Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CSA for August 31, 2010 Cancelled!

We've never cancelled a CSA share mid-season. We have delayed the start a few times, when things aren't growing really well. But, steady rain yesterday, overnight and drizzle this morning makes it impossible to get on the land to harvest. We wouldn't do our soil, our plants or ourselves any favours by getting on the mud! Plus, the vegetables would be more prone to rust, mold and a host of other problems if delivered wet and mucky. It's a pity, too, because the corn was ready, and now we'll have to take it to the weekend Farmers Markets, because it probably won't wait until next Tuesday. Such is life with veggies! We'll see everyone next week! Next, we have to deal with the leak in the livingroom ceiling!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wildlife Gardening

The girls at Garden Rant have introduced me to yet another fabulous blog: Wildlife Garden. This one is dedicated to wildlife gardening - understanding the critters, birds and bugs coming to your garden, planting to encourage and support them! It's a very interesting site - check it out here!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Using Up The Cucumbers

We got an excellent pick of cucumbers for the Farmers Market at Riverbank Discovery Centre on Saturday morning. However, a lot of the vendors had cukes, so we came home with about half a crate. As we're into fresh food, and don't have an event until Tuesday - these cukes won't be for sale! So what do you do with ten pounds of cukes going soft? Well, we could just compost them - but we've got a better answer. Turns out chickens like cukes. And pigs absolutely adore them! So, we cut down on feed costs, give all the stock a 'treat' and although we don't make any money from these cukes, we will certainly profit from the end result!! The manure these animals will provide will give us excellent compost to grow next years' crop, without adding any fertilizer! It's a win-win-win situation!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Green Keys Tour is Coming!

Canadian composer, muscian and teacher Frank Horvat is coming to Brandon! Frank and his piano have embarked on 'The Green Keys Tour', raising awareness and funds for sustainable and eco-friendly projects. Aagaard Farms is delighted to be one of the sponsors of the Brandon stop on the tour! Mark October 3rd in your calendars, at Knox United Church. Find out more and listen to some of Frank's compositions here! And did we mention that it's free! Hope to see you there October 3rd! Don't worry - we'll remind you!


A link to an interesting discussion on the-ever-interesting Grist about eating local. Check it out here!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

CSA for August 24, 2010

Well, another lousy weather day for CSA. What is up with that? Heavy rain Monday and into early Tuesday morning, then high winds with a real cold bite for most of the day Tuesday! It's hard to pick the pole beans when the trellising is swinging back and forth by about a foot! You reach for a nice, plump romano bean and suddenly it's gone! I spent most of the day dressed like it was November - three layers and a hood! I even had the notion to dig out my beloved fingerless gloves from winter storage!

But, nonetheless, we got it done. Had some nice volunteer help from Carrie, a lovely young lady we met early in the summer. Someone who's interested in local food and fresh food and contacted us by email to volunteer. She was interested in learning a bit about what we do and how we do it. Coming through Brandon after finishing her summer job at a camp in Clear Lake, she dropped by for a couple of hours and helped picked cucumbers and clean up winter squash. Thanks, Carrie!

For this CSA, Farmer Man made me share the garlic. We dug all our fall-planted garlic about a week ago, and have had it spread out on a table - in the sun, weather permitting. It's cured quite nicely and has done quite well for us this year. We love our garlic, so I must admit I am always unwilling to part with it! If you've only ever had store bought garlic, this may have a bit more kick than you are used to!!

We have a late seeding of lettuce just coming along. The greens are very young still and we didn't get a big harvest, but the greens are lovely! Hopefully, we'll get a better harvest next week. I've got some borage flowering nicely, and hope to add some flowers to the mesclun mix next week for some nice blue colour and a lovely, cucumber flavour! Not that we don't have enough cucumbers..........although the rains have encouraged some of the cukes to get a bit fat and round, which means they become pig food, because they just look to weird to sell or put into the CSA shares.

The winter squash are coming in very well this year. Don't forget that winter squash store quite well - keep them someplace cool, dry and dark and they can be good for months. The flesh also freezes very well! The Kabocha's are fabulous in recipes for pumpkin desserts like pies, cookies and breads. Cook the Kabocha by microwaving or baking, scrap the flesh out, measure the amount you'd need for, say, pumpkin pie, and freeze in freezer bags or containers! Ready to bake a pie this winter!

So, for the FULL SHARES: 8 lbs. 'Almira' white potatoes, large bag Romano green and yellow beans, a bunch of carrots, a mix of yellow cooking, Spanish white and red onions, small bag of mesclun mix, a couple of green peppers, cucumbers, head of garlic, an acorn winter squash, a delicata (or sweet potato) winter squash, a buttercup winter squash and an orange Kabocha winter squash.

For the PART SHARES: Small bag of either Sangria red, Almira white or Yukon Gold potatoes, large bag of 'Kentucky Blue' pole beans, a bunch of carrots, yellow and Spanish onions, small bag of mesclun mix, green pepper, cucumbers, head of garlic, an Acorn winter squash and a buttercup winter squash.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

History of Sissinghurst Garden

If you're a garden lover, Sissinghurst is one of the 'must sees' on the bucket list. It is a Tudor manor house rejuvenated by the famed landscape designer Vita Sackville-West. Probably most famous is her White Garden - revolutionary for it's time. But, Sissinghurst had a more sinister past - here is an excellent video by Simon of the blog 'Garden of Eaden'.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

CSA for August 17, 2010

I'm very late posting this. I don't have a good excuse; I have an excuse, but it's not great! I didn't get around to this post last night because I got TV - and boy, was I watching it! You have to understand that we haven't really had much TV here at Aagaard Farms; out here in the country there is no cable, no fancy telephone lines. We got what came through the air: CBC until our local affiliate went out of business, CTV, Global in fine weather only, and the French CBC. So, we finally bit the bullet and got satellite TV yesterday. We probably should have waited until the end of the growing season - I stayed up waaaaaaay past my bedtime last night cruising HGTV, The Food Network, Travel Network, History......well, you get the picture! So to all our CSA members, very sorry for my tardiness!

Yesterday marked the first big harvest of Winter Squash! It's kind of a benchmark - it's rather 'fallish' to be harvesting winter squash, and they have done extremely well in this rainy year! We've got some of the biggest sizes we've every had of Hubbard and Marrow, and it's only mid-August! Can't wait for the end of September! In the picture, the looooong green thing is English Green Marrow, the blue/grey monster is Blue Hubbard and there is also some excellent sizes of Golden Hubbard. The pumpkin-looking squash are a Kobocha type called 'Winter Sunshine', and awesome sweet, smooth textured squash you can use as a replacement for pumpkin in pies and other baking, or as a side vegetable (awesome mashed or whipped with a little brown sugar and cinnamon!). There's also a little blue Kobocha called 'Confection' in there as well, the dark green squash with the light green bump on the end is a buttercup and a there's little bit of acorn squash.

Winter squash differ from the summer squashes like zucchini, papaya pear and Patty Pan in that you don't eat the skin or the seeds. As well, they can last in storage for months! There is lots of variety in texture and taste, and lots of options for cooking. The simplest way to enjoy winter squash is baking or roasting. Wash the skin, cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and bake in the oven at around 350 F - 375 until the skin is easily pierced with a fork. For the big hubbards, that can be up to an hour! To speed the process up, they can be done in the microwave, but we don't think the taste and texture is quite as good. Microwaving can cut the time down by 2/3's - so worth it for busy households. Peel and chunk winter squash for roasting, awesome in the foil packages of veggies on the barbeque, and we've even steamed chunked squash in one of our one-pot steamed vegetarian dinners (takes as long or longer than the potatoes)! The seeds are awesome cleaned and then oveb-roasted - just like pumpkin seeds.

So, not a great basket today. Heavy rain overnight and steady rain through the morning made it very hard to harvest! We are a potato-free zone this week, just impossible to get into the potato field. For some of you, this will give you a chance to use up any potatoes before a fresh batch next week. Everything was muddy, dirty and damp! Get the beans out of the plastic bags as soon as possible - they'll be very prone to dark 'blotches' if left in plastic.

For the FULL SHARES: large bag of Dragon Tongue romano beans, large bag of mixed beans, 4 cobs of corn, 6 cucumbers, bundle of beets, two bundles of carrots, large bag of mesclun mix, one of an assortment of summer squash, a small winter squash, a large winter squash and some onions.

For the PART SHARES: small bag of Dragon Tongue romano beans, large bag mixed beans, 3 cucumbers, bundle of carrots, bundle of Swiss Chard, one of an assortment of summer squash, small bag of mesclun mix, small winter squash, medium winter squash and onion.

Hopefully the weather will become nice and the tomatoes will ripen for next week (fingers crossed, toes crossed, arms crossed - except now we look cranky!). Good eating to everyone!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Office Diva to Farmers' Market Vendor!

Sister Keltie has an alter-ego that her city friends don't know about. She comes to visit Aagaard Farms and become vendor extraordinaire! Now, Kelt likes good food (something we really like about her!). She is particularly fond of squash of any type. We have had to ship vegetable marrow to her on the Greyhound Bus, when she couldn't find it in Edmonton! Twenty six dollars to ship ten dollars worth of squash! Anyhoo, when she arrives at the farm, we cook her a couple of interesting meals with some of our more uncommon squash. Then we take her to the Farmers' Market with us and set her loose on the poor, unsuspecting customers! She raves, she praises, she gives cooking tips, describes textures and flavours, and darn if lots of people don't try something new. She brings a passion that we find hard to muster at our twentieth-something market of the season. And then, we bring her back to the farm and cook her some more! And load her car up with some when she heads home. If only she got enough holidays to be around the whole season!

Friday, August 13, 2010

City Boy Goes Country!

Farmer Man gave nephew Jack a little lesson in tractor driving! Now, I dislike driving our cranky old tractor. I'm not good with a stick shift of any kind, and I find I don't have the weight or strength to effectively use the clutch or the brakes. So, I just avoid it any way I kind. But Jack was totally up for it! A five minute lesson and he was whipping around here like he'd been Farmer Guy forever! Unfortunately, Farmer Man didn't really have any serious tilling or anything that needed doing so Jack was just joyriding! He's been awesomely helpful with many things during his visit; he was a big help getting ready for CSA, has helped us organize some electronics and last night he made dinner! An awesome Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo - from scratch! These people can come back anytime!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

CSA for August 10, 2010

Whew! A hot, muggy day for working. Fortunately, not only did we have our little crew, but we have company who we immediately put to work today! Sister Keltie and nephew Jack were a huge help today, making us ahead of schedule, calm, cool and collected. Not only that, but CSA member Cathy showed up to help - so we had lots of coverage today!

Our fellow growers have come through big time today! Linda has supplied beautiful broccoli, cabbage, beans, peas and snow peas. Ed and Amanda came through with cukes, some of the onions and some of the carrots. Menno and Evelyn are bringing some of their gorgeous, organically grown hothouse tomatoes (!!!!). And, for a tasty treat for all our members, our Farmers' Markets friends Tom and Tracy Stephenson of Arizona Edibles picked apples for us!

We are, once again, bean happy!! Now is the time to freeze some for the winter! It's very easy. Just blanche (partially cook) by boiling or steaming for just a couple of minutes, then cool down as fast as possible but dunking in ice water. Dry and put into freezer bags or freezer containers and into the freezer. Voila! Awesome beans for fall or winter eating. Really, it is that easy! If you're reading this, then you're online and there are excellent recipes for quick dill beans for the fridge and other tasty treats.

The first of the winter squash are here, only for the full shares this week. We've got a great pick of some Long Green English Marrow, which are in the picture here. Marrow is not a widely known vegetable. It is a tradition with my family - I don't think Farmer Man had heard of it before he met me! It is, on its own, a very mild, ok, almost boring vegetable. But, stuffed - ohhhh, it takes on flavors beautiful! Cut in half, scoop out the seeds and stuff with anything you might stuff a pepper or tomato with. Our family tradition is stuffing with a pork sausage and bread stuffing (sister Keltie 'cheats' and uses Stove Top stuffing). Bake until the outside skin is easily pierced with a fork. For those monster marrows, you can cut them in halves or quarters and use each piece separately. A cut marrow is good in the fridge for over a week!

So, for the FULL SHARES: 5 lbs. Aladdin potatoes, 2 lbs. apples (probably Parkland), green pepper, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, beets, green beans, yellow beans, romano beans, peas, snow peas, head of lettuce, radish, onions, marrow, patty pan squash and crook neck squash.

For the PART SHARES: 2 lbs, Aladdin potatoes, 2 lbs, apples, cabbage, green pepper, cucumbers, carrots, beets, green beans, yellow wax beans, peas, snow peas, head of lettuce, onions, crook neck squash, patty pan or scallopini summer squash, tomatoes, basil.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fabulous Photography

No, not mine, heaven knows!! Prairie Girl has introduced me to a wonderful website called Mortal Muses. A group of women photographers from around the world post photos each week on a theme. More photos are available at Flickr. This week's theme is staying cool. Beautiful images - well worth a trip! Check is out here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

CSA for August 3, 2010

Whew! What a day! So much to harvest, so much to clean, so much to package. The hardest part of CSA, every week, is figuring out how to make what we harvest work for our families. 18 pounds of Dragon Tongue beans and 33 families - they each get........ummmm.......oh, so much math!

First, a big thank you to our little crew, who worked so hard today! Vartan, Nataliya, Danielle, Kara, Patel, Ming and Zhong were out this morning and picked in, first, the mud from last nights' storm. Then, it heated up and became very humid. Couldn't have done it without the crew! Our Farmers' Market right-hand guy Travis came out to package and tidied up after us! Thanks, Travis! It was great to come home to a tidy site!

Second, a big thanks to our growing partners. Linda Boys provided beautiful cabbage, tatsoi, peas, kale and snow peas. Amanda and Ed Wiebe added to the cabbage and peas, and brought the cucumbers. Our buddy Hugh dug carrots in the muck!

So, it's a pea and bean kind of a day. We have never brought such a good haul of shelling peas to CSA. And we are bean happy! Everyone got a taste of three different beans! The summer squash is coming along - and we don't mean zucchini!!! Everyone got a large, oval, speckled green Moroccan or cousa squash called 'Lolita'. It's firm, with a mild nutty flavour. Great raw in salads or with dip, great in sautes, good on the B-B-Q and great stuffed and baked! Everyone also received a patty pan or scallopini, the flying saucer shaped squash. It's one of our favourites! Great texture and flavor, also dense enough to stand up well to the B-B-Q and awesome stuffed! Our fav method is to cut off the top, scoop out some of the flesh and fill with cream cheese, crab meat, diced onions and dill. Bake until the skin is soft enough to pierce with a fork. Yummy!!!!!! The full shares also have a crookneck squash - the Cadillac of southern cooking! In the southern States, it is commonly coated in corn meal and Cajun spice and fried. Buttery and delicate - it's a delight!

So, for the FULL SHARES: 2.5 lbs German Butterball potatoes, 2.5 lbs Alaskan Sweetheart potatoes (with pink flesh!, dense and meaty!), 3 lbs shelling peas, a cabbage, cucumbers, purple, yellow, green and Dragon's Tongue beans, tatsoi, 'Grand Rapids' lettuce, a large and small patty pan or scallopini squash, 3 'Lolita' cousa squash, and a crook neck squash, carrots, onions and a pint of 'Mammoth' raspberries.

For the PART SHARES: 2.5 lbs German Butterball potatoes, 2 lbs shelling peas, snow peas, cucumbers, purple, yellow and green beans, kale, 'Grand Rapids' lettuce, patty pan or scallopini squash, some 'Lolita' cousa squash, carrots, onions and a pint of 'Mammoth' raspberries.

We were soooo on the fly today, that I took really lousy pictures. Apologies - the photo really doesn't do the vegetables justice. This post is getting up later than I had hoped, because I tried to fix the pictures, which I'm not very good at. Hope all you CSA members are enjoying! Remember, please add your comments and recipes!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Golden August

In many parts of the world, summer is the time of verdant greenery, lush foliage and bright flowers. Here on the Canadian Prairies, we're waiting for everything to go yellow - more a colour associated with autumn. But, here on the Prairies, we grow grain. Lots of grain! Grains that get shipped virtually every place on this Earth. We are the bread basket of Canada! Wheat, rye, oats, barley - we grow it all. It's a major part of the Prairie economy. And grain's time is now - it must ripen now, be harvested and stored before the rains of autumn. Farmers are anxiously watching their fields, watching the weather and praying that there is no hail. Grasshoppers would be really bad right now, too. Fortunately, they don't seem to be much of a problem this year. Within the next few weeks, Aagaard Farms will be surrounded by miles and miles of gold. And then, chaos will set in. Weather permitting, the farmers will be busy like little bees. Swathers and combines and large trucks full of grain will be up and down our dusty gravel road. They will go from before first light until well after dark; day after day without a break, as long as the weather holds. Farmers' wives and families will be taking care of the other chores around the farm, and packing large lunches and dinners to drive out to the fields. And then, there is almost a palpable sigh of relief, a bit of serenity descends on the Prairies. And the farmers start thinking about upcoming curling bonspiels and Hockey Night in Canada!