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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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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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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Past residents

In a large house like ours, there are always people coming and going. Some of us leave for a few months and sublet, others move on to other places and situations.

Here are some of our past residents. For a list of who currently lives here, see the House page.

Bridie birthday

Past work-exchanger and resident, Bridie, celebrating her birthday with Sam (left), Alicia and past-residents: Chad and Emilio (right). Emilio still visits often to hang-out, play guitar and make food.

Kat lived at the house from Sept 2012 to Aug 2012, and twice in the past. She is currently studying naturopathic medicine. In between living here, she has visited many different spiritual centers and spent last year in India. “I was living in Delhi running a vegetarian cleanse business and yoga centre from my home with a business partner and mentor.”

Mary stayed with us now as a work-exchanger while she was visiting her family in Toronto during the summer of 2016.

“I work/volunteer with an organization called Sadhana Forest.  I am the “Project Development Officer” at our project in Kenya (www.sadhanaforest.org/kenya).  In a nutshell, we plant trees.  Our aim is to sustainably bring back water and life to this degraded land. I have been living off-grid (we have a wind/solar system), striving for zero-waste, using only vegan and biodegradable products, eating a vegan diet, and practicing water conservation (pretty strictly), amongst other earth-friendly ways of life. …We try our best to practice gift economy, no competition, and un-schooling.”

Sam has lived her for a few year until Sept 2016. He originally wrote: “I am a guitarist and private music teacher.” He is also into playing chess and go.

Steven joined the house in July 2011 and moved out June 2016. While here he helped out with the Veggie Challenge. He wrote: “I’m interested in technology and how it can be applied to make organizations more efficient. I’m also interested in environmental issues – sustainable and low-energy housing, transportation, food consumption, community gardens, and general sustainable and lightweight lifestyles. I’m becoming more interested in sourcing food and other things locally. I am also interested in other global issues around inequality and would like to work on things that improve the situation for people in communities, especially in developing countries.”

Carola was a work-exchanger and artist here from Oct 2015 to Jan 2016. She first wrote us: “I have the desire to discover Toronto and to spend some time in this great city. Indeed very great for an Italian girl: =). I would like to be part of your vegetarian community house in Toronto. …I am a painter and draftsman. I mainly paint the nature and the animals. I love a lot the life’s colors.”

http://www.workaway.info/workawayerprofile.html?w=Carola7

Alicia spent several months here in 2015.

Bridie spent several months with us on and off from May 2014 to May 2015. “I grew up on a farm in Australia… My career background is business & communications. I love to chat about the world, I practice yoga, meditation & pranayama.” Before Canada, she spent several months in Guatemala.

Khadeja moved in Feb 2015. “I really love the philosophy of the house, and having the experience of living in such a sustainable community is so valuable to me, and something I’ve been actively seeking to create around myself and try to inspire in others. I’m really looking forward to spending time in and contributing to this energy! A little bit about me: I’m a practising yogi and a working artist. The goals I’m working towards with my life look a lot like what’s happening in this house: home grown foods, self-sustainable living, building before buying, creating community with like-minds and shared interests, and putting the natural human experience of living at the centre. Ultimately, I’d like to buy a plot of land, build an earthship of my own, grow my own food, and open it up as a yoga/artist/meditation retreat for those who are looking to live that life (the really good life, if you ask me).

Sambam joined us Dec 2014 and stayed for 6 months. He found out about the house on HelpX and did work exchange here. “I am is a photographer, filmmaker, and writer. I have been on the road for the last year and a half. Being welcomed into the Lotus Feast community has been a time of grounding and healing. It all starts with the food. The house is stocked with ingredients that are produced by people who are conscientious of our health and the health of the environment. Then the housemates get ahold of it and put even more love into it when we prepare meals for each other. Everyone who lives in the Lotus Feast community is energetically aware. We give each other space when we need it but we also at times, meditate together, do yoga together, exercise together, share meals, and spend evenings around the fireplace. It’s very fluid. There is space and time to engage with each other in addition to having enough physical and energetic space to be alone and take care of ourselves. This is a strong foundation from which everyone here actively pursues their own beautiful, unique, and fascinating life journeys.” Find Sam’s photography, filmmaking, and writing on his website www.tinymuha.com

April 2015: Ashley joined us in May 2014.  “I am a yoga instructor/writer… I have been in Toronto for two years, before which I lived all over South America and Vancouver Island. Your home reminds me of the many communities I lived with abroad and sounds like a wonderful place to spend the summer. I am a healthy vegetarian, spend my Saturdays at Brickworks, the rest of my days at yoga/meditation or biking around the city. I love to cook, drink tea, and am happy to clean and support the home as needed. You can learn more about me at my website(s). I am a serial entrepreneur as well 🙂  ” www.yogayuda.com www.bareallretreats.com www.bodyevolutions.com

Jan 2015: Chad moved in here in Nov 2014. He writes: “I’m a world traveller who’s settling in Toronto because where else? I’ve been translating Russian into English for the past ten years, but also have variously written short stories, recorded albums and have created some fine vegan dishes. Now my dream is to continue writing and producing short films, particularly in the comedy and musical genres. I like drinking coffee in coffee shops. Now it’s time for a jam session and feast.”

Nov 2014: Emilio joined the house in Aug 2014 after he showed up on our front porch one morning. He is originally from Mexico but grew up in BC. He spent several months living and working at an ashram in BC before coming here. He loves travelling and change, as well as cooking, yoga, guitar, etc.

Nov 2014: Erika has moved to Guatemala with her boyfriend, Tristan. She had stayed with since May. She wrote us originally: “Im a 22 year old sustainable designer. I have my own business making sustainable clothing and home decor. using organic and natural fibers and herbal dyes. I believe in the most ethical and sustainable way of life. I am a vegan gal, and i LOVE to cook/ferment/bake the most beautiful healthy food. last nights dinner was soba noodles tossed with ume and tamari, roasted kaboocha squash topped with some black sesame seeds. I also love to share 🙂 Why communal living?: well, i love to feel connected to the people i am living with. I look to them for inspiration for my artwork, and creating together is one of my favorite ways to create. I also am a WWOOF ‘r so working on organic farms with a tribe of like minded folks has left me with the most enriched memories and views on communal living. I also love jamming with people ( i play mountain dulcimer)”

July 2014: Suzanne joined us in Dec. 2013. She writes: “I’m completing my studies at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition next month. I’m interested in the holistic lifestyle. My passions include: healthy food, sustainability, spiritual practice, building community & expressing creativity. I’ve lived in community before while working at Omega Institute retreat center and visiting Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.  I want to connect with a conscious community again. I love to cook and would be happy to share in that way. 🙂 ”

Aug 2014: Yana joined us May 1. “I am working as a raw food artist but I really do just love art in its full spectrum of mediums. I would describe myself as a social friendly person with healthy boundaries of respect for private space and possessions. With gratitude to my proper eastern European upbringing, I enjoy a very clean environment and maintaining it as such. I am out a lot during the day and some evenings and like to bake and do fun things in the kitchen geeking out on food science when I’m home. As recreation I like to draw, share good food, good energy, laugh, spend time outdoors, learn new things, make crafts, paint, act, sing, write, discuss books and philosophies, and stay fit and healthy with yoga, exercise and meditation. Not a smoker or drinker, no pets. I enjoy good things in life, beauty and harmony and looking to share a similar space with people who share those values.” Her blog: fishswamupstream.wordpress.com

Jan 2014: Nelson lived here since Sept 2012. “I’m interest in issues of housing, sustainability, building technologies, and I earn my living mostly as a self employed designer-builder-renovator. The idea of helping keep up, and improve the place, to in part cover my rent expenses, and to have a place house where to house use my tools in the downstairs workshop are mutually beneficial possibilities. I recently graduated from the Environmental Design program at OCAD. I want to learn more about and be involved in vegetarianism and food security issues. I am a committed bicycle commuter. I enjoy swimming and have done some Tai chi and yoga in the past, and would like to incorporate more of these into my life and routine. I play guitar and have been singing with a community choir (Common Thread) for a number of years, so taking part of music making and sharing gatherings is something I do and very much enjoy, and could even use more of.”

Feb 2014: Lorraine moved here in Jan 2014 from the UK and has been doing a half-time work-exchange. www.workaway.info/workawayerprofile.html?w=oneloz Before that she was as a full time work-exchange visitor here twice in the past spring and summer. When she departed previously she did so by bike – and rode across Canada and down the west coast – a 4 month cycle tour of 5000 miles! See http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog/cyclinginaskirt/1/tpod.html “I’m someone who thrives on new experiences, new people, places and challenges, and travel is one of the best ways to combine all of these.”

Dec 2013: Ana  joined the house in Oct 2013. She did a half time work-exchange here. www.workaway.info/workawayerprofile.html?w=ag6cabello She has taken up guitar and loves to jam with us. She wrote originally: “I am a 23 year old Spanish girl. I am flying to Toronto in order to begin an American sign language course in the canadian hearing society. … I somehow ended up reading your profile in workaway. Wow! It happens that I became a vegan last November after a trip to northern India. It has been quite a challenge for, as you might already know, Spain and Mexico (where I also reside) are huge meat-eaters. I was very inspired by Brendan Brazier’s plant-based diet and I tried to become a Spanish version of him trying to triathlon fueled by plants. But I have to say I failed first time out. However I did learn a lot on the way. Why would you want me there? I am an excellent cook. I like improvising and have become great at preparing banquets out of left overs. I have worked in many different places and with many different people. I am fluent in four languages. My family is not exactly small either, so I have learnt to respect and be respected when we co-exist in the same household. I am active, very positive, calm and responsible.”

Oct 2013: Maria moved here April 2012 and subletted off and on in the past. She was born in Portugal and spent her first seven years on a farm. Her family immigrated to Toronto when she was eight. As a young adult she pursued karate, macrobiotic (vegan) cooking and permiculture gardening. Later she had two daughters who are now in their early 20’s. They visit the house often for dinners and music jams. Maria also loves walking on the Earth, gardening and spiritual activities. She likes to share her knowledge with others.

Aug 2013: Lina joined the house in October 2012. She wrote us: “I am 26 years old, i am about to start a new amazing job as a Therapeutic Field Instructor. I am originally from France, i don’t have my family with me here, my friends are my family. Your house seems like a good place to recreate a family and community where i could belong. I have been a vegetarian for 14 years, i also have an intolerance with wheat and dairies. I am a very good cook, i know a lot about raw food and healthy food due to my diet. I enjoy cooking for other people ( Not much just for myself). I practice Mysore ( Ashtanga yoga) since 2009. It opened my vision on spiritual living and healthy diet. I love hanging out on a porch talking about how amazing the world is, traveling, adventures.”

Feb. 2013: Doruk lived here starting June 2012. He is now in Peru, South America running tours. “I am 32 yr old male (from Turkey). I worked in software industry until 2 year ago in waterloo, on and then left to travel in South america. after magical and spiritual 6 months, i went to Esalen Institute in California for 7 months as farm&garden apprentice. living in a community and growing our own food was a great experience. after California, i spent 3 months at Salt Spring Island in almost solitude at a local farm. Sorry i cannot type well with phones.

Feb. 2013: Katherine moved here Sept 21, 2012 for a short term stay. “I love to cook ( when I cook its almost always vegan) and would most definitely be more than willing to cook a couple times a week! I am a vegetarian now and have been since I was 14 (I’m 26).  I was vegan for 3 years but have only recently stopped as I was unable to maintain the lifestyle in a healthy way. I am aware of the challenges and benefits of communal living – about 3 years ago I founded an urban intentional community in Glasgow, Scotland which is still continuing today (I left to spend a year in Haiti).  Our home upheld many of the same values – living in the most sustainable and mindful way possible, supporting the local community and businesses and running an organic food cooperative out of the house and doing work in the community by hosting documentary nights, potlucks and helping out at the community gardens.”

Spring 2012: Natalie is a longterm housemate who had lived here since 2000.  Over the years, Nat has been very active with painting and helping with renovation plans.  She is also an excellent cook and loves preparing large meals without ever using recipes. She often spends the summers volunteering/cooking at yoga retreats and selling clothing. Recently she moved to Japan to teach English for over a year, but is back in Toronto studying to become a school teacher.

Spring 2012: Basil moved back to the house after living in Ottawa for a couple of years as well as working on art projects in Dubai and France. He is a multimedia artist, “I’m a 29 years old guy. Nomadic – lived in about 5-6 countries for more than 6 months in each country! I love food and cooking, performance and non-traditional art forms, gardening, and much more.”

Sept 2011: Sairah – “I am originally from Regina, Saskatchewan but have lived in cities across Canada and throughout the world. I made the move to Toronto in the summer of 2007 in order to attend the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. I am now a certified holistic nutritionist and enjoy doing public nutrition seminars to students and adults of all ages. After studying Holistic Nutrition, I decided to return to university in order to obtain the mandatory bachelors degree that is required for Naturopathic medicine. I am currently in third year at York University studying Environmental Studies. Other than school, I am enthusiastic about yoga in all of its shapes and forms, and attend a regular satsang, and am off to India for the summer. I am also passionate about animal rights and have been vegetarian since the age of 7 and enjoy shopping and eating vegan.“

May 2011: Alora was with us for several months. She has been involved on cycling tours with the Otesha Project, a youth led charitable organization that mobilizes and equips Canadians to create local and global change through individual and collective choices.

Dec 2010: Mojo is a musician from Ottawa. She was in Toronto living with us for the past several month while she one of the coordinators working at FoodCycles, an organic farm located right in the city at Downsview park.

Sept 2010: Joe is a Master’s candidate at U of T and an avid cyclist who bikes year round in Toronto and on trips that have included Italy and the Gaspe Penninsula. “After 15 years of running my own import business (or was it running me…?), I fired myself and  returned to U of T to work towards my Masters in Education. Both my academic and non-academic interests are varied and involve both service to self and others. I seek balance in life although a little imbalance tends to keep things exciting.”

May 2010: Mike moved in with his girlfriend – “When I am not agonizing over how to write about myself, I try to invent and implement creative ways of applying my talents (in probability theory, statistics, finance, risk management and strategy) in my consulting work, volunteer efforts and civic life. Some of the issues that I am concerned about include civil liberties, civic engagement, public health, public education, climate change, ecological responsibility, cultural diversity, electoral reform and democratic work practices. I enjoy organic and locally grown foods, yoga, pilates, cycling, travel, quirky personalities, surprises, my new MacBook and trying to become a better writer.”
Mike moved into the house in Oct 2008.

Spring 2010: Miriam moved to Madonna house, a Christian farming community near Bellville. She originally moved in January 2, 2008. “I just graduated from Social Work at Ryerson. After finishing up courses, I did my final practicum with an NGO in the northern Philippines for five months. I worked with students in a dormitory, did some microcredit development work in two villages, spent time with local indigenous rights activists and danced a lot at different ceremonies. I returned to Toronto in October. I love to read, my favourite authors are Bell Hooks, Rohinton Mistry, Miroslav Volf and Henri Nouwen. I watch a lot of documentary films, I like to debate local Toronto issues, and have a keen interest in international politics and human rights issues. I’m just figuring out being vegetarian and changing my lifestyle/personal habits to be more earth friendly. I’ve been playing around with being vegetarian for about 2 years. In the last six months being vegetarian and having a more earth-conscious perspective has taken root in me, especially after returning from traveling and interacting with different people in my faith community, Freedomize.

Diana subletted from Joe for the first half of 2009. She writes: ” One year ago I moved back to TO from Victoria BC, where I was applying my music education to teaching piano, as well as: learning and instructing social Cuban Latin dancing, practicing yoga, learning and performing belly dancing, experimenting with art therapy and researching spiritual practices of healing.  Recently I travelled to India for several courses at meditation centers and hope to make travel part of my life. For about 2 years now I practice vipassana meditation and planning to attend my first long meditation course in Merrit BC this spring.  Currently I instruct piano privately to children, teenagers and adults under “Fun Piano Lessons” and would like to develop a practical teacher training program for first time teachers. I have been a vegetarian since 2002 and I am hoping that living in this house will enrich my intention of conscious living, making consumption choices that are good for the earth, and challenge and stretch my boundaries in awareness and active participation.

Dec 2008: Jasmine moved out to travel in Mexico. She had just finished her BA in religious studies at U of T.  “With her degree she will make bowls out of clay and travel to warmer places.”

Spring 2008: Basil moved back to Ottawa for work, but is now back in Toronto living nearby with his partner. Update (Nov 2010): He is now living at the house again.

Jan 2008: Meaghan moved on to Edinburgh to pursue a Master’s degree. She writes: “This past year, I worked in sub-Saharan Africa with HIV/AIDS related issues, and lived in community in South Africa as well, sharing a home with a single African mom and her son, and fellow volunteers. I am returning to school to pursue a degree in international public health, with the dream of getting back to Africa to work within these communities again. I love jogging, sewing, crafts, jazz music and reading books that change my mind.”

Nov 2007: Darrick left to go to South East Asia to make a film about orphaned wild animals. He has been a vegan/animal rights activist and environmentalist for many years. Prior to that he was involved with peace activism. He is a member of the Sea Shepherd Crew, works as a fire fighter, and does renovation jobs to raise money for worthy causes.