My Hearth Kitchen

Early in the pandemic, I joined the countless others who started baking sourdough and exploring other traditional hearth skills. With little else to do and nowhere to go, I began expanding my focus on the kitchen and the hearth. I’m an amateur at practically everything I do, and that’s okay. I’m enjoying the process of learning and exploring alongside my son, and his enthusiasm makes this an even greater joy. Let me take you on a small tour.

Fermentation Station.

Frodough the sourdough starter has been a powerhouse contributor to our home over the last year, and he has many admiring fans. Getting a kitchen scale to measure by weight rather than volume has been instrumental in upping my sourdough game, and I learned what I know from The Clever Carrot. Beyond the plain loaf, we like caraway rye, super seedy, cheesy jalapeno, savoury garlic and cheese babka, and naan.

After three failed attempts, Ginger Bug Mk IV was a success, and this ginger bug is wild and strong. Mostly I make a standard ginger beer, but I have also made flavoured ginger beers using tea (though this last peach one was subpar). My husband insists that I start taking notes on different batches, and get a little more serious about brewing so that I can replicate the best attempts.

Greenhouse.

An IKEA Hyllis shelf serves as my kitchen greenhouse, where I start my seedlings for transplant. I have just one grow light, and still would like a heating mat, but my baby plants are doing quite well. Tomatoes, hot peppers, sugar pumpkins, lettuce, cilantro, basil, butterfly milkweed are just some of the babies soaking up the sun and warmth to prepare for their outdoor lives. And I can’t get enough. I need four tomato plants for my garden this year, but somehow I have 27 tomato seedlings. What have I done?

Vermicomposting.

Our townhouse complex has private waste collection, so there is no city composting service. In an effort to divert some of our waste from the landfill, this weekend (!) we are starting vermicomposting. I was lucky enough to find someone close to me selling his established worms and fancy worm bin as he is downsizing, so tomorrow afternoon we’ll have a whole collection of new pets. This is going to be diving into the deep end of vermicomposting, as I have no previous experience doing so, but I’m excited to start and give these worms a new home; my garden will thank me for it.

Garden.

Our townhouse has quite a small backyard, so last summer we put in a very modest 3×5′ raised bed. My husband is making ollas for water conservation and in-ground irrigation, and my friend will be making me a cedar frame to serve as a trellis for vining plants, and as a cold frame to extend the season. There’s a space beside the raised bed which has a forsythia bush, but as I also have one in the other corner of the yard, I’m considering removing it to put in a tiny berry patch.

In the other garden bed, which is in a shadier location with a lilac tree, we have anise hyssop, wild ginger, black-eyed susans, and are focusing on native plants. Last summer, my friend gifted me tobacco, sage, and sweetgrass, and along with my cedar tree these are the four sacred medicines of the Anishinaabe people. I have not been given the associated teachings with these plants, so I do not use them in a ceremonial way but grow them out of respect for the land on which I live.

Our tiny lawn is struggling, but we’re aiming for a mixture of grass, clover, and wild violets (which grow in the space behind our yard also). We need something that will be hardy enough to walk on (grass) but we like the diversity that other plants provide.

It isn’t much, but it’s a start and what I can do in the space that we have. Hopefully at some point we will have more space to grow food, whether through a community garden plot or elsewhere. Decluttering is giving us more space in the house, and helping us focus on what we truly need and want to have.

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