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!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

CSA After a Thunderous Night!

Quite the storm passed through late last night and early this morning. Loud and long claps of thunder and a spectacular lightning show. It rained hard enough to form little rivers throughout the gardens. A little rain is good for us right now - the dugout is getting low and the winter squash and tomatoes still need good moisture to continue to develop. The rain was probably not so good for grain farmers trying to harvest, they'll largely be getting a day off today!

Harvest was a little wet and mucky. We got started late so it won't be a huge share today. But WE HAVE TOMATOES!! Just a taste for everybody, and very few really ripe and juicy, but we are taking some tomatoes! We also have the first pick of ground cherries, a great little treat! If you are not familiar with ground cherries they are in the tomato family, but more closely related to tomatillos and Chinese lanterns. Inside a little papery husk is a little berry, when the husk is brown and crispy they taste like pineapple, when greener they have a tart, lime taste. Very tasty!
So for the FULL SHARES: 10 lbs. Norland potatoes, bell peppers, ground cherries, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, mild mesclun mix lettuce, 2 papaya pear squash, 1 zucchini, 1 winter squash (from an assortment), small bag mixed beans, basil.
For the PART SHARES: 5 lbs. Norland potatoes, a bell pepper, ground cherries, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, 1 papaya pear squash, 1 zucchini, 1 winter squash, small bag mixed beans, basil.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Fall Display

It always starts to feel like Fall when the Winter Squash are ready. Here's a nice little display Farmer Boy did outside our front door. There is some spaghetti squash in there: the cream-coloured ovals. The bright orange round ones are a Kabocha type called Winter Sunshine, the bright orange one on the right is a golden Hubbard. There is a Long Green English Marrow, and a blue Kabocha called Confection. On top and to the left, with the ridges is a hybrid between Acorn and Delicata called Carnival. All are great eating and store well, too. What doesn't go to CSA or the Farmers' Markets we will store in the root cellar and have good eating past Christmas. The Kabocha group has some awesome eating: smooth and sweet flesh, great as a side dish or good for pies and muffins. We haven't met a Winter Squash we don't like! And they are all quite unique - so lots of variety. If the weather stays warm, we should have an outstanding harvest by the end of September, except maybe the Butternut, which continues to poke along.

Friday, September 4, 2009

We've Got Four Walls!

With the farm to himself on Wednesday, Farmer Boy got busy on the chicken coop, without interruptions. And did things progress! We've got four walls and some rafters! Spaces are in place for the door and windows, two little chicken doors are operational and things are well on their way! With good weather in the forecast until next week, and a long weekend coming up, maybe we'll get some more work done this weekend.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How They've Grown!

I was only away one week, but, my, how the Berks have grown! It is quite amazing for just one week. Even Runty looks bigger and brawnier. Their feed is being heavily supplemented by vegetables right now. They adore any of the summer squash, enjoy a good cucumber, they're pretty content with hail-damaged apples from our tree, while potatoes - not their favourite. They also, now and then, get a good armful of the weeds Farmer Boy has cut down; they relish the alfalfa, pass on the thistle and just nose around the ragweed. It's good to see them gallop and play in their pasture - no small pens here!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

CSA For the 1st of September!

It's a beautiful September day, warm and sunny, although perhaps a bit windy. Hard to believe it is September and the whole back-to-school, back-to-work thing starts. The weather is suppose to be very good all week, so maybe the tomatoes will ripen up! Winter squash is starting to look like something is happening, but very little is ready to harvest. We can hardly wait for the first Kubocha squash - yummy!

Finally getting some decent lettuce from a very late seeding. The first three seedings amounted to almost nothing - very disappointing for us. But, Grand Rapids and Romaine are coming along nicely now. If only we had a tomato...................but we do have some cucumbers! They'll go nicely in a salad. Linda has supplied some more beautiful broccoli, and she tells me that the Brussel Sprouts are almost ready to harvest. Now, this may not excite that many people but we love Brussel Sprouts. And please keep an open mind - a Brussel Sprout fresh from the garden is NOT like a Brussel Sprout from the supermarket. Miles apart in texture and flavour!

So, for the Full Shares this week: 3 lbs. French Fingerling potato, 3 lbs. Almeira White, assorted peppers, 5 cucumbers, 6 ears of corn, broccoli, 5 onions, 1 bundles carrots, lettuce, an Italian Largo summer squash, a Papaya Pear and a Patty Pan.

For the Part Shares this week: 2 lbs. French Fingerling, 2 lbs. Alameira White, assorted peppers, 3 cukes, 4 ears of corn, 2 onions, small broccoli, a bundle of carrots, lettuce, an Italian Largo summer squash, a Papaya Pear and a Patty Pan.