Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's CSA Thursday!

Some of Amanda and Ed's lovely cabbage!
A dreary, damp morning for CSA!  We had The Odd Job Squad out today to help pick raspberries.  This is a government program to help find work and activities for kids under sixteen.  Nice group of kids!  If you have 'odd jobs', chores, cleaning, packing, stacking, gardening or other such work please do consider giving them a call at 726-6199.  The kids get paid minimum wage, of course, and are enthusiastic and industrious.  They could be a boon, too, for small businesses looking for a little help packing orders or something!  Anyway, we were picking raspberries in a light rain so we highly recommend that you get them out of the containers and spread out on a cookie sheet or towel, because we're quite afraid mould will start quickly in the bottom layers!

Returning members will know this from previous years but for new members: our neighbours, Amanda and Ed, help grow for our CSA.  They are a retired couple, like-minded in terms of not using chemicals, they are enthusiastic, experienced gardeners and we're so happy to have them grow for you!  Once again this year, they've come up with some beautiful cabbage.  Amanda keeps these looking so good with a mix of flour and cayenne pepper to keep the bugs off!  Everyone is getting a lovely summer cabbage today!  Here's a round up of coleslaw recipes from simple to spicy Asian and more!  Of course, there is cabbage soup (along with the blogger's 7-day diet plan), cabbage fried, in sautees or steamed and cabbage rolls!  You'll probably get more cabbage, at least next week, so familiarize yourself with some recipes!  It stores well just in the fridge, so you don't need to get frantic about using it up in the next few days!

So, for today: for the Full Shares: a large cabbage, bag of Grande Rapids lettuce, bundle of baby Romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, onions, large bag of shelling peas, small bag of snow peas, 2 pints raspberries.

For the Part Shares: large cabbage, bag of Grande Rapids lettuce, bundle of baby Romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, onions, medium bag of shelling peas, two pints raspberries.

For the Single Shares:  small cabbage, bag of Grande Rapids lettuce, bundle of baby Romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, onions, small bag of shelling peas, pint of raspberries.

We've got volunteer opportunities next week!  If you'd like to come help at the farm we need raspberry pickers on both Tuesday and Thursday mornings!  Volunteers always go home with bonuses!  We're also looking for help on Weeding Wednesdays, morning or evening come help pull a few of those weeds!  Pet a baby goat, cluck at a chicken, play with a small doggie or pet a barn cat - lots to do while you're here!  Email us if you're interested!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

CSA, July 22nd.

Peas are coming nicely!
A couple of hot days, a couple of cool days, lots of bugs...not much has changed in the gardens since last Tuesday!  However, it's a day of firsts: 1st pick on the raspberries, 1st pick on the shelling peas!  Neither are big picks - but both are coming nicely!  We don't think it's going to be a great year for raspberries, but it will be a decent year!  We had trouble getting into the raspberries early on for pruning and weeding: it was just too wet and mucky!  We're also seeing lots of mechanical damage: berries have been 'smacked' into surrounding bushes and canes by the extreme high winds of some of our recent storms.  Lots of bits and pieces of willow have been blown in, breaking branches.  We're also seeing a bit of 'bloom' on the berries: a whitish tinge to the berry.  That's a cold, wet weather thing, not pretty but totally edible.  Bit of a mess in the raspberry rows!

We got a wee pick on snow peas for Saturday's Global Market.  Got another wee pick today, just enough for the Part Shares.  Shelling peas we got a better pick so enough for a decent share for all the Full Shares.  Sorry, no peas for Single Shares this week, but we'll keep you top of mind next week!

We've got some lovely baby Romaine lettuce for everyone today.  Of course, it's the main ingredient in a classic Caesar Salad!  It's got more crunch that the Grand Rapids, which you're also getting!  We've actually pulled the Romaine lettuce - roots and all.  Stand it in a vase or glass of water like a bouquet, with the roots just covered, for maximum freshness!

So, for the Full Shares:  Small bag of Swiss Chard, shelling peas, Romaine lettuce, Grand Rapids lettuce, bundle of onions, container of raspberries.

For the Part Shares:  Small bag of Swiss Chard, Snow peas, Romaine lettuce, Grand Rapids lettuce, bundle of onions, container of raspberries.

Single Shares:  Small bag of Swiss Chard, Romaine lettuce, Grand Rapids lettuce, bundle of onions, container of raspberries.

If you're looking for volunteer opportunities...we'd love some help picking raspberries the next few weeks.  They are quite labour intensive, so the more help the more berries for everybody.  Volunteers go home with a bonus!  Plus, every Wednesday here is Weeding Wednesday.  Lots of jobs, big and small, day or evening if you'd like to come out and pull a few, we'd welcome you!




Thursday, July 17, 2014

CSA Today: Looks a Lot Like Tuesday's Share!

We're looking forward to meeting some new members today!  I always think it is rather incredible that people will give us money to grow their food without meeting us face to face!  I've had lots of email 'conversations' with people but we've never actually met!  Today is the day!

Not much development in the last two days.  Thursday's CSA share looks, well, exactly like Tuesdays! Check out Tuesdays' blog post for some great tips on storing fresh veggies throughout the season, as well as a nice link for homemade salad dressings where you can control the amount of sugar and other ingredients!

Although flooding continues in this region, water levels are receding slowly.  What remains is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes - and they are out in clouds.  Forget 'The Cloud' or the 'iCloud'! Brandon has numerous clouds.  Sand flies are also a huge problem today: the little nuisances are getting into ears, noses, behind glasses, down shirts!  The worst is when you try to talk to your harvesting companion and they fly in your mouth!  Not exactly the kind of protein I'm looking for!

Today's heat may help the vegetables.  Our worry is that in all the cool, wet soil plants didn't root very deeply and will now not be able to withstand high heat and little rain.  Our irrigation system is acting up (again!) so we'll have to have a visit from our pals at D & B Sprinklers real soon!

We were kind of surprised by the number of Tuesday's members who weren't familiar with Swiss Chard.  It's a nutrition super food, just not getting the attention kale seems to be getting right now!  Here's some detailed information on the health benefits of Chard!  You may have seen big, white-ribbed leaves in Grandma's garden, but we grow a variety called 'Bright Lights' with colourful stems and a milder taste.  Chard can be used raw in salads or cooked - like spinach.  Here's a great link with five easy Chard preparations!

So, today's share, everybody gets the same thing: a large bag of bright green 'Grand Rapids' lettuce, a bag of 'Red Sails' lettuce, a bag of Swiss Chard called 'Bright Lights' and a bundle of winter onions.  These onions have been in the ground all winter and are very tasty.  However, a few are getting ready to bloom and the stem may be hard.  The bulb and the greens still completely usable!

Enjoy your first taste of fresh-from-the-farm for this season!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

First CSA Share of 2014 - Not Much in the Basket!

We're sorry - the spinach didn't make it!
The first CSA share of the season! Later than most years due to odd, very odd, weather!  And not a big share, at that.  This year has seemed more of a struggle then any other.  After a long cold winter, a long cold spring has made gardening challenging.  In the last month, a few weird storms have set us back even more.  At least we're not flooding, like some of our neighbours!

Veggies struggled early on.  We basically lost the spinach: it was tiny and yellowed and much died in cold, wet soil.  As the temperatures have improved, some has come back but only to go straight to seed!  I've never seen spinach two inches high with four poor leaves flowering.  It's a goner!  Some of our winter squash was washed out, as well as some of the beets and carrots.  We've replanted all, but it's rather amusing to see Delicata squash coming up eight feet down the hill from where it was planted!  The early planting of radishes have cracked from too much rain and have baby bugs tunnelling in them, so they're getting plowed under.

There's not a lot to say about today's harvest so I figured we'd start with some basics.  Here's a great link to storing and keeping your fresh vegetables and fruits: http://www.thekitchn.com/the-kitchns-guide-to-storing-fruits-and-vegetables-tip-roundup-176308.  This one is worth bookmarking: it has basic tips as well as links for specific vegetables and fruits.  We bring our vegetables as 'fresh from the field' as we can, with a basic rinse but I wouldn't consider them well washed.  We recommend getting everything out of plastic as soon as you can.  Here's a good link for vegetable 'washes', very useful for store-bought veggies which are more likely to have waxes, pesticide residues and such.  Our veggies are just...somewhat dirty but the washes are helpful to keep them fresh longer.  Since this first few weeks will be all about greens here's a great link for DIY salad dressings.  Homemade salad dressings can be made free of extra sugar and additives, and can be made fresh in small quantities.

The rejected lettuce will make excellent goat food!
So today is simple: Everyone gets a bag of Grand Rapids lettuce, a bright green, frilly lettuce perfect for salads or sandwiches.  Everyone gets a bag of Red Sails lettuce, pretty in a salad.  There are winter onions, in the ground since last fall.  Some are starting to go to seed, so if the stem is very hard it cannot be used, otherwise all parts will be very tasty in salads or cooking.  Everyone is getting Swiss Chard, a variety called Rainbow Lights with bright coloured stems.  Chard can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach: braised, sauteed or simply steamed.  We've used it in a quiche and it was very good!



So, a slow start to our CSA, but it's all fresh and chemical-free!  Just FYI...the raspberries and the beans are coming very well.......

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Plant...Then Wait...Plant...


Stuff's happening in the garden!  It has been very much a start-and-stop season, so far.  It took us forever to dry out enough to work the land.  Even then, there were tractors stuck and such fun farm things!  You know you're in trouble when you have to go borrow a big tractor 'cause the little tractor can't pull out the medium tractor, which is mired in the middle of the field.  When we did get going it was a couple of days of planting, a couple of days of rain, a day to dry out, a day of planting, a couple of days of rain.  Potatoes were planted first and I still worry a bit about them....was it too wet shortly after planting?  Was it too cold?
 
Now, at June 10th, most of our seed planting is almost done.  Garlic, onions, beans are looking good.  Lettuces, spinach, kale are peeking out.  Carrots seem to be a 'no-show', so just yesterday I purchased a whole new round of seed at Lindenberg's.  Beets, chard, snow peas, summer squash and winter squash are in, but no signs yet.  We still have second or third succession plantings to do of greens and beans.

Still on the agenda: all our seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, ground cherry and tomatillos, as well as herb seeds.  The greenhouse is almost full with about 20 flats of mostly tomatoes and a few peppers.  Inside, in the sun room, there are another fifteen flats of peppers, tomatillos and ground cherry.  Forecast looks good for the next couple of days!

Then, of course, it's the never ending weeding.  Easy to get distracted from the work with so many baby goats to play with!  And really, at some point, we should take a look at our ornamental beds in front of the house - the quack grass seems to be taking over!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hand Milled Soap

Hard to spoon the glop into molds!

Sometimes you will come across fancy soap in the stores labeled as hand milled or French milled.  It means the soap has been processed a second or third time.  The soap is made, grated, dried and then heated and re-poured.  Some of the big firms use big rollers to press the soap.  The result, apparently, is a finer bar of soap: hard, firm, no traces of lye.  Grated soap is often sold at craft places for people who don't want to make soap from scratch.  You can buy pre-made soap already grated, melt in the oven or crock pot, add your own scents and additives without ever going near a jug of lye.  Milling or re-batching, as it is also called, can be used on a batch of soap that has failed for some reason.  For the DIYer, scents and additives go farther and it's much easier.

I had read about hand milled soap during my learning process before making soap.  I was interested in making soap from scratch with our fresh goats milk, so I didn't pay the process much attention.  As I got into soap making, I chose to use flat molds, rather than loaf molds, so that less heat would build up in our soaps, potentially damaging the goats milk.  To get a nice fat bar I was always over-filling the molds and had to trim away the excess, which I saved - largely because I couldn't bear to throw it away!  After a couple of years of making soap, I had quite a collection of these trimmings, long thin pieces cut from the sides of my batches.  So, I decided to try hand milling to use up the bits.

At home, this involved leaving the bits out to dry, then using my food processor to grate them into smaller bits.  Then a little more milk is added for moisture and I heated the whole thing in the oven at low temperature.  I took my basic method from these instructions and this info.  Grating the soap in my food processor was a bit of a mess: Even though the soap was well cured it stuck to the blade and gooped up.  Pour into a casserole, mix in some milk and heat - quite simple.  It took longer to melt to a nice texture but the mixture was still hard to pour, even after being returned to the oven.  I had used bits of our Simple Soap; apparently heating fragranced soap or soaps with herbs just turns into an ugly mess.
Even after sitting out for over a week...

Unfortunately, the resulting soap is a soft, gooey mess.  Too much milk?  Whatever the problem, I've decided that it's not worth fussing over.  The time involved in re-batching is just not worth my while.  If I can only re-batch unscented soaps that doesn't solve my problem of left over trimmings from soaps with essential oils and herbs.  And, with the time involved, a bar of Simple Soap, which sells for $4 normally, would have to sell for $7 or $8!  I don't think my customers would see the advantage.  I cure my soaps long enough that the lye is all used up and they are nice and firm, so I'm not worrying about those concerns.  As I thought about it I realized that the best thing to do is not over-pour and have all the trimmings left over in the first place!  Soaps were going to have to go up in price this summer due to inevitably rising costs, so instead of raising the price, I'll just have a slightly smaller bar of soap without waste.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Weird...but true!

Cloves of garlic getting tucked in.
It is so weird: It's May 18th and we are just starting to plant!  Even weirder: We're starting with garlic!  Most years we would be almost done with seeding the gardens.  This year, between the Winter-that-wouldn't-go-away and the Spring-that-wouldn't-come we've just barely started.  It took seemingly forever for the gardens to dry out and warm up, then we had a cold, rainy spell.  If you follow our Facebook page, you know last week we had a day when tractors got stuck in the field a couple of times.

And garlic!  We usually plant garlic in the Fall, but last Fall we were a little distracted by jobs, life, harvest, breeding goats, etcetera and missed our opportunity to purchase seed bulbs.  The last few seasons we had saved our own garlic to replant, but a poor harvest and disease left nothing.  Fortunately, we were able to purchase some lovely garlic through Lindenberg Seeds this Spring.  I spent an afternoon two days ago breaking up the heads into the cloves on ten pounds of garlic!  When Farmer Man finally managed to get most of the cultivation done, we were waiting for a decent day (like today), when both of us were home and we got busy!

We and our CSA members can all breath a sigh of relief now that the garlic is in.  We, personally, love garlic and the taste of naturally grown, farm fresh garlic is head-and-shoulders above the store bought stuff!  CSA members have come to love garlic scapes, too!  Have you had them?  The scapes are the flowering stems of garlic; raw, they have a lovely mild, green garlic taste.  Cooked they taste something like asparagus.  We think they are best raw and make an awesome pesto, a great addition to salads or a delightful topping on pizza or pasta.  And they are in the ground, with more rain in the forecast.

Some peas, chard, some beets, some carrots, some onions and some lettuces are also in the ground as of today.  So, a good start has been made!  Rain tomorrow, then we're going to spend a day planting potatoes.  Shortly, we'll get back to successive plantings of many of the vegetables.  Corn and many of the winter squash will go in when the soil is just a little warmer.  Beans and summer squash can go in anytime now.  In the meantime, the sun room is bursting with seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, cantaloupe, ground cherry and tomatillos.  They will go into the ground in June - we're never in any hurry because we can easily still have frosts for the next two to three weeks.

It feels good to get a start made!  Were you working in the garden this May long weekend?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

This Changes Everything!

No, it's not some fancy new design for a watering wand or some earth-shattering invention of a new hose.  It's just the fact that we once again have outdoor running water that changes everything!

All winter, every winter, we have no outdoor running water.  We've looked into installing something from our well, which is located between the house and the barn.  Setting up for weather-proof running water in the barn has proved just too expensive for our modest budget.  So all winter we're hauling water from the house to the barn and the chicken coop.  There is only one power outlet in the barn itself and we're afraid to be running extension cords around so much straw, hay and wood so one goat stall has a heated bucket.  Every other stall has just a plain, old plastic bucket of water, which freezes.  The chicken coop has one waterer which doesn't freeze, but the chickens go through the supply almost every day.

So, winter is interesting here at Aagaard Farms.  And this was an especially looooong, very cold winter.  We have multiples of everything: two chicken waters, eight plastic buckets.  Buckets of water are thawing in our foyer all the winter.  Half thawed water is dumped in the kitchen sink, the bath tub or outside if we're ready to go out, making for interesting ice sculptures everywhere.  Buckets sitting in the pens always have frozen 'stuff' on the bottoms, which softens and falls off or melts into a puddle.  So winter is messy here at the wee farm.  Old newspapers holding dirty pails are always in the foyer or in front of the heater.

Getting water up is a relay event.  Four buckets go at a time, so it's carry two outside, carry two more outside, carry two up to the barn, return, carry two more up to the barn, all bundled up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.  At least once a day a chicken water has to go up for another trip.  We haul a frozen bucket out of a stall, replace with a new bucket.  Do the rounds, haul all the frozen buckets back to the house to thaw for the next time, make hot chocolate (very important!).  When it was very cold, the water would freeze in a few hours so we were doing this little chore three, sometimes four times a day.  Goats also have some natural talent for pooping into their water buckets so sometimes an extra bucket had to go.  Since our does were pregnant, we were keeping an eye on both water and hay regularly through the day, trying to get them through the cold weather.  At -30 C, with a wind chill the trip can seem like a hike to the Arctic Circle!

So, you can see why a simple garden hose makes such a difference!  First, water is no longer freezing.  And, if water is dirty, it's just a matter of dumping it out the door, fill and replace.  The chicken waterer, too, is just taken outside, emptied and re-filled.  It makes life so much simpler and lessens the time involved in the chore substantially.  And that's a good thing, 'cause we're getting a little busy with other stuff!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Great Potato Search!

Last season we experienced an awful potato season.  We've made a bit of a name for ourselves with thirty varieties of potatoes, many heirlooms.  It was a combination of things: a cool wet spring led to some rot in the field early, the weather also brought us a bit of blight.  Then, in about a two day period when we were busy with markets, the potato beetle descended and nearly wiped us out!  Very few plants rebounded from the onslaught of the potato beetle.

Most of the potatoes we did harvest went to our CSA families, always our first priority.  I know many of them missed the variety we usually offer.  Not having potatoes to take to the Farmers Market was quite a financial loss for us, as well as a disappointment for our customers. And, this winter we've eaten a lot more rice than usual!  Perhaps the biggest problem, though, was the loss of seed potato, for this years' crop.  We've been virtually self-sufficient in seed for a number of years now; not only is it an expense, but we knew we'd have trouble finding some of our heirloom varieties.

So, the search began...well, it began last fall when pal Reta noticed Crampton's Market in Winnipeg had Pink Fir Apple potatoes - an awesome tasty heirloom and one of our favourites for soups and stews.  Erin at Crampton's was able to give us contact info for her supplier and we met the delightful Dennis, a chemical-free grower and wholesaler from the Winkler area.  Dennis could, indeed, supply us with some seed for Pink Fir Apple, as well as All-Red, an unusual pink-fleshed, dense and flavourful variety.  We had a nice meeting with Dennis at Neechi Common in Winnipeg on one of his delivery days.  Always fun to chat with and compare notes from someone doing the same thing we are!

We kept in touch with Dennis and he helped us find some Russian Blue, the all-purple potato and he shared with us some of his own French Fingerling, another of our favourites.  He also hooked us up with Kroeker Farms where we could find Sangre - our all-time favourites multi-purpose potato!  We scored some Yukon Gold from them, too.  Kroeker's offering are not chemical-free, but we're okay with that since they will be grown using all organic methods.

Then, Roger got in touch.  Roger is, well, a potato addict like Farmer Man.  He'd purchased seed from us in previous years, especially some of our interesting varieties.  Roger had run into Farmer Man and heard about our losses, and as he was getting ready this spring to plant, he found he could share some seed with us!  He's able to provide seed for Linzer Delicatesse, a beautiful fingerling and some more Pink Fir Apple; it sounds like he may be able to spare a bit of German Butterball - one of my personal favourites!    He also brought along some tiny quantities of some others, including one he believes is named Klondike Rose.  He gifted us a few bigger, eating spuds of Klondike Rose and it was quite yummy.

Perhaps the most interesting thing Roger has shared is true seed - harvested from the flower of the potato plant.  This is not how potatoes are usually grown!  Roger has been experimenting with saving true seed and following the work of a fellow named, I think, Tom Wagneg.  Roger left us with a small bag of seed he had gleaned and cleaned from those little round balls that grow from your flowers - you know those little balls we all ignore!  This is going to be quite a fun experiment: we're going to plant a bit of the seed now and save some to stratify, probably by freezing.  Should be fascinating!

In the meantime, the great seed potato search goes on!  At least we have the confidence of knowing we've got a decent quantity of some great potatoes for this upcoming season.  We've got to be careful this year to allow the soil to dry up and warm up properly: it's been such a long cold winter that that might take a while!

Have you a favourite potato variety?  Some of our Facebook friends have mentioned Adora, which I've never eaten but may try to find some!  Have you any recommendations?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Last Garden Chores of 2013


Yes, it's 2014 and I'm just finishing garden chores from last year!  It is always so - some things can just wait and since I always seem to be busy, wait they do!  The chores involve food, food for storage.  More specifically, dried beans and onions.  Both were fine: the beans were unshelled in pails, the onions had been properly cured and were in crates.  They were fine, but not particularly easy to access.  What finally got me going?  Well, it's time to clear and clean the sun room and get ready to start growing in 2014.

The beans are one of our favourites: Jacob's Cattle.  They are excellent for soups, stews, pork-and-beans and refried beans.  They matured on the bushes and I got them picked in early October, when the pods were brown and crispy.  I had them in a crate for a few days to dry, then they went into pails and into the sun room.  I like to clean them by hand - I sit in front of the TV in the evenings and shell them.  I've tried a lot of different methods like putting the pods in a sack and whacking it on a wall or post but I find it all messy.  I think I get a cleaner product just shelling gently into a pail and discarding the largely intact pod.  I still go through the shelled beans carefully for debris and bad beans before storing in glass jars.  I'll look through them again before I cook them, but I find less debris then beans I've bought at the store!  You do always go through dried beans, right?

The onions were just fine, I just wanted to get them into smaller storage and in a mesh bag that I could hang in the back room.  I cleaned some of the dried skin off and have a beautiful bag ready to use.  A little dusty and messy; perhaps it was a job better for doing outdoors last fall but that's what vacuums are for, right?

Now that's two pails and two crates out of the sun room.  What remains are four crates of assorted winter squash and a few loose squash on the floor.  We're still eating winter squash, I'm still going to bake and freeze some for muffins and such, and the goats and chickens are still getting some real food snacks!  But the sun room is almost clear and ready for the seed starting unit to come back inside.  It's time to get growing again!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Good Bye, Sweet Blaze.

We had to say good bye to our dear friend Blaze today - Farmer Man's best friend.  We knew it was coming but somehow you're still never quite ready to lose a pet.  He'd been slowing down this past summer and fall; he no longer followed either of us anytime we left the house, he slept more, he ate less.  We knew he didn't hear much anymore and suspected his eyesight was going.  Then, two days ago he just seemed to lose the use of his back legs.  We found we had to hoist up his back legs to get him to walk, he'd stagger outside and just lie down even in frigid weather.  We'd have to go hoist him up again to get him back inside.  He couldn't, um, lift-his-leg to do his business and would just fall down into whatever business he had done.  It was time to say goodbye...he could no longer function as a dog.

Blaze, a Border Collie cross, came to us through our pal Molly.  Almost twelve years ago Molly was a very young lady working for the summer at the Clear Lake trail riding ranch, which also held the Clear Lake/Wasagaming pound.  She had called home to her Mom saying that a lovely dog had come into the pound and was due to be put down and she just couldn't let that happen.  He had obviously been on the run a while and was a mess, but seemed to have a beautiful disposition.  Molly worked on finding him a home and when his time at the pound was up, Mom Nancy supported Molly's call and took the dog out of the pound.  Thank you, ladies!

Molly eventually got in touch with us, knowing that our farm dog Nicky was very elderly.  We had always loved the breed: Jes had always been interested in frisbee sports and a Border Collie would be a great match.  Farmer Man wasn't in town but I went over to Nancy's to meet the dog and fell in love!  I brought him home and Blaze was a bit of a surprise present!  Our vet, Dr. Sherry at Wheat City Vet, estimated he was three to four years old at the time.

It wasn't easy at first!  Blaze wasn't well socialized and we had the big farm dog (a Malamute) and we had little Teddy Bear, the diva.  Blaze also didn't like cats at all and the old farm cat Peanuts had to scratch his face a few times to teach Blaze some respect.  Because I didn't know the dog and was still working on walking him and teaching him simple commands, when I was working in the gardens early on I would tie him up someplace close by.  Soon, he was chewing through the rope to be free to come lie down beside me, where ever I was working.

Blaze really became Farmer Man's dog: Jes was always up-and-out earlier than I was.  Blaze would be with him every minute of the day.  When Farmer Man was working on the tractor, Blaze would find a place in the shade and just watch the tractor go up and down the rows.  At potato planting, when the speed is a little slower, Blaze would follow the tractor, up and down the rows. If the farmer was hoeing, Blaze would be lying someplace close.  He might take some time to go swim in the dug out, smelling bad for a time after, but he was never far for long.

When we acquired Grizzly Bear, Blaze and the puppy developed a special relationship.  I don't know if it was because Grizzly was the youngest, but he would groom Blaze intensely, licking his ears, face and even his teeth!  I wonder if Grizzly will miss him?  Blaze eventually became the most accepting dog, showing no problems with visiting dogs, barn cats, chickens and goats.  Even though he absolutely had Border Collie in him, he never showed any inclination to 'herd' anything, but that's okay.

Blaze was the kind of dog that didn't care about toys or treats - he just wanted love and pats!  Oh, he'd chase a ball or frisbee, sometimes he'd bring it back.  But what he loved most was getting his tummy rubbed and his ears scratched.  He was always a hit when we did farm tours, even with children because he would just lie down, roll over and offer his tummy!

I know we'll just automatically be looking for him for a while; it will be hard to find him 'not there'.  Hopefully, he had a good life and enough love and pats!  And we'll see him again....over the Rainbow Bridge.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

It's Been A While...


I've been a bad, bad blogger.  Nothing written for a couple of months.  I think that's the longest I've ever gone since we started the blog!  It's not that nothing has been going on - it's just....it's just....

There's a couple of reasons: I find it so fast and easy to update on our Facebook page.  A photo, a couple of lines and presto!  Done!  Doing a blog post, to my mind anyway, involves more 'serious' writing, an essay every time, more thought, more preparation.  And Facebook often gives more instantaneous feedback: a like, a comment within minutes.  Second, by the end of our season we're so tired and cranky it's hard to write something upbeat and enthusiastic - which is how we like to have the blog.  And this wasn't a fantastic year for us, so it was hard to find the motivation to write.  I really just wanted a break, I guess.

So what's been going on since we last blogged early in October?  CSA went into the first week of October for the first time, an indication of a less than stellar year.  We were at the Global Market just Saturday's through October.  We were still harvesting in October: carrots, onions, hauling in winter squash.  First sweeps of the squash patches were for what was really ripe and ready for CSA and for markets.  We left squash on the vine to continue to ripen until hard frost, which came about the end of October.  We eventually took even unripe stuff hoping it would ripen in the sun room and because you can never have enough - it's great for feed for chickens and goats.  Ongoing problems with the tractor made harvest more difficult.  We can bring in a lot in a tractor bucket and much less in a wheelbarrow, so our work was made a little slower.

October was also all about making soap!  I'd signed up for a few craft shows and needed a good supply of our lovely goats milk soaps, well cured!  The soap made in October was well aged for December sales!  Three weeks is about the minimum our cold-process soap can be cured, so I was happy to have soap at least six weeks old for sale!  Created some new types of soaps and acquired some new molds that let me do guest sizes and some festive shapes!  There was quite a learning curve for the small molds; I found that at first I was letting the soap set-up too much so I was trying to get thick glop into tiny shapes.  Worked that out eventually!

The other challenge with both soaps and blogging has been computer problems.  The old office computer is dying and printing the labels I needed became a challenge with frustrating lock-ups and crashes.  Then, the newer laptop started to act up with the track pad going off - sometimes it wanted to just grab-and-move everything, or just highlight everything, or just ignore being clicked.  Trying to send a simple email might take five or six tries of hitting the 'Send' button before anything happened.   The laptop also decided it didn't want to recognize the printer.  Just writing this blog post I've had to stop three times to un-highlight text.  Aaaaargh!

November was about cleaning the barn and chicken coop, renovating and getting all the critters ready for winter....and breeding for the goats!  We almost completely emptied the barn of equipment and stuff, broke down the pens, hauled out old bedding and then re-built new pens with brand new bedding.  Farmer Man must have taken out forty tractor buckets of old bedding!  That, like harvest, took a while as Farmer Man was working off the farm and the tractor was acting up from time to time.  But that, also, eventually was completed.  On Remembrance Day, Randi the buck got his most fervent wish and got a couple of lovely ladies to live with.  Assuming he did his 'duty', we should have some babies mid-April.  We were still milking Mabel and Chocolate, so we didn't put them in with Randi at that time, because it would be too difficult for me to get them out of Randi's pen to milk.  I'm doing chores alone five evenings a week while Jes is at work and I'm a little intimidated by the exuberant Randi - he's a friendly buck, but enthusiastic.  We started the process of drying off the two milkers, which means milking less and less until they stop producing.  So we'll have another batch of babies, hopefully, mid to end of May.  That will ease things a bit; it got a bit crazy last Spring when the does all had their kids within 36 hours of each other and some of the babies required bottle feeding - don't want to do that again!

Mid-November to now has been about me finding some work, Farmer Man working a lot, always the chores, craft shows, fighting with computers, baking, thinking about getting ready for Christmas.  It's been busy!