Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Goat Mania Is Setting In

We've been thinking about adding goats to the farm. Making soap and cheese would add year-round income, which would be very good. We've been doing our research, reading some books, searching online. We had a great chance yesterday to get a little more up-close-and-personal. The Manitoba Royal Winter Fair is happening in Brandon, and we saw that the Manitoba Goat Association was doing a presentation. MGA president Bill Paulishyn was manning the booth and giving the presentation. We had an awesome opportunity to ask our questions and get some Manitoba-specific information! You see, very few of the books we've read talk about caring for goats in the extreme cold temperatures of our winters. Great to have some questions answered! Then, we wandered over to the petting zoo - and watched the baby goats! They're so adorable!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Growth - Indoor Herbs!

As the days get longer, plants begin to come awake. We've still got a good layer of snow and freezing temperatures so outside plants remain dormant! But inside, we've over-wintered a few pots of different herbs and they are feeling the Spring vibe! Over-wintering herbs is always a challenge; these plants are all outside for the summer, so sometimes we deal with pests trying to come inside with them. This year, we've struggled a bit with white fly, which we think we've beaten with sticky traps and neem oil soil drenches. Then, we have to deal with the hot, dry air created by our indoor heating. Most of the herbs we keep in the sun room, which is east facing and very cool. We allow them to go dormant, water lightly just once a week and try not to harvest too much during the winter. This works well for woody, long-lived herbs like lavender, sage and rosemary. This year, the thyme and tarragon were both looking brown and dry. I cut them back hard in January, and they are bouncing back beautifully. The tarragon, pictured here, is growing vigorously. Just behind it, on the right, the thyme is just starting to bud. It will be so good to have fresh herbs for cooking again! And shortly, we'll start to seed more so we'll be herb-happy soon!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Getting a Little Sun

Even though it's not that warm, the Garage Kitties are looking for a little sun! I guess on the roof, on the dark shingles, it can get a little cozy. On the right, Big Orange, in the middle Bob and peeking over from the left of the photo is Fluffy. It's just -10 C (about 12 F) so it's not exactly mild outside. But the sun holds the promise of Spring and they do have their fur coats on!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Homemade Pasta - Round Two!

Our first foray into making pasta didn't go that well. It tasted good, but was a sticky mess and jammed up our new pasta machine. We were at our friends Joe and Calla's for dinner last weekend and they had made great pasta. So, we knew it was time to get back at it! This time, we had some good advice from Joe and Calla, and we'd watched some videos on YouTube. The old adage 'A picture is worth a thousand words' seems to be very true for us when it comes to making pasta. We had a few 'aha' moments and the second try at making pasta went much, much better. Check out Jamie Oliver making pasta here and some other guy here. It's really quite easy when you know what you're doing! And quite fast! The basic recipe: 100 grams of flour and one egg per person. We actually had a lot of pasta for the two of us. The secret seems to be dusting with lots of flour as you run it through the machine. We tried Jamie's way of cutting the pasta by hand instead of changing over the machine to the pasta cutter. We cut it at about fettuccine width (we thought) by it cooked up super fat at about an inch wide! Maybe we overcooked it. Nonetheless, is was not a big lump and it was very tasty! We'll do that again, soon! The pasta was using local flour and our eggs (the sauce was totally not local - we won't even go there). Give the videos a watch, and then try it yourself!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ah, Spring On The Prairies!

Well, we didn't get the big dump of snow that was forecast, at least not here in Brandon. We got 4-5 cm ( a couple of inches, maybe) of slushy, wet stuff. What we did get today was high winds, causing extreme drifts along the country road to our house. A knock on the door sent Farmer Man out to help some people stuck not far from the house. Good neighbour Mr. Robson, Babes' owner, stopped to help on his way home. The ironic part of this whole adventure is that the people were on their way out to see us about renting a garden plot this summer.

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's Dangerous Out There!

This time of year is very hard for Manitoba gardeners who like to surf the Web. Bloggers almost everywhere but here are enjoying the first signs of Spring; they're posting awesome pictures of snowdrops and tulips coming up, buds swelling, birds returning. Here in Manitoba, on March 21st, we have a weather warning: the forecast calls for a storm that could dump more than 15 cm (about a foot!) of snow over the next 48 hours. Oh, good! It's already weird here, we've had a little nice weather, then more snow. It's melted, gotten icy, then gotten more snow on top of the ice. The picture is our barn, the door and window on the left are in Farmer Man's shop, the door on the right leads to our little greenhouse. Looming overhead: the snow and ice slowly creeping down the roof. One good slam of the door and one of us, or a little Bear, could be buried. It's not cold, at least. Well, still below freezing, but not by much, which is nice by Manitoba standards. The only things greening up around here are the seedlings in our sun room!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dark Days Challenge: Kaput, but.....

Poor Laura, at The Urbanhennery, the host of The Dark Days Challenge. She's had one heck of a winter! Outrageous weather, old farm house damaged, power problems, road problems, the loss of some hens and even the loss of a beloved horse. It's more than anyone should have to bear. So, everyone participating in the Dark Days got an email a while back that she had ended up just toooooo far behind to ever catch up. And we all understand. But have we stopped eating local? No way!

Eating local is, to some extent, a way of life for us now. Not that we're trying to be off-grid, self-sufficient hermits or anything! It's just that we're in the position to supply ourselves, to know how our food was raised, have great tasting and healthy food, save some money and stuff like that. Plus, since we're in the business of selling our stuff, we like to buy from people around here and support them, lower our carbon foot print - you know! So, just as we were running out of our own garden carrots, just after Christmas, we saw an ad on eBrandon advertising carrots! They're lovely - almost as good as ours. If you're in the Westman area, they came from Peters Market Garden in Virden, email; Marlin comes into Brandon fairly regularly so it's not hard to connect with him for pick-up! I was also rushing through the Town Centre last Friday to pick up honey from Mann Apiaries and I think I saw some carrots on a vendors' table. Of course, if you're looking for potatoes, we can help with that!

We've also received an awesome gift to help us eat local! Our good neighbours Mike and Naomi have been reading about the Dark Days Challenge here on this blog and our foray into pasta making. They've given us some of their homemade canned tomatoes and sauce! They've also been making sausage this week, probably from deer that Mike has harvested right around here! They've offered to share some of that with us, too! Love that - thank you, Mike and Naomi. Now I know who to call, too, when I give canning tomato sauce a try for the first time this summer!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jam Swap!

I love blogging for the connections and on-line friends you can acquire! And all the stuff you can learn! I became aware of Lindsay, of 100 Mile Locavores thru the Dark Days Challenge, which she participated in for the first time this year. We've got a lot in common: both trying to eat local, both growing and preserving food, both selling at Farmers Market. She also has an awesome canning site called Uncanny Preserves - Thinking outside the jar. Some great info on that site, not only preserving, but using preserves in some great recipes! She emailed me inquiring about nanking cherries, something she's not familiar with. She proposed a swap: some of her homemade wild blueberry jam for a jar of our homegrown, homemade nanking cherry jam. So, she sent a little package from New Brunswick with the wild blueberry jam but also some carrot apple butter, I sent a package with nanking jelly and grape jelly to New Brunswick! The wild blueberry jam is awesome: some of the best blueberry flavor I've ever had out of jar! We've haven't tried the butter, but I'm currently fascinated by butters. I've been reading about them on some of my other fav canning site like Tigress in a Jam and Food in Jars. I'm going to give butters a try this summer! Also loved seeing someone doing something a little different with their presentation: Lindsay has great little inserts on the top of the jars, with her logo, and ties on a nice little card with the same logo with info on the product. Looks and tastes great! Are you canning?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Growing, Again!

Farmer Man has been busy the last few weeks. He's cleaned out the sun room, moved in the seed starting unit that he built and he's started planting peppers. The first babies are up! We've got heat mats on the bottom level, to get things started that like some heat. The trays then move up, or start on a higher level if the seeds don't require bottom heat. All levels have grow/fluorescent lights. Eventually, the seedlings will move out onto folding tables in the room, where we do have some stand grow lights. From there, if it's warmer, the seedling trays will go out to our greenhouse (which is a little expensive to heat this time of year, hence the sun room start!) As the temperature has been a little cold, we've got the seed starting unit wrapped in plastic to keep the warmth in, and, in the last few chilly days, an electric heater, just for extra night time protection. Next, on Farmer Man's agenda: tomatoes! I'll probably get some herbs started pretty soon, too. And, of course, a flat of mesclun mix lettuces for some micro greens has to get started soon! Both The Hen and Farmer Man need some fresh greens! It is soooo good to have something growing again!Are you starting anything from seed?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ohhhhhhhh, Good.........

After a beautiful day yesterday - blizzard today. Now, I know that there are places in the world where the weather is truly outrageous - our thoughts go out to the people of Japan, and we've been worried all day about friends in Japan and tsunami prone areas like Hawaii, the Pacific Coast and Los Cabos. But, but, it's almost mid-March. And we're having a white-out! What melted yesterday is now a layer of ice under, at this time, four or five inches of new snow. It's going to be very interesting getting around the next few days. Of course, not all of us seem to mind as much: Blaze is enjoying himself immensely!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Coop Cleaning...and A Bath!

It has been a beautiful day; it's gotten warm enough that it's dripping off the roof of the house, garage and barn! Rather like Spring! Farmer Man had been watching the weather forecast and had picked today for a little spring cleaning in the chicken coop. He went out yesterday to stock up on not only food, but fresh wood chips as well. It's not an easy task to clean a coop: chickens poop, drop food, splash water and then walk all over it to pack it all down! Farmer Man was able to direct all The Hens and Rocky outside, shovelled the whole thing out, swept and then laid down fresh wood chips. Smells and looks fresh!

In the meantime, I had refreshed the dust bath. We've got a big bale of Sunshine Mix #3 here for seeding and I mixed about another third of diatomaceous earth in with it and put it outside where The Hens were congregating. Instant hit - we had a line up! Bath and a clean bed - it's been a good day for The Hens!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kitties in a Tree

It was, finally, a nice day here. Not snow-melting-nice or anything like that but nice enough that you didn't need to huddle down in the mondo parka with five layers on all body parts. I heard little feet on the roof this afternoon; I went to investigate and found a bunch of Garage Kitties sunning themselves. Bad blogger that I am, I did not have the camera with me. Now, the back of our house is built into the ground and it's quite easy to get on the roof at any time, and very easy right now with all the snow banks around! The Bears spotted the Kitties and a bit of mayhem ensued before I got them back under control. Later this afternoon, I spotted a couple of the Garage Kitties sunning in a slightly safer spot - ten feet up in an old spruce tree!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Catching Up!

I've been away having a wee holiday with my two sisters. Great to be able to spend time with my big sisters without the interruption of kids, animals, phones and all the stuff of daily life. We've never done that before, and it was a delight! Poor Farmer Man was left here on the farm because, well, he's not a sister. He's been babysitting chickens, dogs and kitties. And, he's been starting seeds. The first peppers got planted this past week, and they are already popping up. Quite a chore to empty and clean the sun room, find and set-up all the equipment including tray racks, heating mats and grow lights. And all in a week of frigid temperatures with wind chills of -40C. While I was lounging by a pool, shopping madly and admiring the oranges on the trees. Now, it's time to get very, very busy! We're working on upgrading the website, we've got to get new brochures for the coming season, we've got a lot more seeds to start and we're already getting calls from people interested in garden rentals, CSA and farmers' markets! Here we go for another season!