Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spooky Pumpkins

We grew some beautiful pumpkins this year: good sizes, nice deep colour, few blemishes or flaws. We've distributed a few - sales at the Farmers Market, some gifts to 'carving' friends (Happy Birthday, Mac!) We asked, when possible, for some pictures! Last night, the pictures started to arrive and boy, do we know some creative carvers, or what? The first picture is from our pals Calla and Joe, the second is from F.M. customers Connor and Jason, carving courtesy of Jason, apparently. Farmer Man hasn't carved his yet, and we're hoping from pictures from a few more pals, so we'll keep you posted! In the meantime, have a scary good Halloween!

Frank Horvat Blogs From The Road

A quick link to a blog muscian Frank Horvat posted for WWF. Frank continues to take his beautiful music across Canada, sharing a message of sustainable living! Check it out here!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Manitoba Sweet Potato Experiment

So, they said it couldn't be done, but the proof is in the picture! We grew sweet potatoes in Manitoba! Now, we didn't grow monster sweet potatoes, or even the sizes that you can buy at the super market. Our three, nice big ones are about five to six inches long and an inch and a half in diameter. More like a fingerling potato, really. We also got about ten that are pencil thin and five inches long, and about ten more even smaller. But, they grew! And we've got a stock to get planted next year. We're going to try really hard not to eat any this winter and save all for re-planting.

Now, I must confess to having nothing to do with harvesting. I'm feeling a little like a cold is coming on and went for a nap. In the meantime, Farmer Man got busy. If you remember from a previous post, we received rooted cuttings, late, in June. We planted them in large containers of garden soil and compost, and put them in a protected spot by the willow windbreak. Apparently, the hardest thing about harvest was breaking the containers away from the willow roots that had grown up through the drainage holes in the pots! Can you imagine: those pesky willows had grown right up into the pots in just four months! I didn't think I was over-watering the pots in such a big way that water would be draining into the ground and attracting the willows! I didn't have high hopes for a big harvest: we weren't as hot as usual this summer (something sweet potatoes like) and we received the cuttings quite late. So we're please with what we got, and we'll get them planted early next year!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Feral Felines Get Friendlier!

I've been feeding some (mostly) young cats for over three weeks now. They're living in our old, temporary chicken coop; it's made of straw bales with a truck cap. See them here. They'll now come running when I call at feeding time! They mostly still keep a wide berth, though. Two, of eight I see regularly, are a little older and they will come right up to me. The younger ones will do circles around me to get to the food. They spook and run off if I so much as sneeze. But, they're getting a bit more comfortable; three of the little ones have been creeping up to sniff at my feet. I put food out in a couple of piles and then sit about three or four feet away. Some have been bold enough to come up within a foot of me to eat from the food container I bring. They are all beautiful little cats, one is a gorgeous tan shade with white feet, two are seemingly twins of orange and white stripes, one is a little grey with a short tail. One of the little ones is a brown and black striped cat with a fluffy mane - so cute! Farmer Man keeps asking what I'm going to do and I can't fully answer. I'd love to tame them all and find them loving homes. Is that possible? I don't know. I hope to, at least, help keep them alive and comfortable through our frigid winter. I'll keep you updated!

Friday, October 22, 2010

We're In The Finals!

We've made it to the finals of the Canadian Blog Awards! Thanks sooooo much to all our readers for voting for us! And Family and Friends, some of whom don't even regularly read this blog (Hello, sister Cathy)!! Okay, okay, so I shamelessly emailed everybody to notify them! So, voting goes for another week, you can vote once a day, and if you care to: go here!

Say Goodbye to the Robins

We love our birds here at Aagaard Farms. We're not inclined to wear our iPods when working out in the field; we like listening to the sounds of nature. We've been taking down the hummingbird and oriole feeders and dusting off the suet holders! Yesterday, the robins came through, probably for the last time. The big old Dolgo crabapple tree is loaded with fruit; even though I made a couple batches of jelly and shared some crabapples with our friend Nancy, the tree still has tons of fruit! I look forward to different birds visiting it through the winter, we often get a flock of cedar waxwings sometime around Christmas - a thrill to watch! But, yesterday, a flock of robins descended! There must have been fifteen or twenty, something we don't often see. They were all over the tree and underneath the tree, feasting on fallen crabs. Much fluttering, tweeting and chirping for about an hour - and then they were gone! And we may not see them again until April!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Planting Garlic

We're late; a little late, anyway. In a perfect world, we would have planted the garlic at the beginning of the month, when the soil was a little warmer. But, that's life on a little farm; the potato harvest had to be finished, the tractor had to be changed over to the tiller and some maintenance done, then the garlic field had to be tilled. So, we're getting it done now! Will it ever be good to cross this one off the 'to-do' list! We needed an area where garlic and onions hadn't been planted for a few years; crop rotation, you know! We needed some room because we just haven't been able to keep up with the demand for our garlic, so we're planting almost double the amount this year. And, we are also going to plant some of the wee onions that we dug up during the onion harvest for tasty spring onions. We ordered our usual garlic, organic 'Magic' from Vesey's Seeds. What a treat when it all arrived already broken up into the cloves! And some absolutely gorgeous, monster cloves they were, too! We also ordered a couple of small parcels of organic specialty garlic from Botanus: French White Silverskin Softneck and Legacy Rocambole Hardneck. From CSA member Elaine, we received a bulb of Purple Mexican, so a nice variety for us to taste! Because we're a very cold climate, we're pushing in our cloves to 4 - 5 ", and we'll probably mulch the whole area with straw. I'm a little worried about soil erosion in the area we're planting, so the straw mulch will help. It's suppose to rain early next week, so that will be a good time to get down the straw. MMMmmm, all this talk about garlic, I think I'll roast some of this year's harvest for dinner tonight!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Couple of New Things For Me!

This is my first experience raising chickens. Farmer Man grew up with chickens as part of the farm, so he's seen it all. This was a first for me: a perfect egg - without a shell. Both membrane layers intact, the shape perfect, just soft and squishy! Isn't Mother Nature amazing? Farmer Man says they would get one or two of these a year when he was young, but it's new for me!

Also new for me is the notion of chickens molting. The Leghorns were a year old in May, the Isa Browns were one year old in June, and both have been laying just a little over a year. We didn't go through molting last year - they were too young, I assume. But, boy, are we molting this year! The chicken coop is layered with feathers, the pasture is dotted with them and all the chickens are looking a little, well......dishevelled. Even the usually majestic Rocky the Rooster is looking a little ragged: he's got a definite bald spot on the front of his neck and he's 'wispy' here and there around his neck and onto his shoulders. Hopefully, they'll all grow some new feathers before it gets too cold!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Finally......Sweet Peas

I can't explain it, can't rationalize it no matter how hard my little horticultural brain tries. Finally, at the middle of October, my sweet peas have started to bloom. Around us, all the signs of fall are very evident! The garden renters have largely cleaned their plots and no longer come. The leaves are falling off the trees, we've had at least a few frosts - but my sweet peas are starting to bloom. The seeds were planted at the usual time - first week of June. They were planted in three spots: an arbor in the front border, a trellis for tromboncino squash in the garden and in a pot at the front door. None have bloomed until now, all have buds! The pot at the front door probably had the most attention, and everything else in the pot, including a tomato, herbs and nasturtium have done quite well. The tromboncino squash did okay, probably planted a little too close to the willow windbreak. And the arbor in the front border got quite a bit of attention because my 'Blue Moon' wisteria is planted on the same side of the arbor and I've remembered to baby it a bit all summer. We had consistent rain, good but not too hot temperatures. There's just no explaining what Mother Nature does, some times! But, I'm certainly enjoying my little bouquet!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pumpkin for Everyone on Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Even if you're not Canadian and are not celebrating on this day! Pumpkins are a classic for Thanksgiving and we decided to share some around. The chickens like chunks of pumpkin - mostly for the seeds, although they will pick at the flesh. The pigs just out and out adore pumpkin, every last bit. Farmer Man chose some with damage and soft spots that weren't salable. A feast for everyone; well, except the dogs and cats who really have no use for pumpkin in any form. Maybe I'll slip some into the food that I make for them and see if they notice!

We're Nominated, Again!

Wow, this is the best year ever! We've been nominated for a Canadian Blog Award, in a couple of categories! How exciting! You can vote for us, if you'd like to here! Feel free! Go now!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Garage Runneth Over!

Harvest is almost complete. Just a few rows of potatoes left in the field, as well as carrots and beets, which are fine for a while. The carrots and beets we will continue to dig fresh for the remaining few Farmers Markets at the Green Spot Garden Centre. It's feeling quite relaxed with only one Farmers Market a week, and knowing that harvest is almost done! In the meantime, we've totally lost our garage. It has become the 'curing' centre. it's piled with potatoes and winter squash drying and curing before we put them in the root cellar. Getting ready for the Farmers Markets involved 'shopping' in the garage right now! Easy access! In our perfect world we'd have everything in crates, but we just can't afford enough crates. So, potatoes had to get dumped in piles so that we could return the crates to the field to continue harvest. It means having to load the piles back into crates, carefully, to move then down to the root cellar. That will be a bit of an effort, not something we look forward to! But, when the root cellar is filled up in a couple of weeks - then we know we're done! We've invited some friends for dinner the night of the last Farmers' Market and maybe, just maybe, we'll break out the champagne!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hubbard Squash Soup!

'Tis the season for winter squash! We've had a great crop of Hubbard Squash this year; some of the best sizes we've ever gotten due to consistent rains. Farmer Man decided a nice soup was in order! Hubbard is an awesome winter squash; originating in South America, it is believed to have come to North America in the 1700's via the West Indies. It has dense, rich flesh, a little on the sweet side and somewhat nutty. It looks challenging, but is easier to deal with than you might think. Farmer Man's tip for cutting into any of the larger squash is to get a cleaver or large knife into the skin, than tap it down through the skin and flesh with a rolling pin. You could use a hammer or something, but your hits have to be a bit more precise: with something like a rolling pin you can't miss the knife. An elderly customer at the Farmers Markets' takes her large winter squashes and just throws them on the garage floor to break them up.

Farmer Man roasted the Hubbard first. Once cut in half, he scooped out the seeds and rubbed the exposed flesh with better. We roast ours facing up because we like the crispy edges to nibble on, and it's easier to tell when they are cooked! Roast until soft and the skin can be pierced with a fork. Our big squash took almost three hours to roast! We had some nice apples from Clayton Organic Orchards, and we roasted them, peeled, cored and quartered, with cinnamon until soft, about an hour for ours. Farmer Man removed the squash flesh from the skin, put it in a pot with cream and chicken stock and used the hand blender to puree it to a smooth consistency. Then he pureed in the apples, cooked bacon chopped fine, cinnamon, dried basil and oregano, salt. He added more stock and water to keep the consistency smooth. He simmered it until we were ready to eat. Yummy! So busy eating it I failed to get a picture (bad blogger, bad!) A nice dollop of sour cream was an excellent touch for serving - he used a chopstick to make a nice swirl design.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Frank Horvat and The Green Keys Tour Comes to Town!

Tonight was the Green Keys Tour stop in Brandon. Frank Horvat was a delight! What a wonderful concert! The setting was the lovely Knox United Church, which has good acoustics and beautiful light! The first part of the performance was a variety of Frank's original compositions. He chatted about each piece before playing it, giving us a very personal view of his inspiration and thought process. The second half of the performance was his hour-long composition inspired by Earth Hour. He shared his experience of performing at an Earth Hour event a few years ago, up on the fortieth floor of a building in Toronto and watching the lights go out at the appointed time. The piece was fantastic - moody and introspective at times, bright and vibrant at other points. All in all a fabulous evening; if you have a chance to catch Frank on his tour, please do! You can also download his music or purchase a CD from his website. Check it out here!

I find it so inspiring that Frank and his lovely wife Lisa have embarked on this cross Canada tour. Every concert is free and partial proceeds from the sales of all the new Cd's are being donated to the World Wildlife Federation. Frank and Lisa are travelling by Greyhound bus from city to city; just sharing the music and the inspiration across the nation! Frank's dialogue between songs revealed his composing 'juices' were motivated by things like a video on YouTube about solar power being brought to a remote school in South Africa, or the anti-poverty commercial where assorted celebrities were shown snapping their fingers every three second - each snap representing a child who had needlessly died in poverty. Frank and Lisa are on to Winnipeg next, Thunder Bay after that. Do try to find the time to attend the concert - and if you're in Eastern Canada and are in a position to help sponsor this great event, please do try to do so! It's a most worthwhile cause, on so many levels!

And Frank's way better looking than my picture indicates.......

Saturday, October 2, 2010

We're Nominated!

We're nominated for a Golden Carrot Award from Food Matters Manitoba! The annual event is 'acknowledging and celebrating the inspiring work of Manitoba's Community Food Champions'. Wow! What an honour! We're nominated in the category Rural Community Food Champion - kind of amusing because Brandon is Manitoba's second largest city. But, we'll take it! The award ceremony is in Winnipeg at the Legislature on October 15th - and we're not sure we can arrange to go. Check out more of what this great organization, Food Matters Manitoba, is doing here!