Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's Good to Have Help!

It's soooo good to have good help! We blogged about Frank; Frank didn't work out. It's happened before - they work a few days, then they have trouble getting out here, family emergency, blah, blah, blah. So we put an ad in the newspaper and got a couple of lukewarm responses. Then, we thought we'd try ebrandon, the local Internet site. Well, we got a slew of responses and a wealth of excellent applicants. Farmer Boy was ecstatic! We haven't blogged about them in case they failed to show up for their second day of work, but everybody has now been working a couple of weeks and showing up everyday and everything!! Just like real employees! It's awesome! So much is getting done around here - we may actually get caught up this year. We could win the battle with the weeds! And, right now, we're getting lots of berries picked; a great volume for CSA and to take to Farmers' Markets. They are a great group of people, we want them to come back every year; we'd consider adopting them! And we're in the position to be quite flexible; some work a couple of days a week, some start at 7:00 AM, some start later. And, as the harvest improves, they get bonus veggies and eggs, which they seem to enjoy. It's turning out to be a good year, after all! In the back row: Brian and Serhiy, middle row is Sharon, Annette and Claudette, front row is Eric, Vartan and Kathryn.

A Berry Hot Tip!

From Ben and Shelagh, CSA members, a recipe for a little dish called 'Eton Mess'. Crush raspberries, crush meringues, add whipped cream and mess it all up in a bowl. Fast and easy and absolutely yummy! Meringues have now made it to the top of our shopping list!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

CSA Will Be Berry, Berry Happy!

It is a gorgeous summer day today; an excellent day to be preparing for CSA and the wee Neighbourhood Country Market at Stanley Park. Not too hot, not too windy and veggies looking good. We've started the morning with a BIG pick of raspberries - it's good to be in the prickly bushes in the cool of early morning when long sleeves are possible. The picking is incredibly easy right now: it's a very efficient process when it's this easy! Linda has come through again with some gorgeous snow peas, broccoli, lettuce and, probably new for some of our members, pac choi. This Oriental leafy green is superb in stir fries: chop a little onion, maybe some mushrooms or summer squash, and toss in oil. For a real Oriental taste one could use sesame oil and add a bit of oyster sauce, for a Thai flavour use chili paste instead of oyster sauce. Pac choi can also be used like beet greens or Swiss chard: boiled or steamed. Very nutritious!

We've got a good haul of raspberries for the CSA members. If it seems a bit much for fresh eating, the berries freeze beautifully. We like the method of freezing on a cookie sheet; go through the berries and clean, lay them out on a cookie sheet (not touching, if possible) and throw the cookie sheet in the freezer. Portion into freezer packs or containers later: the berries stay more as individuals rather than freezing in one big lump. We always try to have some of our own raspberries with Christmas dinner - it takes us back to summer in the cold of December! Also in the baskets this week: saskatoons from our neighbours the Webers. They are growing chemical-free and the berries are luscious this year! They are open for U-pick and can do some custom pick; call them at 204-728-0664.

A little something special in the Full Shares this week: nasturtium blossoms. They are very good eating, a light, peppery taste. Take the flowers, swish gently in water, blot dry and then use clean scissors to cut the petals from the heads. A nice little pick of baby summer squashes for everybody, an assortment of Papaya Pear, Golden and Green Zucchini, and Romanesque. Great for sauteing with the Pac Choi!

So, in the Full Shares: broccoli, pac choi, red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, 3 lbs. baby Norland potatoes, bundle of onions, 2 lbs. snow peas, 4 pints raspberries, 3 pints saskatoons, assorted summer squash, nasturtium blossoms, Swiss chard and a bundle of beets.

In the Part Shares: pac choi, 2 lbs. baby Norland potatoes, bundle of onions, 1 lb. snow peas, 2 pints raspberries, 2 pints saskatoons, assorted summer squash,lettuce, Swiss chard and beets.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Raspberries are On!

For last Tuesday's CSA, we picked raspberries and it was hard work. We were really a few days early; there was one ripe here, a couple two feet down........and so on. Today, the raspberries are ready. Loaded, red, ripe, branches drooping! We got busy and phoned some of the U-pick customers on our wait list and lined them up for the next few days. Then left a message for one of our customers wanting us to pick and we jumped on and started picking. Fast and easy picking compared to last Tuesday. And are they good! It was Boyne getting picked today: juicy, sweet but tart, and warmed by the sun as we were picking.

An Excellent Weekend for Farmers' Markets

Finally, it feels like summer here in Manitoba. Only took until the third week in July! The Friday Night Farmers' Market is developing nicely - it's got its' own regulars now, people we don't see at the other markets. And they are quite enthusiastic about fresh, local food. We're also getting some travellers; drop-ins who see the action from the road and pull in. There is certainly something to be said for a high profile location! Friday night was a bit windy - we took our tent down early, Mann Apiaries had to take theirs down when it started to levitate!

Saturday's Farmers' Market at Riverbank Discovery Centre was perfect! It was a gorgeous day, and the setting is sooooo delightful it just felt great. Variety is improving at all the markets - but vegetables have been slow to grow for everybody. We had a hit with our raspberries and some baby summer squash. Our cucumbers don't want to grow, so were we surprised when Farmer Boy took a stroll in the squash and found some gorgeous baby Papaya Pear, Romanesque and Golden Zucchini. Made some customers very happy!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


The little Isa Browns are about eight weeks old now. They are growing up nicely. A few weeks ago they looked rather like ratty baby vultures: their heads will still small and fairly smooth, but wing and neck feathers were sprouting nicely. Now, their combs are coming in, they are fairly well feathered and their true colours are showing. They are getting old enough that they are starting to want to roost, so Farmer Boy will have to get in there and create some roosts. Otherwise, their feed container is the only likely spot - and that is not the best idea!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

CSA Day!

It's our first full-on CSA day today! Not the bounteous harvest we might hope for in the middle July, but good, fresh food for all our families. We'll be meeting some of the sponsored families from Samaritan House for the first time, we look forward to it! Special for today was the very first pick on our raspberries - only enough ready for the Full Shares, but next week there should be lots of everybody! Linda Boys made a great contribution for today - Linda has been growing organic veggies for Brandon's CSA for many years now, first with Menno and Evelyn Isaac, who brought CSA to Brandon. She brought the snow peas, gorgeous Deer's tongue lettuce and some of the nicest spinach we've seen in ages.

So, today's harvest for the FULL SHARES: 1 head of Deer's tongue lettuce, 1 large bag of Romaine, 1 small bag of spinach, 1 small bag of snow peas, 4 lbs of Norland baby potatoes, 1 bunch onions, 1 bunch baby beets, 1 pint raspberries.

Today's harvest for the PART SHARES: 1 head of Deer's tongue lettuce, 1 large bag of Romaine lettuce, 1 small bag of spinach, 2 lbs of Norland baby potatoes, 1 bunch of onions, 1 bunch of baby beets.

The baby beets will be delicious, as well as the greens. Many people don't realize that the greens, especially from young beets, are absolutely delicious steamed, boiled or sauteed. Farmers Boy likes his with a sprinkle of vinegar. They are good raw, torn up in salads, although not to every one's liking. The raspberries are absolutely divine! It's always so scrumptious to have that first pick of the season. Nothing like a fresh, sun-ripened berry; they are soooooo NOT like the hard, bland things often found at the supermarket. The baby potatoes are unwashed: they will keep better dirty, and should go in a cool, dark, dry place until they are used.
A new option for CSA this year: the Egg Club! The Girls are producing well enough that we can offer a dozen eggs weekly for CSA members with their pick-up. Members can choose to join The Club, or not; their choice. We can't say that the eggs are completely organic; certified organic feed is hard to find around here. We can definitely say The Girls are pastured, and are not fed any animal by-products, hormones or other medicines. And they seem pretty happy, although we can't say for sure that is reflected in the taste! We're working on making our own organic feed for both the chickens and the pigs; Farmer Boy is looking for sources for organic grains and is pursuing the purchase of his own grain masher or crusher.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Potatoes!

About February, as we are dragging some dusty potatoes out of our root cellar, we start thinking about early Summer's baby potatoes. And they are here! We had our first dig for this weekend's Farmers' Markets and they are lovely! There is just nothing like a new potato. They taste fresh and alive, with a texture as smooth as silk. In this slow growing season, ours are still quite small, a bit of an extravagance to wreck so many plants for so little product. As Farmer Boy likes to say: when you sell things for pennies a pound, you'd like them to be a little bigger. But we just couldn't wait any longer!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sport for The Berks

Every little one needs a toy, right? Well, Farmer Boy decided The Berks needed sport and he suggested we should get a ball to throw in the pasture. We just happened to have a large exercise ball that hadn't been used in, well, eons. So this morning, before we left for the Farmers Market at Riverbank Discovery Centre, we threw it in their pen. It created quite a stir! They crowded around, sniffing and muzzling it. Then, one realized they could move it and the game was on - until Farmer Boy decided to feed them and the ball was forgotten. We'll have to see if they form up two teams and get a soccer game going.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Bummer of a Summer, So Far!

Middle of July, literally the 15th of the month, and the daytime high was 15 Celsius (roughly 62F). The nightime low was 6C (about 48F). Not the kind of weather the tomatoes, peppers, melons.....well, most vegetables want or need! Not the kind of weather people want or need, either! We were shutting windows, wearing extra layers and even thinking about turning on the heat! Things are growing very slowly. As a matter of fact, last Saturday was the first day EVER that we went to the Farmers' Market at Riverbank Discovery Centre and did not set up a table. We had almost nothing to sell, and the little bit we had we were saving for our CSA on Tuesday. Then, Tuesday, it poured; we had to cancel the CSA pick-up 'cause it was toooooo mucky to get on the land to harvest. Will it never end? Will we ever make any money this year?

The few bright spots are our animals. The Girls are laying consistently well - about 15 or 16 eggs a day. The little Isa Browns are growing like weeds. The Berks are settling in very well, they appear to love being pastured and are romping throughout the day. They recognize Farmer Boy when he goes to feed them, and they all run up to the fence when he talks to them. Very cute!

Another concern is a white truck we spotted in our alfalfa field Monday night. It had pulled right in and was parked by a camper stored on the edge of the field. The driver must have heard us, and drove away, right through the middle of our alfalfa field! He or she accelerated past us and hid their face by holding up a small dog in the window. Now, if someone was interested in buying the camper, don't you think they would come over to talk, introduce themselves or something like that? The field has no fencing or gate, so it is pretty accessible. We are a little casual about security, so the incident has mobilized us to be a bit more careful and watchful. It's not really how we'd like to live our life, but that's the way it goes!

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Pigs Settle In!

The Berkshire pigs, henceforth called The Berks, are settling in nicely. Farmer Boy made them a nice little shed and filled it with straw. The Berks immediately got cozy and had a long nap. A little stormy around here last night, but they didn't seem to notice. They are enjoying the alfalfa that exists in their pasture, lots of grazing going on! The neighbour's big Akita was nosing around a bit yesterday afternoon - we'll have to keep an eye on him! Calla and Joe came out to pick their pig; we're going to grow one for them for their freezer this winter.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Pigs Have Arrived!

Well, like everything else this year: they're late but they're here!! Farmer Boy's Berkshire pigs have arrived. Farmer Boy really had his heart set on Berkshire's, sort of the Cadillac of swine. It's what the great chefs all want, don't ya know? It almost didn't happen - we'd set up a purchase which fell through at the last minute because a poor sow got hit by lightening. A bit of a scramble, but Farmer Boy found some more that someone was willing to sell at this late date. Cost a little more than we had planned, including an hour drive there and back to get them, but that's okay! They seem to be settling in very nicely to their new pen tonight. Hard to say how they will feel about Rocky the rooster going off early in the morning!
Farmer Boy had to improvise, again, with pallets. We needed to cage them for the trip home but only have one large dog crate. They're new home is also fenced with pallets, for now. Last year we raised two pigs; this year we have nine because other people are interested in us raising one for them. And that's The Three Bears checking out the truck - they know something new is on board!

Girls, Meet Rocky!

After a family emergency that took us away from the farm for a few days, we're back and we are sooooo far behind. Amazing what weeds can do if left on their own for a few days! So much to try to catch up on but our first priority was picking up our new rooster! We've been looking through chicken books we've acquired and Farmer Boy really liked the look of Barred Rocks. Two days later, a rooster shows up on ebrandon, our local web gathering spot. Ten dollars for a beautiful young rooster. So we gathered up the dog crate and took a little drive in the country. Rocky came with Colleen's little flock and they didn't want a rooster. So, he moved to Aagaard Farms! We were a little unsure of how to introduce him to our girls. When we got him home we put him, in the dog crate, into the chicken's pasture. Farmer Boy got bold and just opened the door to the crate, whereas I'd been thinking of leaving him there over night so everyone could get use to each other. Rocky did fine. A couple of skirmishes, nothing major, no feathers flying. He settled right into the roost with them that night and everything is good.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Farmers' Markets in Full Swing!

It's July and Farmers Market Season is in full swing. This Saturday is the first Farmer's Market at Riverbank Discovery Centre! That's just great except we will have very little to sell. In this cold spring not much has germinated well, and everything is slow. The asparagus is about finished and what we do have we will take to the Friday Night Farmers Market at Shoppers Mall. So, we will have onions and some radishes. CSA is suppose to start next Tuesday and we may have to delay it - not much point in dragging our families out for a couple of bundles of onions and radish (especially with no lettuce to put with them!)This is the first year ever we've even had trouble with the germination of the Swiss chard! We could get some bundles of fresh herbs together; sage and lemon balm that we over-wintered in the house in pots are doing very well, but how much fresh sage do most people use?