Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Toys for Chickens

We've opened up the coop's chicken door a few times in the last few weeks, when it was a little milder. The chickens don't seem even slightly interested in going outside at -6 C (20 F or so). And we don't want them to get cabin fever, now do we? So we've done a little reading on keeping them amused and one thing that came up in a few places was suet holders stuffed with vegetables. Now, we have some suet holders because we love to feed the wild birds. So we tried hanging one from the roof stuffed with some lettuce that was going 'off'. A hit! It's hanging by string so it moves and swings about ten inches off the floor. Then we tried some chopped cabbage from the root cellar. Another winner! Today, is was some dried bread crusts stuffed in the little box. Tomorrow, maybe some Kabocha squash peeled and cubed, with the seeds. We just want the hens to be happy, don't ya know?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Christmas Thing To Do

As we were sitting amid all the splendor of our little Christmas at home, it occurred to me that I had a Kiva credit. What a wonderful way to spend some time Boxing Day! If you are not familiar with Kiva, it is a non-profit agency that co-ordinates micro-loans to small business people around the world. Kiva works with many field agencies in many countries. I have a penchant for supporting women entrepreneurs, (I currently am helping two Norah's in different parts of Africa) and Farmer Man likes to support farmers. Loan amounts start at $25 which you can put into your 'account' with Paypal or a credit card. You then peruse the list of people waiting for a loan to come through. It's really eye-opening - a woman in Latin America asking for $300 to buy more sodas for her little store, a man in Eastern Europe looking for $500 for maintenance for his truck so that he can take on more transport work. There is info on each borrower and a complete breakdown of the loan and repayment terms. Kiva has a very low default rate, the money comes back into your account and you can choose to withdraw it or re-loan it. You get updates regularly and, well, it's just a great thing to do! So we spent some time choosing who we would re-loan our funds to - wish we had enough money to loan some to everyone on Kiva's list!! Maybe that's what we'll ask Santa for next year! Check it out - it feels good!

Dark Days Challenge Meal Week 6

Well, The Berks are back and (mostly) in the freezers. Fortunately, it is cold enough that the bit that wouldn't fit are still frozen. Some serious freezer re-organizing must go on now that the holiday madness is over! First meal, Christmas Eve, was pork chops seasoned and roasted, served with a mushroom sauce (okay, not so local) and just a massive serving of scallop potatoes! The package had four chops but Farmer Man only cooked two because they were huge! As is, I could only eat half of mine! The other two will be a nice respite from turkey sometime between now and New Years! Also coming up, probably this Sunday: home-raised bacon and farm fresh eggs for breakfast before Farmer Man settles in for some serious football!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays!

We wish all our family, friends and fellow locavores a Happy, Healthy and Very Merry Holiday Season! May your New Year be full of wonderful, local food!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

December 21, the shortest day of the year. The start of winter. It was a gorgeous, foggy morning here, with ice crystals coating every thing. The sun rose far off to the south. Cold, minus 20 C (about minus 8 F) this morning. Little wind, which always makes the day better! And we keep trying to remember: the days just get longer now........

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dark Days Challenge Meal

Crazy as it may sound, Farmer Man and I have not sat down together for a meal this week. Too crazy with differing work schedules, errands and to-do's. We have eaten locally produced food, though! Porridge with local organic oats, spelt and golden flax from Windy Hill Farms. One of the advantages of living on the Prairies is local grains, wheats and legumes. Never thought to take a picture a picture of breakfast, however. Next week things should calm down, and at least on Christmas Day we'll be dining together!

Friday, December 18, 2009

We Love Our Herb Pot!

Nothing gets us through the winter like our herb pot! It's three years old now, and everything is doing fairly well. It sits outside by the fountain all summer and comes back inside quite early in the fall - often around Labour Day. I don't want it to get any frost which can happen almost anytime by the end of August around here! There is rosemary, sage, tarragon, oregano and lemon balm in this pot. Nothing grows much during the winter so we can't clip is wholesale, but used sparingly is will get us by until it starts to grow again as the days get longer.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Extra Insulation

Not only are we wearing tons of extra layers these days, but Farmer Man also added an extra layer to the sunroom. We love our little sunroom: we hang out there in the spring and fall, start seeds there in late winter and it's the only natural light onto our kitchen. In the winter, it is really toooo cold to enjoy. So, the last couple of years, Farmer Man has piled straw bales around and it really helps! The bales probably keep the temperature five degrees higher than it would be otherwise. We're still not really 'hanging' in the sunroom these days, but it keeps the plants happier!

Think Spring!

In the midst of a sub-zero cold spell, what's been brightening the mail box are new seed catalogues. This is early - we usually don't start to see catalogues until January. It seems slightly surreal because we haven't even done Christmas. We haven't had much time to peruse them, but just knowing they are there gives us a warm, festive glow!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dark Days Challenge Meal

This week, being very busy, we went for a one pot meal. There is definitely a recurring theme to our meals right now: potatoes, onions, winter squash and carrots, all things in our root cellar. For this week's meal we got a lovely little beef roast from the local butcher shop. We're very fortunate to have a couple of great butchers in our small city featuring local products. Local beef and pork are not hard to find for us in the middle of cattle and grain country! Grass-fed, free-range and organic are all possible, but it was convenience that had us grab what we could this week. A simple pot roast, surrounded by veggies including some delicious Kabocha squash, a little extra water in the pot and some fresh herbs cut from the pot made for a simple and delicious dinner. And lots of leftovers for sandwiches! If you haven't checked out the Dark Days Challenge at the (not so) Urban Hennery it is well worth it! The re-cap each week has tons of awesome recipes and great tips on sourcing local food!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chicken Integration!

The new coop is finished, and just like that The Girls and The Chicks are moved in! Buddy has gone back to where he came from, Rocky rules the roost and everyone seems to be settling in much better than we anticipated. We had debated about how to join the two flocks, but the weather made the decision easy! We did try to put a bamboo fence between the two but it didn't want to stay up; the two flocks mixed when the fence went over and everyone seemed to be getting along fine. We hung out a while last night after we got everyone in: we wanted to check the temperature, break up any fights or whatever needed doing. Not much needed doing! This morning, too, I sat up there a little while and every thing seemed quite calm. I was just up there again, early afternoon, and there seems to be a little jocking and pecking for position but there are no feathers strewn around or other signs of violence - so fingers crossed for a peaceful transition!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Kitty in a Box!

As Christmas nears, parcels and boxes are wrapped and shipped. As we're getting organized, boxes and wrapping are left around overnight, sometimes. Blondie the cat decided one was perfect for a little bed overnight! Sweet dreams, kitty!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chickens in the Snow

It's chilly - but The Girls and Rocky decided to take a little stroll in the snow, anyway. We've got to be careful about letting them out in colder weather - they may go even though it may not be good for them. They can freeze combs, wattles and toes as well as have respiratory problems. However, I needed to get into their little coop to clean and collect eggs and refresh water. I don't think they will be staying out long!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Do You Need Cute to Get You Through?

If you need cute, cute, cute everyday plus great recipes and country living tales you must check out Farmgirl Fare!! This award winning blog is packed full of all kinds of good things. It's one of my fav things to do every couple of days, just to bring a smile to my face. She's got wonderful archives of past photos so you can literally watch some of her critters as they grow up. Well worth a visit!
This photo is copyrighted by farmgirlfare.

Dark Days Challenge Meal

On Sunday, the only day Farmer Man is home early from the Christmas tree lot, I had a local meal waiting. Something warm and filling! Lamp chops from our friends at Logan Farms, topped with canola oil and red onion (from the root cellar, as are all the veggies). I slow cooked the lamb until Farmer Man arrived home and then broiled them a few minutes to crisp up the onion. Steamed carrots and more of the red onion, and spaghetti squash pancakes! The pancakes were a medium squash, which produced about 2 1/2 cups of spaghetti when baked. I combined that with about 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese (not local, admittedly) and chopped in some fresh sage from the herb pot. Fried on both sides to brown them up and yummy! Served with a little Swiss chard relish my sister made and some sour cream. Very warming after a cold day at the Christmas tree lot!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is Winter Here to Stay?

For the first day of December we got a good blanket of snow. It's actually a little late for us this year (we're not counting the freak snow earlier this fall!) But everything is clean and white, very pretty! Driving is a little hazardous but our truck has four wheel drive, so we're okay. Plus, Farmer Man grew up around here - he's very comfortable driving in snow and snow storms! This is the day we know the gardens are finally put to bed for the winter. It's a little funny catching up on my blog reading this morning: at Green Frieda she's planting her winter garden of lettuce, radish and other goodies! When we start seeds, after Christmas, we usually start a flat of lettuce for our own use. May have to start that flat early this year!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Does a Farmer Do in December?

Sell Christmas trees! A farmer is the perfect candidate for the job! Available (not a whole lot else going on), known to be hardworking and reliable (ask the chickens - Farmer Man gets it done every day at about the same time)! Not looking for a long term position, decent pay - nothing extravagant. He's perfect for the job! Good with people, generally happy and helpful. Keeps him out of trouble for a month!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Still on the To-Do List

There are still jobs to be done, aside from the daily feeding and care of chickens. One of the big ones, which we're dreading, is the cleaning of the greenhouse. The greenhouse becomes a dumping ground all summer. As we plant out the seedlings, we tend to dump the empty flats back inside. As we work through the spring and summer, we tend to dump the sprayer, or broken sprinkler heads or whatever in the greenhouse. It's a convenient spot, it's a lean-to structure on the barn, right beside Farmer Man's shop, close to the house. Then, in fall, we clean out pots of stuff we've had around the house and dump those pots. And then, we tend to dump tools that need cleaning before putting away for winter. Well, you get the picture. Furthermore, because we take the windows out late in the spring, and never get them back in in a timely fashion, it has rained and blown leaves into the greenhouse. It's a disaster! And why we keep finding something else to do......

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Buddy Goes Wild!

I had a little run-in with Buddy, the new rooster. He's settling in nicely, it seems, but has been a little aggressive with me when I enter the pen to collect eggs. He's been pecking at my feet and making little runs at me! Well, Thursday he went a little wild! He rushed me as I entered the pen, and the next thing I remember is a blur of beige and brown and pain! He went after me with his spurs, cutting the insulated pants I was wearing and leaving two gouges at ankle height. He also came with force, bruising my ankle. I went to work limping, thinking it would mellow out as I moved around, but it didn't. The ladies at work thought I should go to the clinic and have it looked at, so Shelley drove me over there. Well, the doctor orders antibiotics, get off the leg for a couple of days, get the leg up, cold compresses and salt baths! Farmer Man offered to prepare Buddy for the soup pot immediately, a task I knew he was not really up for. Besides, that's not the way we do things here at Aagaard Farms!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dark Days Challenge Meal

Simple but good. A whole chicken from our friends at Maple Valley Farms, lightly seasoned and oven roasted. Sangre potatoes and spaghetti squash from our own garden. We had carrots from our own garden, which would have added some nice colour to the photo; we've said before that our food styling definitely needs upgrading! The squash was roasted in the oven with the chicken, the potatoes steamed. We would like pepper and salt on the veggies but they're not local! We stuffed freshly cut sage into the cavity of the chicken, which added a nice flavour. We have herbs, in pots, which we brought inside in September. They'll be a great addition to winter meals.

Enjoying a Lovely Late Fall Day

Linda 'e'd this cute picture of Rocky's little son and his two nest mates. It was a truly lovely afternoon, sunny with little wind. The chicks are checking out the dog dish on Linda's porch.

A Great Christmas Present!

Dan Jason, of Salt Spring Island Seeds, has been a leader in the movement for sustainable agriculture and self-sufficiency for over twenty years. His seed company has a great idea for a Christmas present - The Zero Mile Diet Seed Kit. It includes grains, legumes, kale and lettuce to mention a few. It comes with a guide to growing and using the seeds; dealing with the grains will be very new to some people. The kit will get a person off in the right direction for self-sufficiency. Check it out at Salt Spring's website.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eating Local

I've joined the Dark Days Challenge from the blog (not so) Urban Hennery, trying to eat locally produced food at least once a week during the winter. Especially here on the snowbound Prairies this can be a challenge! It's hard to read some of my favourite blogs where they are talking about planting winter greens on the West Coast or in the Deep South. But here's an excellent tip from Harrowsmith Magazine's Lorne Elliott, who has a great piece on his efforts to be self-sufficient. His search started in an effort to replace lemon juice, which he seems to love for salads and such. He went to an old Indian recipe which uses sumac, a native shrub with red, velvety seed heads. When the seed heads are rubbed in water, he says it produces an excellent lemon flavour. There's one for us Prairie folk to try!

It's Good to Have a Root Cellar!

A peek at part of our root cellar. We're very fortunate Farmer Man's father built a proper cellar when the house was being built. Farmer Man estimates that there is over one thousand pounds of potatoes down there, over twenty varieties! Some, like the Pink Fir Apple are in very small quantities while we continue to try to build our stock of seed. Others, like Norland, in the corner, we have in good abundance. Unseen, we still have some small heads of garlic, an assortment of winter squash and some heads of cabbage in the cellar. We won't be going hungry this season!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Two More Chicks Lost

Yesterday, we heard a little fuss mid-morning; looked out the window to see our neighbour's Akita chasing The Chicks. Raced out, scared him off, recovered one dead Chick from him. Four still missing. We hunted high and low, couldn't find them. The Akita had actually knocked down the gate to get at the chicks, so Farmer Man reinforced it. We had to leave the farm and, on returning, three had made their way back but one is still missing today and must be presumed lost. It's tough to lose a little creature we've made a commitment to care for. We've got to get this organized so that The Chicks are safe!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Case of Bumblefoot?

I noticed a couple of days ago that one of The Girls had a swelling on her foot. I remembered reading something about this but couldn't remember the details or where I read it. It took a couple of days, but I am pretty sure she has something called bumblefoot. It seems she would have gotten a cut or scratch on the bottom of her foot which has been infected with, most likely, a staph infection. Various treatments are described both in our books and online, all which involve a little 'surgery'. The bottom of the foot will have a scab, where the infection entered. This must be removed, lifted or lanced and then pus and goo must be removed from the wound. It should be disinfected and treated, bandaged and then the little Girl must be contained in a small place with deep bedding to cushion the foot. We've got to get organized and get this done because it has definitely gotten worse in the couple of days of research; the poor Girl has quite a limp today!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chicken Coop, Almost!

Now that harvest and clean-up are largely finished, Farmer Man has turned his attention back to the coop. It's very close: two windows and a door, power has been run to it, roof is on and inside, it's all insulated, wrapped and most of the ceiling is in place. Just in time, too. The weather has been awesome for November, but it looks like next week will cool down. Our chief concern now, how to integrate both flocks. We're finding the new rooster Buddy is a bit aggressive; when collecting eggs a few days ago I stood up by him and he gave me a big old peck on my cheek! We don't think Rocky is as aggressive or as big, so we're a little concerned because we don't want anything to happen to Rocky. And Rocky's little son is suppose to return to Aagaard Farms, soon. If anyone has any advice on combining the two, please let us know. Both flocks should be left in the new coop for a couple of days so that they understand it is their new home. We may have to erect fencing between the two, and literally mirror and space with two sets of roosts, two sets of nests, etc. It does have two separate chicken doors, but one is now currently within the fenced pasture so a little re-fencing may be in order!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Farmer Boy Becomes Farmer Man???

On the eve of Farmer Boy's birthday, he decided to give The Berks a late dinner. The Berks will be going away tomorrow, and Farmer Boy is a little sad. He has enjoyed this little herd; The Berks are curious and lively creatures, and he has spent a lot of time caring for them. Tomorrow will be a hard day. So, he went out in the darkness to give them a late little treat. And took a nosedive right into the muck! He tucked his head just in time to land on his hat and not his face! Mud up his arms, over his gloves, down his front, covering his legs! And smell.........!!!!! Baptism by pig poop as he starts his next decade! Happy Birthday, Farmer Man!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rocky's Baby

An update from Linda: Rocky's little son is a teenager now (in chicken years) and Clucky effectively kicked him out of the nest on the weekend! The three babies are on their own and Clucky has returned to her routine with the other hens. The little white rooster will return to Aagaard Farms, soon. He'll hang out with The Girls and Rocky, and cock-a-d00dle-doo his way around here!

Monday, November 9, 2009

An Odd Fall!

Pictured is a Viburnum, 'Bailey's Compact' Cranberry to be exact. (This has nothing to do with the cranberries served with turkey - different group of plants going by the same common name.) This plant usually has gorgeous orange/red leaves this time of year, highlighted by the bright red berries. In this odd fall, the leaves got frozen by our early winter storm, and now persist, half green and half brown, looking sad. It's like that with many plants, sort of caught in time. Here in Manitoba, the majority of plants have yellow fall colour, so the red of the cranberry is sorely missed.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Benefits (or not) of Organic Food

Another study, another debate: are organic foods more healthy? The link is an article on Forbes, with a new study showing little nutritional difference between organic and conventional food. We've never been about that; our thing is the FRESH food has more nutrition because the nutrition hasn't had as much chance to decay. And the flavour of fresh, fully ripened food is waaaaaay beyond so much of the stuff that is trucked for thousands of miles. And we really do believe pesticides and chemical fertilizers can leave residues in your food, which this study did not investigate. Check it out: http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/personal-finance/article/forbes/1217/organic-food-behind-the-hype

Dark Days Challenge Meal

If you haven't heard, we're taking the Dark Days Challenge '09 from the blog (not so)Urban Hennery. It's about eating local through the winter - not everyday, which would mean giving up so much (bananas!). So, here is our local meal for the first week of November. Organic lamp chops from our friends Logan Farms of Wawanesa, which Farmer Boy coated with bread crumbs, powdered mustard and tarragon, then baked. On top of the chops, from our garden, Pink Fir Apple potatoes, a rare and yummy fingerling that Farmer Boy hardly ever lets us eat because he's trying to increase his seed stock. Then, he simply roasted four different kinds of winter squash we grew. Sort of a squash-off. They all look similar, so he differentiated by the cut of the squash. From right to left: butternut squash, a Kabocha called 'Confection', 'Jaspee de Vende' which was advertised as so sweet you can eat it raw, and finally 'Long Island Cheese' pumpkin. The lamp chops were divine! The Pink Fir Apple delicious: a nutty, waxy potato. The butternut and the Kabocha very good; the Jaspee and Long Island both a bit of a disappointment. I don't think either of the last two squashes were actually mature, the flavour was blah. The butternut and Kabocha were quite delightful: sweet, nutty and great texture. Rather a bland colour palette though - we have to work on our food styling!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pigs' Porridge

Part of the winterizing is cleaning out the garage, which acts as Headquarters Central during the Farmers' Market season. We've been curing potatoes, squash and onions in there before they go to the root cellar. We also brought back product from the Green Spot, which we were able to store there between markets. The lush, humid atmosphere of the Green Spot was not the ideal place to store winter squash; some mold and mildew got started on the skin. So now, we've got to go through everything before it goes down into the root cellar. Anything bashed, scratched, nicked or knocked cannot go to the cellar - it will be the first to rot and can 'infect' (so to speak) anything stored beside it. So, The Berks are getting a special treat - largely perfectly good winter squash and cabbage that can't be held to long. We can't eat it fast enough, we only have small sales through the winter and it's just tooooo much stuff! It's mostly the ugly stuff, which we'd rather not sell anyway. We've got better stuff for our customers! The Berks will love it!

The Chicks Get a New Friend!

Farmer Boy has been looking around for a second rooster, figuring The Chicks need a new flock mate. Come Spring, we'll probably look for a couple more because there are waaaay more girls than guys. Our friend down the road, Mike, volunteered an Isa Brown he had. Farmer Boy went and picked him up yesterday. 'Buddy' is beautiful - the colouring quite different from The Chicks, with a huge comb. Although he seemed a little shy last night (and can you blame him!) he seemed quite comfortable this morning! In fact, he and Rocky were having a bit of a cock-a-doodle-do contest this morning. The two roosters can't see each other: Rocky is out in the pasture and Buddy is in the barn, but they are only separated by about two hundred feet and can definitely hear each other!

We hope Buddy can offer some protection - we lost another Chick yesterday morning. All was fine early on, Farmer Boy went out about mid-morning and the gate had been pushed over. The Chicks were scattered; took us about two hours to collect them and about six hours later another wandered back but one is still missing and must be presumed gone. Farmer Boy has improved the gate and hopefully Buddy will help!

Monday, November 2, 2009


Pretty soon it is going to get freaky-deaky cold here on the Canadian Prairies. In Brandon, we can expect night time temperatures to regularly hit -30 C (about -28 F, really cold!). Hopefully, this won't happen until January or February, but you never know! Plus, it's hard to winterize if there's already two feet of snow on the ground, also expected. So the chores are on the To D0 list now. Farmer Boy has already hauled straw which we put around our sun room for extra insulation, he's boxed up and insulated the air conditioner that's built into the wall of the office. And I've protected the newly planted fruit trees. Young trees, and for some reason especially fruit trees, can be prone to winter cracking. The theory is that the sun artificially warms the bark and raises the temperature. The sun goes down, it's freaky-deaky cold and the bark cools rapidly. Expansion and contraction occur and the bark can split. Sometimes it's fatal, sometimes not. Certainly always rather unsightly. So something to keep the sun off is applied - hence the white tree guards I installed. In 'olden' days, people frequently painted the bark, but research shows that is not the best plan because bark actually has breathing holes called lenticels which can get all gummed up by paint. The tree guards are also very helpful against young trees' other winter enemy: rodents and small critters. Mice, raccoons, skunks, beavers will all look for a tasty winter meal on the trunks of young trees. They can strip the bark and go deeper, killing the tree. Part of the trick I learned early in Manitoba is to go higher than one guard - my first summer here I heard of a fellow who lost all his young trees when critters got on top of the snow and ate above his lone tree guard!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Have A Hauntingly Happy Halloween!

Yes, Farmer Boy grew it, carved it and lit it! Scaaaaary, very scaaaaaary!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Last Farmers' Market!

The photo is Wee Man, the Green Spot's Vice President in charge of Rodent Control. We know exactly how he feels - found a warm, cozy spot and got comfortable! That's what Farmer Boy gets to do, at least for a while! Today was the last Market of the season, and we are ready for a break. It was a good Market, and we have really enjoyed October inside at the lovely Green Spot. But this year, with the addition of the new Friday Night Market at Shoppers Mall, we have done over fifty markets. Hard to believe just five years ago we started this adventure with twelve markets - every Saturday morning at Riverbank Discovery Centre. Time to curl up for a little nap!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pigs 'n Pumpkins 2

We got a call yesterday from one of the members of the local chapter of the Lions' Club. They had been having a pumpkin sale to raise money, and had some green pumpkins left over. The gentleman had been speaking with Farmer Boy on the weekend and knew our pigs liked pumpkin. Would we like to take these pumpkins? Well, we sure would! Farmer Boy went and picked up a truck load; literally, the box of the F150 was loaded to the top! He chops the pumpkins up into large chunks and throws them to The Berks. Whole, the pigs don't seem to know what they are, but even just a crack must release the scent. Those pumpkins with just a crack seem to cause some consternation, but The Berks figure it out and bring those hooves into play! An enjoyable feast, and just in time for tea!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Chicks Are Becoming Hens!

A banner day on the farm! Six eggs from The Chicks - four small, a medium and a monster! Probably has a double yoke; we'll find out at breakfast tomorrow! We started with two eggs the first few days, then none (that we found), then four yesterday and six today! The Chicks are getting bolder, too. Farmer Boy had them out for a little walk today. Only five went, but he had the barn door wide open while working in the area and the group was following him everywhere so they went for a stroll. We've not been able to pasture The Chicks like we have The Girls, so this was quite an exploration for them. They seemed to pay absolutely no attention to Rocky and The Girls, who were quite close by in their pasture. The other Chicks stayed in the pen, settling into all the new straw Farmer Boy has put in. So cute as they were taking little dust baths in all the new straw. We thought, perhaps, they were also creating nests, but no eggs so far in that area.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Doggie Play Date?

Now, we have some dogs. Blaze, the Border Collie, you've met, if you've been reading this blog. We also have three 'Little Bears', three small lap dogs. We seem to attract the neighbour's dogs on a regular basis. Copper, who lives just west of us, is over here almost every day lately. They are such sociable dogs, and I don't think her people are home much. To the east of us are two mixed breeds, an Akita-cross named Sam, and a mix named Libby. These two don't come hang around like Copper, but if we're out in the east field they'll come by for a visit. Everybody gets along quite well, and it's fun and romping in the field!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Potato Harvest Finished - Whew!

Finally, the potatoes are all harvested. Now, crates of them are in the garage curing before their trip down to the root cellar. So, harvest is not really finished completely but enough that it is getting crossed off the 'to-do' list. (Cleaning the garage is still, needless to say, on the list). Farmer Boy decided the old potato digger we possess was beyond it's useful life, so he took up rows with the plow. Then, we have to pick up anything the plow turns up. Fortunately, Serhiy was here to help or it would have been a very long day of bending and stooping! We had to be careful to watch for signs of frost damage on the tubers, and immediately discard damaged potatoes in the field. We'll go through them again before putting them in the root cellar.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rocky's Babies

New photo from Linda of the chicks (as apposed to The Chicks). The little one that had black spots seems to have lost the spots and is fluffy white. Linda has only Isa Browns, so the two fluffy white chicks are Rocky's babies but The Girls DNA seems to have over-ruled. Linda is quite sure the bigger chick is a rooster, so he will probably return to Aagaard Farms because Linda doesn't really want anymore roosters. Rocky has more ladies than he can handle now, and we intend to introduce The Chicks to The Girls soon!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Do Pigs Love Pumpkin?

Yes, they do! Farmer Boy has been harvesting some of the damaged pumpkins and squash for The Berks. These are unripe squash that we didn't bother with before the storm. They got frozen enough that they have soft spots on top, but otherwise are fine. This is our first time uploading video so ................

The Chicks Are Growing Up!

Farmer Boy went out early this morning to let the chickens out. What did he find? Two little brown eggs in the pen with the Isa Brown chicks! One, unfortunately, was broken but the other is a perfect little egg. And not a real tiny egg, like some of the first from The Girls - a really decent-sized, medium egg in a gorgeous shade of brown, like coffee with a lot of cream!

Monday, October 19, 2009

An Early Winter Storm

Usually, in Manitoba, the question is: 'Will it snow for Halloween, or not?'. This year, we had an unusual storm for Thanksgiving; night time temperatures dipped to -8 C (about 16 F), and we received a couple of inches of snow. We knew some bad weather was coming and harvested everything we could, packing the garage with winter squash, boxes of tomatoes and crates of peppers. What is left in the field is gone, done, dead. The picture is of the spaghetti squash field, many left in the field. Had the temperature stayed closer to 0 C, most of the winter squash and pumpkins would have been fine. But, it was cold enough to damage them and make them unsaleable. Now, if Farmer Boy stopped and thought about it, he could get pretty depressed about thousands of dollars of product left in the field. But what Farmer Boy sees is pig food! It's just a matter of getting the tractor out there, loading it up and then off to see the pigs! And with the weather returning to normal October temperatures and the snow melting, it's a rather enjoyable task!

Ah, Country Life!

It's evenings like this that make us stop to count our blessings. Such a beautiful day Sunday, and a gorgeous fall evening. We took the dogs for a walk before dark, and saw this beautiful scene from the front of the house. Love seeing the neighbour's horses; they were having a little run yesterday.

It's been a tough week. I had to go to Alberta on some family business, and Farmer Boy was suppose to come and enjoy Thanksgiving with my sisters. But, unusually early cold temperatures and snow meant Farmer Boy had to stay home alone. The freaky cold froze the water lines to the animals. Now, it's one thing to ask the neighbour to pop over to open the coop and dump some feed into the pigs and the chickens, but it is a little much to ask him to haul water three or four times a day. So, Farmer Boy stayed and worked. No turkey for him! Sunday's fine weather meant that the snow disappeared and we're back to looking like fall in Manitoba.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dark Days Challenge '09

The excellent blog '(not so) Urban Hennery' is having the third annual challenge to eat local through the winter. Called the Dark Days Challenge - all she's actually asking is eating a meal from locally produced food once a week. '(not so) Urban Hennery' is, I think, officially a food/cooking website which has won some awards. It is a delightful mix of cooking, growing, gardening and living on the land with some great photography! This is the third year for the challenge, and the blog and reader comments have lots of great ideas and recipes. Check it out: Dark Days Challenge 2009.

We think it's sooo reasonable to ask for eating local once a week. The 100 Mile Diet is a little hard out here on the Prairies. But, once a week is completely doable. We ourselves will have our own eggs, pork, potatoes, winter squash, carrots, onions and beets. We've got some frozen currants and raspberries, as well as some canning. Canola oil for cooking, we've got some beautiful chickens from Maple Valley Farms, honey from Mann Apiaries. Wish we could find some local butter and cheese!! We'll start looking - and we'll share with you what else we can find local!! (Oh, yes - Bob Gasse's Manitoba Maple syrup, I think "Two Farm Kids" carries it!)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hard Frost in the Forecast!

Every market gardener dreads the call for hard frost. It means the end. (Most market gardeners are also slightly relieved because we're all worn out by the end of the season!) Last night's forecast called for a low of -6 C (about 20 F). Frost has actually come late to us this season. We've had a light touch a couple of times, but last night was harsh. Even winter squash can be damaged at that temperature and although it wouldn't really affect the quality of the vegetable, it looks ugly and people don't want to buy it. So, Farmer Boy got really, really busy yesterday. All day and right into the evening with a flashlight, he was cutting squash and pumpkins, loading the tractor and hauling it up to the garage. I picked tomatoes and peppers. Fortunately, Serhiy was here to help; he started out on potatoes and then moved to beans. We ignored root vegetables like carrots and beets, and abandoned the potatoes because they will all be fine.

The very sad thing about yesterdays' harvest is that there is still sooooo much out in the fields that will largely go to waste. We have boxes and boxes of green to orange to red tomatoes; and there were so many more. In this funny growing season the tomatoes should have been full on by the end of August but are ripening slowly through September and into October. The peppers were still flowering, thanks to the warm temperatures at the end of September. We know we've done everything we can - the rest will provide some nice treats for the local deer, mice and gophers!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Farmers' Markets Move Indoors

And just in time, as our temperatures take a big dip this week. Frost was possible overnight last night and the rest of the week looks cool and cooler. For Thanksgiving, we will probably get a bit of snow, according to the weather people! But, we'll be okay - because our Farmers' Markets will be indoors at the delightful Green Spot Garden Centre every Saturday morning in October. It's a great venue for a market - they've cleared out all the annuals and opened up a nice big space. Before or after the Market you can check out house plants, pots, great gifts and furniture and say 'hi' to all the fish and birds they've got.

It's great to have an extended season - we've still got loads of potatoes and a great selection of winter squash, carrots and beets. Last week we had summer squash but we'll find out a little later this morning if it survived last nights temperatures! We've got a garage stuffed with tomatoes in every shade, so hopefully they'll ripen over the next few weeks (note to self: move some of the green tomatoes into the sunroom to ripen faster....) We've pulled a few herbs to dry, we've got a little raspberry jam we made this summer - we can certainly fill a booth! And it will be quite warm and cozy for the sale - it's just the getting ready that will be chilly!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Multi-tasking Fall Chores

Farmer Boy is very busy, even though CSA and Farmers' Markets are largely over. We will still have indoor markets every Saturday morning at the Green Spot Home & Garden Centre, but it's pretty mellow to prepare for one rather than four. However, Fall clean up has started; harvesting of potatoes and other storage vegetables continues and, of course, the animals still have to be fed! Well, this is Farmer Boy doing fall clean up and feeding the pigs! Corn stalks with small undeveloped cobs are a new favourite of The Berks. Now, Farmer Boy could load up the tractor but sometimes he likes the personal touch......

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Progress Report

Linda's been in touch with a great photo of her new chicks. Apparently 'Clucky' the hen is an excellent little mother. She's a very involved momma, constantly tearing up food from the veggie garden for her three little ones (like the 'Rainbow Lights' chard in the picture), herding them up, tucking them in. She's earned the name Clucky because she's almost constantly talking! How cute!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Last of the Outdoor Farmers' Markets

Well, the season is certainly winding down. This weekend was the last of the outdoor markets. It was quite a beautiful weekend for it - we have shivered in our toques and mitts some years! This year it was quite lovely: for the last Thursday Night at Riverbank Discovery Centre, the last Friday Night Farmers' Market at Shoppers Mall and the last Saturday Morning at Riverbank Discovery Centre. It seems like summer just got going in September - some of the best temperatures all season. It's always, like CSA, a happy and a sad time when we get to the end. Happy 'cause the hard work is almost over and sad because we enjoy 'taking our wares to market'. Saturday was a little quiet because it is the day of the annual Mennonite Central Committee sale - one of their biggest fundraisers of the year, and they are an organization that we wish well, they do lots of great work. Farmers' Market fans in Brandon - don't worry! We'll be indoors at the Green Spot every Saturday in October, with a lot of our market friends, from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Lots of good veggies, baking, honey, preserves and crafts to be had! We'll see you there!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

And Then There Were Twenty Two....

We got home from CSA on Tuesday night to find some of The Chicks out of the barn. They were mostly congregating under a large, old spruce just outside the barn doors. We had forgotten to put the gate across the barn door! We gathered them up: Farmer Boy 'herding' them with a tall walking stick. Our Blaze, a Border Collie mix, has never shown any interest in herding; he was oddly missing through this whole operation. When we got them back in the pen, six were missing. So, the search was on! After literally beating the bush around the barn, we found two more roosting in another old spruce. We kept looking, and it was getting dark now. Just as Farmer Boy located another one in front of the house, our neighbour drove up. She was quite upset: she had just taken away two chicken carcasses from her two farm dogs. She felt very badly, and we had to assure her it was not her fault or her dogs, we were the ones that left the barn open. It took a while to catch the little hen in the front of the house. There's a long line of big old spruce, with branches to the ground and it was hard to get in at her. That mission was finally accomplished, it's quite dark and one chick is still unaccounted for. Farmer Boy said that she would be roosting in a tree by now, and if she's okay, she'll be around in the morning to get fed. Well, still no sign of her more than twenty four hours later, so we have to assume she's gone. Yesterday afternoon, we spotted a fox out in our alfalfa field so there are so many possibilities about what might have happened: our Blaze, the neighbour's dogs to the west, the neighbour's dogs to the east, foxes, coyotes or hawks. But now, there are twenty two little Isa Brown chicks.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Last CSA of the Season!

It's always a sad/happy day when we arrive at the last share for our CSA families. Sad because we enjoy harvesting and bringing the food to our families each week, and it truly means the season is wrapping up when we hit the last share. Happy because it is hard work and it means our days get a little easier now, our backs get a bit of a break and we don't have to get up as early! (Although Rocky the rooster won't really let us sleep in much).

It certainly was feeling 'fallish' as we started our day today. The last two week's weather has been splendid, but as we arrive at the official start of fall it got right chilly last night. Down to 4 C (about a mere 40 F), chilly in the house this morning, chilly and dewy out in the vegetables. By noon, is was lovely again, already up to 15 C (62 F). The part that makes this last harvest seem slightly surreal is that there is so many summer vegetables in the shares. Usually, by this time in Manitoba, we would already have had at least one frost. Tender vegetables in the field such as peppers, summer squash and tomatoes would be done, finished, kaput. In this odd growing year, they are all still going strong, even just starting. So it's an odd mix of fresh, ripe summer stuff and the usual winter keepers that populate the last share.
So, for the EVERYONE this week: 10 lbs Norland red potatoes, 5 lbs Russet white (the great baking potato), 5 winter squash: two hybrid Kabocha ('Confection' blue pumpkin and the orange 'Winter Sunshine'), 'Sweet Dumpling' and 'Celebration' hybrid acorn squash and a spaghetti squash, one summer squash, a bundle of carrots, 1 lb mixed yellow wax and purple beans (don't forget they will cook up dark green), 6 onions, cucumbers, green peppers, sweet banana peppers, 2 lbs mixed tomatoes (some very green for frying or allowing to ripen on the kitchen counter) and a mix of slicers, grapes and cherry tomatoes.
We'd like to take this space to thank all our shareholders for joining in and trusting us to grow your food! It is, as always, an honor and a pleasure to bring you our harvest every week. Many thanks to Linda Boys, Menno and Evelyn Isaac, Mike Waddell and the Trelkas for all your help and support! And a special BIG THANK YOU to all the members who helped support the Samaritan House shares!
Feel free to contact us this winter for potatoes, winter squash and eggs. We should have a good supply of potatoes in the root cellar all winter, squash at least until Christmas. Eggs - well, we're not sure how they will lay when it's dark and cold but we'll have some eggs!
Eat well and be happy!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ah, Ground Cherries!

Ground cherries are another one of those items that Aagaard Farms grows and makes a few people very, very happy. The vast majority of the customers have never seen or heard of them. Ground cherries are in the tomato family, more closely related to tomatillos and the ornamental Chinese Lantern. Some people recall Grandma always having a patch and making awesome pies and muffins. A hardy little plant, ground cherries (also known in some areas as Cape gooseberries) always seem to grow, no matter what the weather. This year, for us, they are late and not prolific. But at least we got a few baskets to take to the Farmers' Markets both Friday Night at Shoppers and at Saturday at Riverbank Discovery Centre. When fully ripe, the papery husk enclosing the fruit is dry and brown, and the fruit falls readily from the plant. These fruits will have a sweet taste rather like roasted pineapple. If taken when the husks are green, the fruit tastes more like kiwi and lime. Just delicious!!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Field of Dreams...

This is the pumpkin and winter squash patch. By this time of the year the ground should be completely covered by the vines. Large orange pumpkins should be peeking out, as well as big blue Hubbard squash; little multi-coloured Kabocha, bright Winter Sunshine, Acorns and Buttercup should be peeking out from underneath the leaves. Not this year; the vines have just started to spread, they are flowering like crazy now. And yes, there are squash down there, mostly too young and too small. Now, for the middle of September, the weather has been gorgeous, but will it stay nice enough to finish the squash?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CSA Mid-September!

You can't say we don't go out of our way for CSA. Last night, after both working a full day (Farmer Boy at the farm and me at my job) we took a ride to Elkhorn, Manitoba to pick apples for CSA. What's in Elkhorn, you ask? Well, an awesome little organic orchard called Clayton U-Pick Orchard. Ed and Marilyn Clayton retired from city life to a little piece of heaven south of Elkhorn and started an organic enterprise. We were there last night for the apples, but Ed and Marilyn also have strawberries, raspberries, cherries, honeyberries and plums (plus meat goats and chickens). We were fortunate to get a good pick on 'Prairie Sensation' apple, a new release from the University of Saskatchewan. A delightful sweet, juicy apple, 'Prairie Sensation' is great fresh but also cooks well and stores well. Ed is plugged in to the fruit world and we were lucky enough to be able to taste some other varieties he has which don't even have names yet. One that will probably be released soon that will probably be called 'Prairie Rose' was a winner in my book. It's a little tarter than 'Prairie Sensation', but crisp and juicy. It was more fully red, quite good looking. Clayton U-Pick Orchards is available for tours as well as u-pick; well worth the drive for a fine day in the country, as well as some good eating. Call them at 204-845-2584 to get hooked up.
Also, a treat for today's CSA - Menno and Evelyn Isaac are supplying a good haul of tomatoes for everybody. Menno and Evelyn are kind of our CSA mentors - they brought the concept to Brandon over fifteen years ago and ran the program until 'retiring' a couple of years ago. Menno grows incredible tomatoes in a hoop house system. He's the most popular guy at the Farmers' Markets because he's always first to market with beautiful, chemical-free tomatoes. We're so pleased he and Evelyn could share some with our families today!
Linda Boys has come through this week with beautiful red cabbage for everybody. She had a little pick of Brussels sprouts, but not enough to share. There should be some to share next week, though, if the weather stays as good as the forecast says!
So, for the FULL SHARES: 2 lbs. 'Prairie Sensation' apples, large bag of tomatoes, 3 lbs. Bintje white potatoes, 1.5 lbs. of assorted other potatoes, 1/2 lb. assorted beans, 3 onions, big bunch of carrots (or bunch of big carrots, depending on how you look at it!), red cabbage, 1 Papaya Pear, 1 zucchini or Moroccan summer squash, 1 assorted winter squash, mix of green and sweet banana peppers, 4 cobs of corn, cucumber, lettuce, basil.
For the PART SHARES: 2 lbs. 'Prairie Sensation' apples, large bag of tomatoes, 3 lbs. Bintje white potatoes, 1.5 lbs. of some other potato, 1/2 lbs beans, 3 onions, bunch of carrots, red cabbage, 1 Papaya Pear, 1 zucchini or Moroccan summer squash, 1 winter squash, green bell and yellow sweet banana peppers, 3 cobs corn, a cucumber, lettuce and basil.
We've done a tally and next week, September 22nd, will be the final share of the season! Come prepared for big stuff and bonus stuff. We're going to load everyone up with good keepers like dirty potatoes (washed ones are more prone to mold), onions and winter squash galore! We'll also should have a nice share of what's ripe and ready like our own tomatoes and what ever else we find! So, don't come on your bike if you don't have to, bring a couple of boxes and we'll see you next week!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rocky May Be A Dad!

Our friend Linda had a hen go broody, which means want to sit on the nest. Normally, laying hens like ours lay an egg and walk away. Now and then, one gets the urge to be a momma, and goes 'broody'. She really wants to sit on that egg and hatch it! Linda was up for that but hadn't had any success in previous attempts. She suspected her rooster may not be, well, up for the task. She asked for some fresh eggs from us to slip under her hen. She slipped a few of her own under the little hen, as well. Three little chicks made their debut this weekend - and, apparently, such a proud little momma! One white chick, which could be an Isa Brown male, from Linda's own flock. The second chick is a little golden beige one, probably a female from Linda's flock. But the third little one - definite black spots! We can hardly wait to watch the little ones grow!