Old Seeds but Good Seeds

Old Seeds but Good SeedsOld Seeds but Good Seeds

By Sambam

As winter started to loosen its firm grip on Toronto, green things began sprouting out of my mind. I wanted to plant some seeds! It was still too cold to plant anything outside but my green thumb was itchy. I decided to get some seeds sprouting in the warmth and the indirect light on the 3rd floor so that they’d be ready for a transplant to the garden by the time spring officially decided to move in.

Old Seeds but Good SeedsOld Seeds but Good Seeds

First step, seeds! We looked through our gardening inventory and found several packets of seeds. The problem was, they were all a year or more past their expiration date. I’m not a big believer in expiration dates. I developed a keen awareness of their arbitrariness while dumpster diving as my main source of food. However, the efficacy of seeds could be more complex than using my nose to tell if a container full of yogurt was spoiled or not. I began searching online for how to test if old seeds were still good or not.

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Room to Reimagine

Room to Reimagine

By Sambam,

An empty room vibrates with stories. It’s walls crackle with the twists and turns of its previous residents’ lives.  Something brought each person to that particular room for a space in time. They nested. They had epiphanies, they doubted themselves, they had their hearts broken, they found love elsewhere. They left. What brought me to this particular room at this space in time? What similarities does my story have to those who have come and left, lived and loved, dreamt and despaired within this cube of energy sitting on a ball of matter floating through the vacuum of space? I’m not sure, but I thought it would look really cool to install shelves on that wall.

Room to Reimagine Room to Reimagine

I found it hard to sleep in that room for the first week. Each night, my mind would be zipping around the room splashing light from imaginary fixtures, framing art in unusual places, and planting living walls that would overflow with green. I gazed at the plaster left behind on the recently exposed brick walls and saw waterfalls. I thought about making fountains in the room and wondered how I would keep them from leaking everywhere. I thought about tracing the shadow that the street lamp outside cast upon my walls after jumping through the branches of a tree.

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New Moon Ceremony 2015

By Bridie

What is community? For us it’s hard to hit the nail on the head. In summer, it is easy to feel and see, it is cooking amazing food we’ve grown, sharing it together on the front porch, people busy cooking, working on building projects and sharing the abundance of the warmer months.

With the right people, community just flows. However in winter, that same buzz isn’t so much alive, it quietens down. But it’s occasions when we come together such as the New Moon Ceremony we held last night that ground that sense of community again. A space we created to share music, writing and meditation to set our intentions for 2015.

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A chance to come together and be creative.

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Airbnb – A reflection on our experience

By Bridie

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Our listed private cabin on Airbnb

Airbnb is a global phenomenon exemplifying the power of technology and online branded platforms that allow everyday people to get a ‘slice of the pie’ that once was reserved for business owners or the very brave. Our digital age has seemingly made it possible for anyone to be a taxi driver albeit Uber or bed and breakfast owner – thanks to Airbnb!

Our detached cabin is the perfect nook for paying guests to step in and out of our community life as they please. For Lotus Feast we’ve found the benefits of Airbnb to be wide ranging, including:

Social good

  1. It is a way to share what we are doing with interested visitors.
  2. Enables the cabin to be available for house members for special needs. i.e: a guest or romantic partner, or just a personal retreat. Either between bookings or with advance notice.
  3. We can have the option of offering our cabin to nearby neighbours in need of space for visiting guests.
  4. It is also interesting to participate in the new sharing economy trend.

Our Lotus Feast home

  1. Brings in a fair bit of extra revenue so there is less need to raise rents, less need to seek full revenue from all rooms allowing for either less people or more work-exchangers. And more space created for shared community use. And we can put some of the revenue towards increasing the food budget.
  2. Great incentive to keep the house clean and organized.
  3. Nice to learn about and experience living with a diversity of people from various cultures and backgrounds. We can feel connected to the world. Instead of going travelling the travelers come to us.

Click ‘continue reading’ and scroll down to also see more images.

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

By Bridie

Building the Rooftop Deck

In the midst of building our rooftop deck. 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):

Dehydrated kale chips

Dehydrated kale chips

  • 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 2017: This is still a work in progress. Renovations to create large open spaces in the house are not yet finished. For a while we tried a higher house fund amount of $230 per month for food and payments to those helping out the most, but abandoned that due to too much accounting required and the fact that people living here preferred to be on a more even level with a set expectation of involvement. So now the house fund is just for basic foods and supplies and is $120 per month (included in monthly amount). And there is a 7 hour per week request to contribute toward cooking, cleaning, etc. Lately we have increased the number of work-exchangers that stay here and work about 20 hours per week and we have a backyard cabin for Airbnb that brings in extra income.

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!

Almost every day there is a large lunch and/or dinner (feast). Even at times when there is no meal, there are often leftovers or it can be a chance to cook something simple. We have a house fund that will pay for purchases from farmers’ markets, Karma Food coop, an organic delivery service, small local stores, 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 incense, perfumes, cologne, soap/shampoo, etc unless very natural.

5. Simple all-inclusive price. 

Depending on size and room features, monthly amounts range from around $500 to $600 and include basic food ingredients, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, all utilities, high speed fiber internet and a house phone for outgoing calls.

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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.