Monday, May 30, 2011

Some Friends Meet The Goatlings!

Mabel, Saying Hi!

Very Interesting - What Is This?
Joe and Calla popped over yesterday for a wee visit and to meet the goats!  It's so nice to get back to a more normal life after the flooding; all roads leading to our farm are re-opened and it's so much easier to get to and from Brandon.  The young goats love people, and don't mind dogs, cats and chickens!  They've been somewhat stuck in the barn in rainy weather, so they were happy for some attention!  They did a bit of 'acting up' for Joe and Calla!  All photos courtesy Joe and Calla.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Awesome: Raising Fish and Hydroponic Veggies in One System!

 I am becoming a total fan of The Urban Farming Guys.  Their website, their Facebook page, the YouTube channel and I'm following them on Twitter.  I don't do that for many organizations but these people are fun, functional and educational!  They are looking to be self-sustaining on a city lot.  Check them out!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wow, I Won Something, Voting to Help Someone Else Win Something!

Not to long ago one of my favorite canning/food blogs, Well Preserved, entered a video in a contest to promote sustainable seafood.  The contest was run by Ocean Wise, a Canadian conservation program educating diners and sellers about Earth-friendly seafood choices.  I like what they do over there at Well Preserved, so I checked out the contest and the videos and really like theirs, so I voted for it a number of times!  And I won, just for participating.  I won a gorgeous seafood cookbook 'The Ocean Wise Cookbook, Seafood Recipes That Are Good For The Planet'.  It's a super book, with information not only on which varieties are harvested sustainably, but wild versus farmed (farmed is not necessarily bad), health info and awesome recipes for almost any species you can think of!  Great photos, too!  It's a super, hefty book; it's a huge pleasure to add it to the cookbook shelf!  Check out Joel's winning video on Ocean Wise's Facebook page here.  And, if you decide you need it to add to your cookbook shelf, start your shopping at the link above, and help buy treats for the Hens and Goats!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

First Asparagus Harvest: Shaved!

Our asparagus is finally starting to produce!  Love asparagus season.  Farmer Man and I had taken a walk last Friday and found one spear, which we promptly shared right there and then.  Took a walk yesterday and found about a pound: a nice, big handful!  I've been reading all over the Internet about shaving asparagus, for a different take on this fabulous Spring vegetable.  Asparagus is being shaved into thin strips for salads, roasted vegetables and pizza.  We had a pizza crust in the freezer, so off we went!  I referred to one of my favorite foodie blogs Smitten Kitchen for the basics.  Like so many things there are a million different ways of doing this!  We had a lovely jar of homemade pizza sauce from our neighbors Mike and Naomi, so that went down first.  Then a light layer of mozzarella cheese.  I had shaved the asparagus spears with our usual veggie peeler, than tossed them in olive oil, cracked black pepper, sea salt and a little bit of chili pepper.  I know, we were doing so well on this being a local dish but the cheese wasn't local, either.  Anyway, arranged the shaved asparagus, an asparagus head per piece and into the oven for fifteen minutes.  Even shaved, the asparagus flavor was excellent! A great, fast meal!  I can hardly wait for next year, when we should have a little homemade goat cheese to use!  And Smitten Kitchen has a waaaaaaay better picture than mine - check it out!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Vinegar As Weed Killer

In our never-ending quest for a chemical-free garden, we've tried many things.  Almost anything we read in a book or online, we'll give it a try, if it makes some sort of horticultural sense.  You can read a lot of crazy things online......Anyway, we've tried vinegar before; vinegar as an herbicide is a very prevalent notion, as a matter of fact many of the organic herbicides sold in stores contain acetic acid, which is vinegar.  I had some leftover pickling vinegar, which at 7% acetic acid is a little stronger than regular table vinegar, which is 5% acetic acid.  I have read about a very strong horticultural vinegar, but it seems impossible to find.  I was happy to experiment with this pickling vinegar, because I'd rather buy fresh to start off the pickling season.  I chose a group of happy, flourishing dandelions on the driveway, out in full sun.  I applied the vinegar straight on one of our warmest, sunniest days last Wednesday.  We had two days of warm temperatures and full sun.  By Friday, the top growth was largely, but not completely, brown and crispy.  By Sunday, after a day of steady rain, the treated dandelions were flowering - yes, flowering!  Apparently, as an evolutionary protection, dandelions can complete their flowering even after being pulled or treated with vinegar!  The centre of the plants also looked like new leaves were coming!  So, not the kind of killing result one might get with, say, a glyphosate based product like Roundup.  As I understand it, the vinegar, combined with sun, dries out the leaf.  It is not absorbed by the plant and does not kill the roots.  However, defoliation is a severe set back for the plants, so I'm going to reapply - the less leaves the plants have the less they can perform photosynthesis and eventually I'll exhaust them!  I think that using vinegar as a weed-killer will work best on younger plants than I chose, and certainly, with persistence.  It's certainly less expensive than chemical herbicides and, for us, a much better choice than chemicals!  Keep in mind if you try this that vinegar will be what's called non-selective, meaning it will act on any plant it is applied to: if you try this in the lawn you will kill the grass that gets sprayed!  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Goats and Kitties, Hanging in the Rain

Saturday's weather was steady rain all day, with stiff breezes.  Not what goats like, at all.  We didn't mind; we declared it a 'day off' after a busy week.  We left the goats, for part of the day, free to roam in the barn.  We checked on them regularly - goats are known to be able to find trouble.  On one check, we found a pastoral scene of goats nibbling on hay with barn kitties lounging about.  We even witnessed a little  nose touching and sniffing going on!  In my bucolic vision - I see goats and kitties cuddling up together on the cold days of winter!  Hopefully, fast friendships are being formed!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hoop House reconstructed!

Hoop House, Deconstructed

Hoop House, Reconstructed
OK, we're definitely a little behind this year.  Behind in blogging, too, because we reconstructed the hoop house about two weeks ago.  I've had the pictures, had the story, didn't get it posted because other things kept coming up - like baby goats!  Last summer our hoop house suffered fatal damage in a summer storm.  We had a little trouble this Spring finding the plastic because everything in town had been purchased to help build flood protection.  We finally got our hands on a good roll of appropriate plastic and made a date with some friends.  Deb, Calla and Joe came over on an evening to help put the house back together.  While us ladies were looking at kittens, Joe and Farmer Man got the plastic over the hoops very easily.  They secured it by shoveling dirt on the bottom edges.  It was quite calm that night, but started to rain on us.  Once the plastic was over the hoop house, we had to nail in wood slats along the sides, which holds the plastic in place.  The three ladies worked together on one side, the men on the other side.  A bit of a challenge to straighten the plastic and then nail in used, warped boards.  Obviously, we got it done.  Farmer Man just had to reattach the doors on both ends and it's good to go another year!  I've already planted some flower seeds because I'm hoping to supply a wedding in July!  Soon, some of the tomatoes and peppers will get transplanted out there for a fast start in the high temperatures and wind protection it affords.  A hoop house is a good thing to have!  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Prairie Gardener Has Got To Love Bergenia!


Hens and Chicks
In the Spring, the first thing a Prairie gardener asks is 'What's still alive?'.  No, really!  It can be so hard to keep plant material from one season to the next, especially if you've taken a gamble on some of the new introductions that are 'rated' to Zone 3.  I kind of figure that the plant developers never tested them in Manitobam but they should!  Much heartbreak ensues.  So, taking a walk around the ornamental gardens this week I've decided I just love Bergenia.  It's one of the few things for us that comes through every year and actually looks alive as soon as its leaf mulch is swept away!  Hens and Chicks, as well, are very heartening!  For us, mid-May, buds are just starting to swell, species tulips are just starting to bloom and we're still assessing the damage.  The big questions for me:  is the 'Blue Moon' wisteria alive?  It looks like it started to bud when we warmed up in April but may have gotten killed off during our late snow storm.  Only time will tell!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

We're Making Compost Tea!

We're making chicken poop tea, to be exact (and explicit).  Not for drinking, oh no.  We're making it for our little plants, to keep them well fed.  Compost tea is a great way to stretch your compost.  Really, there is never enough compost.  The process involves soaking a bit of compost in water, the nutrients leach out of the compost and into the water and become highly available in a liquid form.  We're using chicken manure because we can - we've got lots!  We'll have to be careful because it can easily produce a tea that is very strong and liable to burn our little baby seedlings.  The basic process, which we've used before with vegetable compost, involves taking about two cups of compost and putting them into a muslin or cheesecloth bag.  For the chicken manure, we used an old stocking, because there will be finer particulate in manure.  Your bag doesn't have to be anything fancy - a square of fabric you tie at the top will do, could be an old, thin tea towel.  We suspend this bag in a five gallon pail for water, in a warm place, for three to five days.  This gives you a concentrate that we use to water our plants by diluting about one part of compost tea in three parts water.  For the chicken manure tea, we will dilute at about 1 to 20 parts water.  The compost in your bag can go back in the compost pile.  Keep the concentrate cool and dark - a couple of years ago I kept one in a warm, sunny place and it got very smelly.  Part of what I love about the process, aside from getting homemade natural fertilizer, is that the compost will contain micronutrients - more good stuff than just the N-P-K commonly found in commercial fertilizer.  There's lots of info online about compost tea - here's some rather more fancy instructions and recipes from La Vida Locavore.  They are adding a few other things to up the nutritional value.  Give it a try - it's really quite simple and gives you more-bang-for-your-compost!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Goats Will Keep You On Your Toes!

Our little doelings currently stand almost two feet tall at the shoulder and weigh about 40 - 50 lbs.  The picture at left is the chicken's entrance to the coop.  It is 10 inches by 12 inches tall.  Somehow, in the half hour that we left the goats unsupervised, three of them managed to cram themselves through that little door and were chowing down on chicken food!  So, being that the chicken pasture is not as great a place for the goats as we thought, Farmer Man moved them to the adjoining pasture, whose gate is not quite finished yet.  Right after he walked away from them (because, undoubtedly, they already love him so much) they pushed over the temporary gate to follow him, but made a stop at the barn where all the feed resides.  Having goats is going to be interesting!  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

We've Got Goats!

Does that make me a shepherdess?  And Farmer Man a shepherd?  Something else to add to the resume!  We made a trip to San Clara, Manitoba today, heading north away from the flooding to Brambles Nubian Goat Farm.  We came home with four young goats, three for us and one we transported for someone having a hard time making the trip themselves.  Our three are four to five month old doelings, all 75% Nubian.  We got two blondes and a brunette!  The other ladies' young buckling has a gorgeous spotted brown coat - very handsome.  All the goats were placed in the chicken pasture and seem to be settling in well with some nice hay.  Rocky the Rooster keeps cruising up and down past them, but he seems okay with it all.  We hope to get the girls bred late in the Fall and have babies and milk in the Spring.  Then, we're going to make lovely goats milk soap to add to our Farmers Market table.  I'd better go check on them, again, they made need some petting to help them settle in!

Friday, May 13, 2011

At Least Someone is Enjoying All the Water!

It's becoming a Spring tradition.  Blaze's first swim in the dugout.  I guess the water has to warm to a certain temperature before he'll take a dip because the water has been fully available for a while.  I don't mind this Spring rite of passage because the water is fairly fresh, with none of that green slime that appears in the Summer.  That means Blaze is wet and rather dirty, but he doesn't smell bad!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Booting Up the Greenhouse!

In the sun room, plants above, plants below!

Tomato seedlings all lined up in the greenhouse!
Our little sun room is just stuffed with seedlings.  We've got folding tables with grow light stands on top and grow lights attached to the bottom of the table top.  We've got an extra table in the kitchen.  And we really need to be potting up to larger sizes!  So, Farmer Man started up the furnace in our little greenhouse a couple of days ago and he's been moving flats into it between rain showers!  The greenhouse was constructed by Farmer Man's father from re-used items like windows from his trailer.  It is not particularly energy efficient so we wait as long as we can to start heating it.  We also had to wait this year for it to dry out; because of a high level of snow fall it was flooded early on.  Farmer Man potted up tomatoes and ground cherries and then moved them directly to the greenhouse.  Room inside now to start potting up the peppers and to start the herbs!  We've got to add watering the greenhouse to the chore list - sometimes it's easy to forget to pop in there.  Now, we just need a little sun and things will really get growing!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Holy Smokes! The Parsley is Alive!

Over-winter parsley.

Greek Oregano

Thyme, coming back!

Self-seeded spinach.
In between showers (! yes, Manitoba is flooding and now it is raining!) I took a walk through our gardens. The eastern part of our fields was just about ready to till; the western part, particularly the slope that leads to the dugout and around the dugout is still very wet and mucky.  Now there is rain forecast for a couple of days, so tilling will be delayed again.  The dogs needed a good walk and because our road has become a major thoroughfare due to other road closures in the area, it was better to stay on the Farm.  We have thirty acres to stroll around so a good workout can be had, albeit many muddy paws were made!  Some delightful surprises awaited me.  The Parsley is alive and flourishing.  Walking through what was the herb section last year, I was quite surprised to find Thyme, Greek Oregano and the Parsley looking very good.  The Mint (no big surprise there) and the Comfrey have also come back nicely.  These have all come through a long cold winter with no mulching or fussing.  We love that!  Admittedly all the herbs are on the north side of a substantial row of raspberries, so snow was probably trapped and held there.  Also a welcome sight: spinach that has self-seeded and will be ready to eat quite shortly!  Sometimes it pays to not be to quick to clean up beds after harvest is finished!  Our trees haven't quite leafed out yet, so fresh spinach will be delight!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hort Day in Hartney and a New Hardy Rose!

One of my favorite things each Spring is speaking to different gardening groups.  After a long Prairie winter it is just great to meet up with people just as rarin' to garden as I am!  One of my absolutely favs is Hartney, Manitoba's Hort or Garden Day!  Always a great turn-out, lovely people, and some super local vendors.  This year I was speaking about compost as the best fertilizer/vitamin pill for your plants, and compost tea as a great way to stretch out your compost.  As well as other things...I have a bad habit of going off on tangents, sometimes.  Perhaps wasn't the most scintillating, sexy topic but nobody appeared to be falling asleep, even if it was directly after lunch!  Thanks, Hartney, for having me over!

 I arrived a little early and had a  great chance to shop around: some beautiful plants, local soaps and lotions, some really interesting berry vinegars and sauces.  The big score is a new rose from the Morden/Parkland family of super hardy roses!  This one is called 'Marshall's Peace Garden Rose', named in honor of the late Henry Marshall who did great work for the gorgeous International Peace Garden.  I had cruised by the table as it was a little crowded.  One of the gardeners in attendance told me I had to 'Go smell that rose!' I back-tracked and saw a lovely double white rose; it smelled awesome.  I was sold the moment I saw the 'Northern Garden Collections' tag.  This means the plant has come to us through Jeffries Nursery in Portage la Prairie; these people are doing some awesome work in introducing hardy plants for us Northern gardeners.  The rose, I was thrilled to discovery, is a sport of 'Morden Blush', a gorgeous, pale pink double rose doing very well in my garden.  With part proceeds of the sale of 'Marshalls Peace Garden Rose' going to support the International Peace Gardens, this made this purchase an all-around good thing!  I have many of the Morden roses and I assure you this one has the best fragrance of all - I wish I had a flowering one here now!  Well worth adding to your garden!  And if you are in the area and have never been to the International Peace Garden on the Manitoba-North Dakota border - that's well worth your time, too!  What a great day in Hartney!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Water, Water Everywhere!

The difference in the landscape around Brandon, just in the last few days, is stunning.  Simply stunning.  What was good farm land is now lake.  At Optimist Park (!), the local soccer field, the goal posts have disappeared.  Eleanor Kidd Park's lovely pergola is almost completely submerged.  You know how tall a goal post is - that's how high the water is sitting in the soccer park!  The City of Brandon issued a warning yesterday that those by the river must now prepare to evacuate.  We'd all hoped it would never come to that, but I'm afraid we're now dealing with a 'worst case' scenario.  I've posted about the flood here and here.  The second link has a photo taken in the same place as the bottom photo here; you can see the difference in level on the signs for our local park.  Thing is, apparently some mistakes in calculations were made in Saskatchewan so a lot more water is coming our way than was previously thought.  The crest is still five or six days away.  Already the dikes on 1st and 18th Street are leaking, Veteran's Way may be swallowed up and many homes and businesses are threatened.  We got a message yesterday afternoon that our neighbours at Evergreen Valley Nursery were in trouble.  Water was rising at a rate of an inch per hour!  Unfortunately, our neighbors at Grand Valley Strawberry were over run and and the water was working it's way to Evergreen, including their home.  Grand Valley Strawberry's road was gone so there was really nothing that could be done to help them as water swirled around their home and buildings.  We spend some time yesterday helping to fill sandbags that were then being ferried to Evergreen Valley, where another group was placing them.  If you are in the Brandon area and can help - they'll be filling sandbags at the RM of Cornwallis office, two minutes east of Brandon on Veteran's Way.  As well there's a call out for volunteers to help sandbag at Donnie Ditchfields' and Dave Barnes' at the East end of Rosser.  Apparently you can park at the Green Spot Garden Centre.  Check eBrandon, which has been great at posting updates and having up-to-the-minute info on where help is needed!  If you've got any time to help, your neighbors would really appreciate it!  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kids and Kittens

Things are picking up around Aagaard Farms, as the snow melts and things get warmer.  Our garden plot renters are starting to drop by, to register and to see how the gardens are doing.  Michelle was by to drop off her registration a few days ago; she had her four children in tow.  When asked if they would like to see the kittens in the barn, well, the kids were enthusiastic, to say the least!  Michelle's youngest is only around two, so we had to keep an eye on her.  Michelle's oldest is about six, her second is maybe five; they helped their two younger siblings by holding the kittens.  Much 'ooohing' and 'ahhhing' ensued.  Nothing like kids and kittens!  Of course Rocky started crowing over in his pasture, and our next stop was to see the rooster and The Hens!  Love giving kids a tour of the Farm!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

We've Got Mushrooms!

Wow, this is easier than I thought!  In just a short time, we've got Shiitake mushrooms.  Posted here about receiving a mushroom log from Richter's Herbs.  With just a little maintenance, we've got mushrooms!  And lots of things bubbling on the surface of the log, which should become mushrooms soon.  The process has really been quite simple: make slits in the bag the log was shipped in, run water through the bag, find a cool place with indirect light.  We've had to keep up the humidity which we've achieved by wrapping the log, on a seed tray, in a clear plastic bag.  What's really exciting:  the oyster mushroom log just arrived!