Thursday, April 29, 2010

GMO Foods

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are quite controversial in food circles. The science is new, and could be disasterous - we just don't know. Europe has required foods containing GMO's to be labelled as such for many years. America is now on a push to get them to quit labeling them. I, personally, want the choice of what I eat, so I want all the information on the labels of foods. I'm signing a web petition asking for GMOs to be named as such on labels. Go here to help and get more information!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I'm a Winner!!!!

I never win anything. Farmer Man never wins anything. Well, I won a TV once at a baseball game - in 1987! Farmer Man won a free play on a lotto ticket not to long ago! So, I was thrilled to get an email that I had won a contest at Style at Home, my fav Canadian decorating magazine. The contest was held by the blog 'Natural Chic', which is all about eco-friendly decorating, it involved eco-friendly cleaning solutions; my entry was baking soda for scrubbing and vinegar for window washing (pretty standard in the earth friendly cleaning department) but together they can make a great drain cleaner! So, yesterday in the mail I received my prize: a copy of the 'Eco-Clean Deck' by Annie B. Bond. It's a great little 'file cabinet' divided into sections like all-purpose, kitchen and bath, living room and bedroom, laundry, pest control. Her five basic ingredients for less toxic cleaning: baking soda, washing soda, liquid soap or detergent, distilled vinegar and an antiseptic essential oil (we have lavender around all the time, she also suggests tea tree, sweet orange, lemongrass, rose, clove, eucalyptus and cinnamon). Here's a recipe from the deck for an all purpose cleaner, great on dirt and grime. 1/2 teaspoon washing soda, 2 teaspoons borax, 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent and 2 cups hot water. Combine in a spray bottle and shake well to blend and dissolve. Spray and wipe! Annie Bond says it has an indefinite shelf life, just shake well each time you go to use it. I'll share some more recipes as I work my way through the deck. If you need a copy for yourself, I added it to the Amazon list on the right of this blog! (Starting your shopping there will also help keep The Hens in the style to which they would like to become accustomed!) Have you any hot earth-friendly cleaning tips?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

They're Back....

I was having a peaceful moment, petting the Blondie cat, who had been outside roaming around. Then, I got a creepy-crawley feeling and, sure enough, a tick! Another 'tis the season! We go through this every spring for about a month; with four doggies and two cats we get some ticks. Farmer Man has already found a few on himself, especially after a day being out disking the fields by the willow shelterbelt. There is a concern here for Lyme disease, although fortunately it is not a big problem here in Manitoba. It's mostly just the creepy-crawley thing - both of us are now a little hyper-sensitive every time we have an itch, or see some little black thing on the carpet! It's doggie inspection time every night, now! The doggies think it's great: they love the attention and the mini 'massage' they get as we search for ticks!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Brandon's Earth Day Celebrations!

Sunday was the City of Brandon's official Earth Day celebrations and it was a resounding success! A great turn-out on what started as a nice, sunny Spring day but turned a little cool and cloudy. (We finally got a little rain later in the day, and we are absolutely not complaining!) The big draw was the opportunity to buy an awesome rain barrel for a mere $25! I had a good look and it was an excellent barrel and a fabulous deal! Info on composting, recycling, conserving water was there, the Community Garden Network was there, Habitat for Humanity was well represented by our friends Menno and Evelyn Isaac. Marquis Project was supplying coffee, free bison burgers were supplied by the City and the organizing committee, the City had their compost there and people were filling buckets and bags. (I don't actually know if there was a charge for the compost) Some great vendors were there like Pollock Farms with certified organic spelt flour, Common Ground bakery from St. Boniface and Wild Wind Natural Skin Care. We were there selling seed potatoes, including some of our exotic varieties, and talking about CSA and the upcoming Farmers' Markets. It was a great day in the park!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Garden Day in Oak Lake!

This time of year, I find myself at a number of Garden Days, Hort Days, etc. 'Tis the season!! I'm often there as a presenter, speaking on garden design, veggie growing, what's new for growing on the Prairies and such. Truth is, if it involves gardening, I delight in talking about it, almost endlessly, and often going off on little side rants about this-and-that! I can't be toooo obnoxious, because people do hire me to come back! One of my favorite Garden Days is in Oak Lake, Manitoba. I've been there before and it is one of the biggest and best shows in south western Manitoba! Great crowd, very enthusiastic and appreciative, and I always come away learning something from them! It was a great morning in Oak Lake! Sorry, one of the pictures came out very blurry; it doesn't do justice to the good looking group at the show!

Follow the Voyage of the Plastiki!

In all the Earth Day blogs, web site entries and news reports, the one I found most interesting was the Voyage of the Plastiki! The Plastiki is a boat made entirely of garbage plastic. it looks fantastic! It's making it's voyage to bring awareness to the pollution of our oceans. Did you know that, particularly in the Pacific, between North America and Japan, there are floating 'islands' of garbage thrown out by humans. These islands are large, floating, whirling masses of lightweight plastics largely, products that could be recycled. The pictures I saw were compelling, 'ghosts' of sheet plastics twirling in the current, sea lions wrapped in plastic, birds with their heads trapped in pop can holders! I mentionned littering in my Earth Day post because I see it around us all the time. People think our quiet country road is a good place to dump garbage - we've had everything from bags and boxes to old TV's and mattresses dumped in our ditch. Funny thing is, the Brandon Dump is about the same distance from town as we are, just in the opposite direction! Public ads about littering have been around since the '70's; why are we still doing it? And in such quantity to create floating islands? Check out the Voyage of the Plastiki here, follow the blog to see what's happening daily and check out some of their events and info!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Movin' On Up!

To the greenhouse! The time had finally come, the sunroom was bursting to the seams and there are more seeds to start! And I am not having seedlings in my living room! So, up to the greehouse went the early starts of tomatoes, peppers and herbs. And, literally, it is slightly up hill; movin' on up describes the journey! Farmer Man is making room for starting broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, and soon, some of the longer season pumpkins.

For Earth Day - A Bath!

Happy Earth Day to everyone! It's hard to believe that the event has been happening for 40 years! And people are still littering..........The Hens decided to get ready early with a little bath. Chickens have dust baths; they find or dig out a little hollow, jump in and use their feet and wings to throw dust up on their backs. Then they shimmy-and-shake it through their feathers. Throw some more up and do it all again! (This would go great to music!). It's certainly dry enough here for them to have easy access to dust, so they are happy and clean Girls!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Westman, Get Composting!

Earth Day is just around the corner. Is there a more perfect thing to do for Earth Day then to start composting? Not only would you be recycling/reusing kitchen scraps and garden waste, keeping them out of the landfill, but you would also be making yourself the most wonderful, natural fertilizer/soil amendment. So, I just heard that the Green Spot is going to have all their composters on sale for Earth Day - 25% off the regular price! One day only!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Welcome!! And Do Say Hi!

Sometimes, I fell like I'm posting into some big, black hole. I never know if anybody is reading this blog except for sister Keltie, who regularly leaves comments (Thanks, Sis!) and Clayton, of A Prairie Journal in Saskatchewan (Thanks, Clayton!). So, we installed SiteMeter, a traffic counter for websites and blogs. Wow, ten to fifteen people a day are reading this blog! SiteMeter doesn't tell you who is logging on, but does give you a location, time of visit, length of visit etc. So, Welcome Mountain View, California! And Welcome to Wheaton, Illinois, Brighton, East Sussex, UK, Nashville, Tennessee and Tallahassee, Florida!! And a special welcome to Arhus, Denmark - an Aagaard relative, perhaps? And Welcome to the different Brandon, Manitoba readers and Souris, Manitoba seems to stop in fairly regularly as well as someone in Ottawa and someone in Toronto! Thank you for stopping by!! And, please, leave us a comment so we know you've been by! Let us know what you'd like to see more of, what topics are of interest. The one place that seems to be missing is Red Deer, Alberta (Sister Cathy......)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

And, Also....

We're having a serious day here at Aagaard Farms, it would seem from our posts. But, we've been reading and ..........Checked out Huffington Post tonight and there, in the Food Section, is MORE food for thought! Find another interesting posts on our current food system here.

Have You Seen....

Have you seen the video 'Food Inc.'? It may make you think a bit about the food you eat. If you're interested in local food, chemical-free food and sustainable growing, you've probably already seen it or heard about it. CBC's 'The Passionate Eye' aired it a few weeks ago and here's a link to it here. We also recommend the books 'Eating Animals' by Jonathon Safran Foer and 'Omnivore's Dilemma' by Michael Pollan. Both can be purchased using the Amazon link on the sidebar. Foer's book was particularly interesting as it documents his search for the best food for his new child. He's not in the food business, and never gave much thought to food until he had a baby to feed. His research is startling and sometimes disgusting. But it's information we feel everyone should know. As Farmer Man says: You vote with your dollars! We can change what's in our stores, how animals are treated and how we take care of the land! If you don't buy a product, it won't be made. Collectively, we have great power!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Garlic IS Alive!

We fall plant garlic for bigger, better bulbs earlier.  We have to order it online in the fall because it is impossible to find in any garden centre or store around here.  We love the selection at Botanus and the value of Vesey's - and have used both as our fall source.  Garlic overwinters quite beautifully here, even in our extremely harsh climate.  We don't do anything to winter protect it, and we've planted it quite late - middle of October one year!  The earlier it comes up the better - we're always a little worried that Farmer Man will plow it under in his spring cultivation cycle if it's not showing.  No worries this year - Farmer Man can spot it no problem!  Can hardly wait for fresh garlic.......

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chickens as Pets!

Chickens can make great pets! Pets with benefits - fresh eggs every day! My dogs and cats don't give us eggs or anything useful - just lots of love (and mischief). Chickens, as you'll see from the video, know their owners and come running! And it's not just that Farmer Man has been spoiling them a little of late; he has been generous with the scratch and The Hens and Rocky love their scratch. They always come running when we approach the coop. Chickens are currently the hot mascot of the urban homesteading movement, and there is quite a bit of controversy in some cities as citizens lobby to be able to keep a few backyard chickens.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This One Is For The Birds!

We love birds at Aagaard Farms, and not just our chickens!  All winter we put out bird feeders and so enjoy all the chickadees, sparrows, woodpeckers and such.  The birds can be soooo entertaining, especially when it's cold and still outside.  Because we are such a cold climate, we keep three suet feeders on the go, all of which we can see from our living room.  But Spring is on the way, and pretty soon the suet feeders will disappear, to be replaced by hummingbird and oriole feeders.  It's time for the little birdies to go catch bugs and eat seeds!  But I saw this neat trick somewhere - I really need to start making notes when I'm online or reading some of the many magazines that come to the farm.  I can't really give credit for this great idea: it was in one of the gardening/farming/urban homesteading/crafty blogs or magazines that I read.  Anyway, the point is that as we decrease feeding the birdies, we're going to help them build their nests!  We've taken one of the suet feeders and filled it with string, clean straw, some chicken feathers from the coop and dryer lint (which we usually compost).  It's like a home-building buffet for all our little friends!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Double Flowered Plum - Forced

It's hard, some days, reading gardening blogs and websites from around the world and seeing all the lovely things in bloom - elsewhere.  Here in Manitoba we're just barely starting to green up, while Washington DC has cherry blossoms galore, California is harvesting the first garden peas and the Southern States have rhododendrons in their full glory.  Oh, well!  Inside our house, the stems of double flowered plum are starting to bloom and it's lovely.  You may have read the post on forcing - these were pruned just a short time ago and literally just dumped in a vase.  The warmth of the house convinces them that's it's late spring.  It's probably at least three weeks, maybe four before they bloom in the garden, so they are a joy to have now!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

We Love This Gadget!!

If you like to recyle, re-use, save money, save the planet, upcycle, be thrifty - any of these things, well, the Pot Maker is for you.  You can make your own pots using this device and the newspaper!!  Some plants require a long growing season, which we do not really have in Manitoba.  So, we start them early, inside, to give them all the time they need to bear their fruit.  Some, like watermelon, cantelope and winter squash, are quite brittle and do not transplant well.  So, we start them in pots that can be planted directly into the garden.  We might have used peat pots, but we question how sustainable peat moss is:  it takes thousands of years to make and we're going through peat bogs rather quickly so........we're bound to use it all up.  We've had this little device over a decade, and it's having a bit of a renaissance!  Suddenly, this year, it's in tons of seed catalogues and gardening supply catalogues after being a little hard to locate for a few years.  It's easy - you take a strip of newspaper and wrap it around the handle, then press it into the base to 'crease' the paper into shape.  The shape holds amazingly well; if we hold seeds in these pots for seven or eight weeks due to bad weather, a few pots will be falling apart.  We simply scoop it up, paper and all and plant.  Most newspapers these days are printed on unbleached paper using veggie or soy inks and are quite safe.  We wouldn't recommend using shiny, highly finished or highly coloured papers, which will have more chemicals in them.  It's a great investment! 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hello, Ladies!

 A little treat for The Hens, and Rocky!  They love their scratch!  The Browns (Isa Browns) we raised from day-old chicks and they are quite comfortable with us.  We've handled them a bit since they were little babies.  The Whites (Leghorns) we acquired when they were older and they have never been as comfortable with us.  Plus, in my opinion, the Leghorns are just 'flightier', way more jumpy!  You can see Rocky the Rooster's body in behind the Browns.  He's fairly comfortable with us - he was hand-raised by a nice young man as a 4H project and has always been well treated.  And no, it doesn't hurt when they peck at my hand.  It's kind of like being gently poked with a fork.  A bonding moment, don't ya know?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Getting a Little Cozy in Here!

The sunroom is getting a little full - it's hard to move around, let alone water without bumping into a flat of plants.  The potential for a disaster (and a messy, dirt-every-where kind of disaster) is high.  So, the question is:  is it time to fire up the greenhouse?  We always pause a bit before making the decision.  The greenhouse was built by Farmer Man's father and, like the house, is kind of 'cobbled' together.  Left-over wood, windows from an old fifth-wheel trailer, it's not really high-efficiency.  It can be really expensive to run.  Now, the weather is very good currently, temperatures above average.  But will it stay that way?  Is it worth the move now?  Farmer Man has been potting up peppers, tomatoes and herbs all week and there are more to go.  And we have to start seeding broccoli, cabbage and such.  We need the elbow room, and soon!  So, start piling things into the living room?  Or boot up the greenhouse?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all, and enjoy a lovely Spring day!  Easter and Spring both seem early for us on the Prairies, this year.  We were given a lovely bouquet of pussy willows by our neighbours Fred and Laurie of Evergreen Valley Nursery.  They cut and bundle pussy willow for Easter, selling particularly to churches.  Some years it works out and some it doesn't.  This year is perfect for pussy willows for Easter.  The flowers are perfect for the exact day, no forcing required!  It is such a sign of Spring to have the pussy willows, a sign of hope, and regeneration.  Hope you're enjoying a lovely bouquet of something this day!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Uh, Oh....

Our snow is almost completely melted:  little pockets still hide on the north side of trees and buildings.  Yesterday we had some nice steady rain, which will certainly help green things up!  However, the dugout is just barely half full, which is not a good thing.  The dugout is our summer 'insurance policy' if Mother Nature decides to be stingey with rain in the summer.  At this time of year, after the snow melt, it should be full to the brim and even over-flowing.  In the picture, water shold be covering the patch of snow on the left.  Now, this is Manitoba, and we could still get a foot of snow - but even that won't fill the dugout.  We had much less snow than normal this year, apparently statistically, we've had low percipitation every month since the Fall!  It's not a great way to start the growing season!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Blue Pumpkin

If you read the last Dark Day Challenge post, we were gifted part of a blue pumpkin.  This came to us from our market gardening pal Marlene Trelka.  Marlene has grown these for a few years; she was given the seed by a neighbour (now passed away) who called it a New Zealand pumpkin.  We've grown something like this before: we knew it as an Australian pumpkin, it may be a Queensland Blue, but it's smooth enough that we think it is Crown Prince.  Regardless, it is absolutely awesome eating, and as you can tell from the skin, a fabulous storage pumpkin.  We've removed and are drying the seed for planting this spring.  It's hard to find here, so we are ecstatic to have the seed.  Thanks, Marlene!!!