Work exchange at Lotus Feast – Why you’ll love it!

By Bridie

Building the Rooftop Deck

In the midst of building our rooftop deck P.S. that’s our edible rooftop garden in the background!

Work exchange is like a holiday with a purpose. If you’re looking to learn how to live a ‘greener’ lifestyle, this is the work exchange house for you. It gives people the chance to work in exchange for food and board and experience what it means to live in a ‘sustainable focused community house’.

So what are the kinds of jobs you would be doing? Without a word of a lie, these are some of the things I have worked on, which have been more like heavenly learning experiences than ‘work’ (see photos at the bottom of this post):

  • Brewing kamboocha
  • Picking cherries & apples from neighborhood trees to make jam
  • Making chemical-free paint and painting walls
  • Making kale chips in the dehydrator
  • Building a roof-top deck
  • Making sauerkraut
  • Growing food for our kitchen – tomatoes, herbs & edible flowers
  • Shopping at local farmers markets
  • Helping out with tidying around the house

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My Favourite Summer Project: chemical-free clay plaster paint

By Bridie

Our latest project at Lotus Feast has been clay plaster painting our new yoga room walls, it’s 100% free of chemicals and uses natural mineral dies. This isn’t the first time we’ve used plaster paint as an alternative to traditional paint, but this time we went a little further – we’ve added flower petals from our garden to the wall!

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A shot of the process: the natural sandy colour captures natural light while still creating a sense of warmth and depth to the room.

A beautiful textured and natural finish,  the sandy colour gives our yoga room an earthy warm feeling and the petals make it our little piece of lasting summer no matter how long the Toronto winter lasts. Into the wet paint we blew, threw and pressed hand-cut nasturtium, lavender and yellow daisy petals from our garden.

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IMG_1754Why you should give it a go…

  • It is a beautiful all natural alternative
  • The textured sand finish adds an earthy feel to your home
  • It does not require extra plastering to get a perfectly smooth wall, because the of the thickness and texture of clay paint covers it up, meaning less time spent sanding and plastering the walls 
  • No need to prime the entire wall, you just need to prime any dusty areas (e.g. plastered seams and plastered screws) 

Colour Sampling

Colour sampling

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Petal cutting

Petals that look like goldfish chatting

A few tips and tricks we’ve learnt on the way… Continue reading

Our meal sharing systems

MoJo, Matt, Steve, Kat, Lee and Maria at one of our shared meals on the front porch.

Over the years we have had varying degrees of success with sharing food. We have tried out a number of approaches from everyone buying their own food supplies to sharing most ingredients. We have tried both an incentive system and one based on taking turns cooking.

Nov 2012 Update: Our latest attempt at an organized shared meal system started in May 2012 and so far so good, We typically have three or four delicious community dinners per week, plus the sharing of smaller meals, snacks and treats. Usually there are leftovers. We have made some significant changes to the how we share. We now buy all our food ingredients out of a shared housefund of $230 per person per month. This fund also has been paying $35 per dinner to any of us willing to cook.

Starting this month, we are trying a slightly different way of rewarding people. Whatever is left in the house fund at the end of a month after paying for food and cleaning supplies will be distributed evenly as an hourly rate among those who recorded time spent cooking and cleaning.

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New vision: simple vegetarian living • spiritual practice

Introducing a new type of shared living that started  here May 1, 2012.  Update Jan 31, 2013: Third floor west-facing room available Feb 1st ($450 + $230 housefund). Or $190 per week. A housemate of ours took a last minute trip to South America. Another housemate is going on vacation. Her room is available until March 26 or so.

There are five aspects to the new vision:

1. Learn and experience a healthy vegetarian lifestyle. 

We want to support those who want to try a vegetarian/vegan diet and can benefit from living with other new and seasoned veggies. Up to three bedrooms will be for shorter term (up to one year) new vegetarians, and the rest will be for experienced vegetarians who are open to helping the new people. There will be documentary nights and shared cooking of dinners where you are encouraged to help out and learn. There may be cooking classes or just learning through osmosis.

2. Inviting spiritual practice. 

This will be up to everyone living here to co-create: but we are aiming to have a weekly sharing event that includes meditation, devotional chanting, movement, etc. There will also be time to resolve any interpersonal tensions that come up. We also anticipate having some yoga, dance, and music jams happening in the house – both spontaneous and planned.

3. Home cooked meals will be included!

Every week there are 2 or 3 dinners (feasts) and several smaller meal preparations. Those who cook receive some money back from the house fund. Even at times when there is no meal, there are often leftovers or it can be a chance to cook on your own or go out for dinner. We have a house fund that will pay for purchases from farmers’ markets, Karma Food coop, an organic delivery service, ONFC buying club for bulk grains, etc.

4. Environmental focus. 

We are looking for people who care about the environment and are willing to avoid plastic packaging and products, open to fixing things instead of buying new, and not wearing/using chemically scented perfumes, cologne, soap/shampoo, etc unless very natural.

5. Simple all-inclusive price. 

Depending on size and room features, rents will range from $355 to $470 and will include all utilities, high speed cable internet and house phone for outgoing calls. In addition there will be a monthly house fund fee of $230 that will cover groceries, house purchases (kitchen equipment, garden plants, etc) and will pay residents who want to cook and clean. The total cost will be around $650 but less for those who actively participate.

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Sunday community dinners

Frequently on Sundays in 2009, one person cooked a big vegetarian feast and we invited people to come over for a community dinner. Usually guests were asked to bring something to contribute to the meal. The person responsible for cooking received $25 from our house fund. It can be a good chance to try out new vegan recipes.

In December 2008, Colleen and Du Fei generously provided an enormous Chinese-style feast with dozens of dishes. These two lived at the house for only two weeks but we became good friends with them. They have since returned to China.

Grape abundance

Back in Spring I wrote about having to prune our Concord grape vine by breaking several of the buds off with my thumb nail.

I wrote: “…one advantage of pruning just the buds, is that you will end up with a thick network of branches that will help block raiding raccoons from reaching the finished grapes that hang down from the vines.”

It worked. The grapes became ripe in early September and were visited by hungry racoons nightly. They ate a bunch and dropped some, but because of the thick mat of vines, many of the grapes that hung down were too hard for them to reach. The same was true for the birds. We were able to harvest grapes whenever we wanted up until mid October. I know someone who cuts all his grapes off early on and composts most of them to avoid the inevitable mess caused by the coons. Our neighbour, Josee lost his grapes to racoons last year, so this year he also cut his very early.

This pruning adaption has allowed us to share the grape abundance among all our furred, feathered and human friends.