the workers start laying, this can be attempted by "transplanting" a frame (or frames) of young larvae or eggs from a healthy hive. The bees in the dying colony can in theory raise one of these young to become a new queen. Today we found a comb full of brood in the healthy colony that had two queen cells suspended from the bottom bar containing young queen larvae. Rather than squish these cells to dissuade swarming, we transferred the whole frame to the struggling colony. Hopefully one of these queens will hatch and begin laying in the struggling colony. Photos and updates next time we check on the hives!

Natural Solar Dyeing with Caitlin Ffrench March 27, 2013 11:40

Back in November we had a solar dyeing workshop with fiber artist Caitlin Ffrench. It was my first experience doing any kind of natural dyeing, and I found it surprisingly accessible.   Our project was to create a series of silk scarves and dye them over time, using a mordant, light-fast plant materials, water, and a jar. The materials were added to the jar, and the idea was that the heat from the sun (hence solar dyeing) would slowly activate the dyes to bind to the fibre over time. During winter months where the sun is not as vibrant it was to take up to 5-6 months to see any results. Well, it's been about 5 months since we did that workshop and we can finally see these beautifully dyed scarves! I am guessing the workshop that takes place tomorrow will have much quicker results as the sun actually seems to be out!   Caitlin Ffrench was extremely knowledgeable, and had a great green ethos. Her plant materials were all from either her own (or her mothers) garden, or were foraged in areas that were unfit to eat from (i.e. blackberries from the side of a highway), but perfect for dyeing. The variety of techniques, one example being shibori, to make different patterns and textures was also fun, experimental and can get quite complex in terms of shades and colors. The exciting part about this method is that there are so many natural factors that go into solar dyeing, you will be sure to always be pleasantly surprised as to how things turn out!

The silk scarves remained in this state, soaking in the sun for just about 5 months!



You can see the Shibori technique on the far left, a deep purple in centre, and a cream on the far right.



Mushroom Cultivation - a Workshop in Photos and Its Aftermath March 21, 2013 15:24 1 Comment

It's often difficult to express to people just how great Scott's workshops are, so I made a point of taking some photos this time around.  I didn't get photos of everything, but this should give an idea of what kind of fun we got up to.  And if you make it to the end, you'll find sequential photos of oyster mushroom mycelium devouring straw and coffee grounds.

 2013-03-09 15.49.57
we had a pretty good group for a crummy day

 Getting ready.  You can see most of the elements of the workshop here: straw on the left, wood chips center bottom, a bag of soon-to-be inoculated coffee grounds and spawn bags just in front of the wood chips, alder logs in the lower right corner, and of course the delightful attendees!

 2013-03-09 16.07.11
Media for inoculation

 Cotton pillowcases packed with straw, waiting to get soaked in almost-boiling water for an hour each.  Some of these logs have already been inoculated with shiitake dowel spawn; you can see the telltale dots of green seal'n'heal covering the holes.

 2013-03-09 16.05.44
Scott dispensing a nugget of fungal wisdom

 Scott poses with the steel drum he uses to soak the straw bags.  It takes a good propane burner to heat the water to just under boiling - hot enough to sanitize the straw and soften it a bit to prepare it for inoculation. 

 2013-03-09 16.57.26
This is the same oyster mushroom kit we sell at Homesteader's, about to be repurposed as an inoculant.  Many of you have asked if it's possible to propagate these kits to grow on a larger quantity of substrate, and to date my best answer has been a hesitant "I think so."  Well, now I can emphatically state YES.

 Once the pillowcase of straw has cooled enough to handle, we alternated stuffing a handful of straw and a handful of kit material (inoculated red alder sawdust) into a bag.  Packing the straw loosely at first allows the sawdust and straw to mix more evenly.  Note the gloves - we sprayed down with denatured alcohol to keep the process clean.

 2013-03-09 17.37.35
a prepared straw grow bag

 Only once the bag is mostly full is it time to really pack it down, then burp out most of the air and securely close the top.  If you had to set the bag down while packing it, spray it with alcohol to clean it, then air dry before punching 20-30 holes in the sides of the bag.  These will provide air flow to the growing mycelium and allow the mushrooms to fruit.

 2013-03-21 14.28.04
note the moisture inside

 Finally, place this bag into a larger bag to keep it clean and humid.  The top of the larger bag can drape loosely to allow air flow while retaining moisture.   This photo was taken about 10 days after the workshop - note the thick white patch of mycelium in the bottom right beginning to colonize the straw.  Ultimately the goal is to get mushrooms to grow right here in the bag.

 2013-03-18 16.07.19
dowel plug spawn


I forgot to take photos during the log inoculation, but gist was: start with fresh hardwood logs, clean off anything already growing on them, drill 21/64 diameter holes just deep enough for the dowel plugs, press the plugs in with minimal force (they should go in at least 1/4 of the way just by pressing by hand, otherwise the hole is too tight) then seal the plugs and any other breaks in the bark with seal-n-heal or beeswax.  We drilled holes spaced 3" apart in rows - one row for each inch of log diameter.

 2013-03-21 13.59.50
oyster spawn valiantly attacking coffee grounds

 These are coffee grounds we inoculated during the workshop using some of Scott's millet spawn.  These came from a nearby Starbucks - many coffee shops are happy to provide coffee grounds free of charge in whatever quantity you're willing to take.  All that white is mycelium, and the mass of coffee grounds has taken on the spongy texture typical of an oyster mushroom mycelium mass.  There's not much here- probably only a few cups of coffee grounds and not enough to get it to fruit directly - so the plan is to use this to inoculate a larger batch of coffee grounds.  Perhaps sometime I'll stop by a coffee shop to beg some off them, but for now I'm collecting the grounds from my morning coffee in the freezer. I didn't get any photos of the wood chips we inoculated, but I'll keep an eye on them and throw up some pics if they start doing anything impressive.  The idea here is similar to the coffee shown above: start with a small mass of wood chips, colonize them thoroughly with oyster mushroom mycelium, then use them to inoculate a larger bed in an outdoor trench.


Got a few photos of the activity of the various mushroom growth media in the weeks following the workshop. First, the straw! You'll recall this straw was steeped in near-boiling water for an hour, then drained and mixed up with sawdust spawn from a mushroom kit.

 2013-03-21 14.28.04
starting to grow! (look carefully)

 This photo, taken ten days or so after the workshop, shows the mycelium starting to colonize the straw. See that patch of white in the lower corner of the bag? That's mycelium!

 2013-04-11 14.49.03
fully colonized straw

 A few weeks later, the mycelium has fully colonized the straw. In the photo it's hard to distinguish from condensation, but if you stop by the store I'll be happy to show you in person! Now the idea is that oyster mushrooms will pop right out of this bag. I'll keep an eye on it and try to get some pictures when there's some action! Wood Chips Spawn Everybody took home a small amount of wood chips inoculated with oyster mushroom spawn grown on millet. Mine didn't take very well - I'd had to run inside during that part of the workshop, so I don't know if the wood chips I got were prepared correctly. Anyway, they still just look like wood chips after a couple weeks, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

 2013-03-24 13.11.26
mixed hardwood chips, well soaked

 Here are the leftover wood chips from the workshop. It's probably five gallons worth. I understand these chips to be mixed hardwood, bark and all, from a local arborist.

 2013-03-24 13.12.04
a spent oyster mushroom kit

 This is one of Scott's oyster mushroom kits that's already produced a flush of mushrooms. The mycelium in here is still very much alive, so we're using it for an inoculant.

 2013-03-24 13.12.29
adding the kit, er I mean spawn

 Breaking up the sawdust. It comes in a block in the kit, so we break it up by palpating the bag. It's OK to stick your hand in, but wash your hands well beforehand or use gloves to minimize contamination.

 2013-03-24 13.13.17
more spawn

 Here's all the sawdust spawn and mycelium from the bag, broken up. It's probably a 1:10 ratio of spawn to wood chips.

 2013-03-24 13.14.56
all mixed up

 The wood chips and sawdust spawn all mixed together! This photo was taken about a week after inoculation. The mycelium has just started to colonize the wood chips. This plastic tote has lots of extra room and a lid that snaps on but isn't air tight- perfect for the mycelium that needs moisture kept in but a little air flow.

 2013-04-11 14.48.46
white mycelium! good news!

 After about a month, the wood chips are well colonized! These are probably ready to move to an outdoor chip bed. Sorry for the photo quality!

Coffee Grounds

 2013-03-26 10.41.00
filter coffee savings from the freezer

 We left off above with the small bag of Starbucks espresso grounds well colonized. The next step is to inoculate a larger batch of coffee to try to get enough mycelium growing to actually produce some mushrooms. This is a bag with about a gallon of grounds used to make drip coffee, filters and all. It took me about a month to save these in my freezer.

 2013-03-28 17.32.22
slow growth after the second inoculation

 I broke off about half the "starter" bag and mixed it up with the grounds I'd frozen. This is about a week an a half in. The colonization was much slower than the first step. The photo doesn't show it well, but I think the problem was contamination - it looked like there might be some mold growing in competition with the oyster mycelium.

 2013-04-11 14.48.22

 A week or two later, the oyster mycelium has triumphed! It's eaten whatever other microbes were present on the frozen coffee and has fully colonized the bag, giving it a whitish color. This may still not be a large enough mass to obtain mushrooms - perhaps now I'll take Scott's advice and visit a coffee shop for fresh brewed grounds. That's all for now!

Workshop report - it's honey extraction season! August 26, 2012 18:23

Photos are in from last week's honey extraction workshop. Lianne Shyry of Two Bees Apiary showed us how to uncap frames full of honey and run them through a centrifugal extractor (similar to the one we have for rent at the store). Check it out!


 Lianne tips the extractor to help the honey pour out.
Lianne tips the extractor to help the honey pour out.


 Lianne inspects a frame that we just extracted. Looks good!
Lianne inspects a frame that we just extracted. Looks good!


 Loading the extractor  
Loading the extractor


 Turning the crank to spin the extractor cage. A bit of a workout, but easy compared to crush and strain (or so I hear)  
Turning the crank to spin the extractor cage. A bit of a workout, but easy compared to crush and strain (or so I hear)


 Rick shaves the cappings off a full honey frame
Rick shaves the cappings off a full honey frame


 Lianne uses an uncapping scratcher to open any honey cells the knife missed.
Lianne uses an uncapping scratcher to open any honey cells the knife missed.


 We found these dark coloured pollen cells among the honey. We figured they’d add some extra nutrients to the mix!
We found these dark coloured pollen cells among the honey. We figured they’d add some extra nutrients to the mix!


 Using a self-heating knife to peel the caps from the honey cells. This was when the honey aroma became awesome.
Using a self-heating knife to peel the caps from the honey cells. This was when the honey aroma became awesome.