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
- 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
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.
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.
Recently, Basil created this unique dish consisting of a layer of rice and lentils on top of a large Swedish cracker. It is topped with slightly burnt fried onions and nuts. Basil got distracted half way through cooking by seeing (and trying to catch with a bucket) a mouse, hence the burnt food. But it was very delicious anyway.
We believe in being as humane as possible when dealing with our mouse residents. Veg.ca has a good article called Dealing with mice and rats: A humane approach to pest control. I will post more about mice later.
Last week, I went to Dufferin Grove organic Farmer’s Market where there is still a good variety of local produce. I got a large Chinese cabbage, apples, potatoes, red onion, beets, fresh fennel, baby bok choy and a buttercup squash. Behind the red onion (see photo) is a piece of Maria’s delicious organic Spiced Fruitcake. I also bought greenhouse-grown coriander, homemade granola and buckwheat flour from one of the farmers. The radicchio and celery root are from the previous week and the carrots and burdock root are from Karma Food Coop (also local and organic).
I was surprised to see local greens. The farmer told me that greens can be covered with special sheets of plastic or burlap to protect them from the cold and extend the harvest season. The sheets are reusable.
Tonight, using the above greens, squash and red onion, I made a quick but tasty stew. I just fried the onion and squash for a few minutes in the bottom of a large pot, then added some spices, salt, a dried hot pepper, some black beans and water. Right near the end, I added chopped cabbage and bok choy.
Our banner has been updated with a picture of some the food in the kitchen of our co-op house. From left to right: fresh soymilk from our automatic soymilk maker, red onion, apple and beet, ginger, hot pepper seeds, giant while corn (also known as maiz mote pelado or hominy) that Natalie uses to make a delicious vegan version of Mexican Posole (thick soup), black beans, local baby bok choy, buttercup squash and a potato. All the veggies came from the nearby Dufferin Grove Farmer’s Market.
How to turn a large pumpkin, into bountiful amounts of delicious food.
Natalie, who lives at the house, was given two pumpkins back in October – the kind that typically get used for Halloween then thrown in the garbage or composted. No one got around to carving them, so they sat on our front porch for a long time. The larger one was eventually conquered by squirrels. They slowly gnawed away at the thick skin until they had made a large enough hole to get inside and gather all the seeds. The other one was more or less spared. We brought it inside and put it in a cold room where it sat until a few days ago. I figured it was time to try to cook something out of it. I hate to see food go to waste.
It was a fair bit of work to chop it up, and separate out the seeds. I found a great recipe for roasting pumpkin seeds at recipezaar.com (an excellent site for peer rated recipes) that involved soaking the seeds in salted water, then roasting them. They turned out delicious!
Next, I used the seed soaking water as a soup base. I made a large soup with some of the cooked pumpkin pieces, greens, ginger, spices, fresh dried hot pepper (from our neighbour’s garden), lentils, and a few things that needed to be used up in the fridge. The soup is not shown in the picture above – it was eaten too quickly.
I still had a lot of pumpkin pieces, so I decided to have a go at making pumpkin pie filling to eat as a pudding. I found a promising recipe at recipezaar and tried it out. It tasted too bland so I doubled the spice. I also added some roasted chestnuts that we had on hand. I only used a third as much sweetener – maple syrup. Turned out great.
Tip: Typically these kind of recipes call for a food processor or blender. I don’t like using such devices as they are a lot of work to clean out. Instead I used a handheld blender (see photo), a very convenient tool for mixing stuff right in a pot or bowl. I also used it to turn the soup from chunky to smooth, right in the pot.