Friday, July 29, 2011

Entertaining at the Friday Night Farmers Market!

Roxanne from Maple Valley 

'Diamond Dust' doin' it up!
A great night at the Friday Night Farmers Market!  'Diamond Dust', a great little duo from Vancouver, dropped by to play on their cross-Canada tour!  Added a great vibe to the Market!  Gardens are finally kicking into gear here in Brandon - Maple Valley Farm's table was really 'groaning' with good stuff for the first time this year!  We had a great pick on raspberries, the first good pick of beans, and finally some summer squash: some zucchini, some Italian Largo and one nice Patty Pan!  Our herbs are doing really well, and we made some people really happy with some fresh dill to go with our baby potatoes, and a nice cut of basil!   If you'd like to hear 'Diamond Dust', a folk/rock singer/songwriting duo - they'll be at the fabulous Siesta Cafe in Clear Lake on Sunday night at 7:00 PM I do believe!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Chicks Get Out and About!

At two months old, Farmer Man figured The Chicks were ready to go outside.  It's hard to believe these forty gangly teenagers were little balls of fluff that fit into the palm of my hand just two months ago!  They spent their first month in his shop, in a pen, under heat lamps.  They've spent their second month in the cleared out greenhouse, with more room and some sunlight coming through the partially covered windows.  So, on a nice summer day, Farmer Man arranged the portable electric fencing and opened the greenhouse door!  It took a little while and then some of the bolder started to cross the threshold.  Within an hour, they were all outside, happily scratching and pecking under the trees and peonies!  Some of the really smart ones found the area by the birdbath, under the bird feeder and were having a feast.  The fence had not been electrified, and we discovered that The Chicks could go right through it - so at this time there are Chicks free-ranging all over the backyard and around the south side of the barn!  Seems to be making Rocky the Rooster a little uncomfortable - he already has too many girls to take care of.  The most fun:  Rocky was crowing (whether a greeting or a warning we do not know) and one of the little Ameraucana's was trying to answer back in a rather strangled little 'bugle' call.  The ten little Ameraucana's came to us unsexed and we were pretty sure there was at least one male - now we know for sure!  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

CSA for July 26, 2011

Staffer Henry got down-and-dirty
 in the beans before cleaning onions.
A special treat for our CSA members today: we are sooooo happy to have scored some Manitoba Maple Syrup from Oakfarm Industries for everyone!  Now we know it's not veggies, which is what you've signed up for but we love sharing this local product from Portage la Prairie.  How about Maple Syrup Berry Muffins?  The recipe calls for blueberries, but raspberries would be just as good!  Some whole wheat maple oatmeal scones?  A ham with a maple syrup glaze?  A sweet and spicy chicken dinner?  A maple syrup and orange vinaigrette, in this recipe used for a sweet potato salad.  And, of course, the classic pancake: here's my Mom's easy recipe for pancakes.  Linda from Oakfarm Industries got in touch by email today and wanted me to note that she does not tap the trees - it's her partner Mitchell that does all the hard work!  Linda also mentioned barbecuing with maple syrup; she says it's great with salmon, chicken and pork, and she also pointed out that it is a gourmet addition to oil and vinegar dressings.

Linda Boys came up with fennel bulbs for all the Part Shares this week.  Here's our tips for fennel from last weeks' blog, also read the comments to the blog for extra info!  Linda also came up with some beautiful snow peas for the Full Shares.  These are the edible pod peas: eat them whole as a snack, great in a salad or a stir fry!

Everyone is getting a little fresh dill in their box this week.  The feathery fronds will be awesome chopped fine on your new potatoes.  The sweet flavor will also make an excellent veggie dip or dressing:  mix a couple tablespoons of sour cream or Greek yogurt and a couple tablespoons of mayo, chop about two tablespoons of the dill and mix together.  The longer you can let it sit, the better the flavor.  You can also add a little garlic, celery salt and/or celery seed!

Also in every one's box this week is 'Red Mammoth' raspberries.  This is a newer introduction from the U of Saskatchewan, and it is a big, juicy berry with a mellower taste than the 'Boyne' the most of you got last week.  It's a little less tart, more of a honey sweet flavor.  Just so you know - 'Red Mammoth' doesn't freeze very well, tends to crumble so keep these ones for fresh eating.  Would be great on a salad with dill!  Because we were picking during some showers today, I recommend getting the berries out of the little baskets: the damp conditions may allow mold to start in the bottom layers.  Get them out onto a cookie sheet, wax paper or a towel to dry.

A number of little 'first' picks today!  First good pick on the beans.  A few summer squash were found, just enough for the Full Shares, but they're coming!  And Farmer Man cruised our hoop house and found just enough Hungarian Hot Peppers for the Full Shares.  Caution:  if you just chomp one, like Farmer Man did, it's hot!  Remove the seeds for a milder but still vibrant flavor.

So, for the FULL SHARES:  Large (4 lbs.) bag 'Warba' new potatoes, large bag green beans, small bag yellow beans, bundle of onions, 4 pints raspberries, snow peas, zucchini, Hot Hungarian pepper, large bag of Romaine lettuce, bunch of dill, bottle of Manitoba Maple Syrup.

For the PART SHARES:  Small (2 lbs.) bag 'Warba' new potatoes, fennel bulb and foliage, small bag green beans, small bag yellow beans, small bundle onions, 3 pints raspberries, small bag Romaine lettuce, bunch of dill, bottle of Manitoba Maple Syrup.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Manitoba Maple Syrup and Pancakes!

Almost done!

Ready to flip!
I've blogged about Manitoba Maple Syrup a few times, here and here.  I love the idea of this local product and loved the product itself, once I had some!  Our neighbors Amanda and Ed were nice enough to share a jar, but really only make enough to supply their family.  I was searching around for some other sources.  Serendipity brought Hiltje to the Friday Night Farmers Market this week, with her maple syrup.  Score!  And, through Organic Sheri in Portage, I got connected to Linda of Oakman Enterprises in Portage la Prairie;  Farmer Man's sister Lene and her husband Dale picked up some on their way through for a visit here at the farm on Friday.  We've got Manitoba Maple Syrup!  So, what do you do when you have maple syrup?  You make pancakes!

Now, I am crazy about pancakes.  My Mother loved pancakes, too, and I inherited an electric fry pan dedicated to pancake making.  Yes, an electric fry pan my Mom received as a wedding gift in the '50's has hardly ever been used for anything other than pancakes.  I don't have to oil it or anything, something I find wrong about too many pancakes is that they can be almost greasy!  Remember, you're not frying them, you're sort of baking them one side at a time!  Here's my Mom's easy pancake recipe: in a large bowl mix 2 cups flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons sugar.  In a small bowl mix 2 eggs, 1 3/4 cups milk, 1/4 cup oil like canola or corn (olive oil has too much flavor).  Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the wet, mix.  We make a smaller pancake, one scoop of batter from a soup spoon, comes out about 3 inches across.   The recommended setting on the electric fry pan is 380 degrees, about medium high.  Cook the first side until bubbles are coming through - about 2 to 3 minutes.  Flip and cook the second side about 1 to 2 minutes.  I, like my Mother, keep a small pot of water simmering on the stove with a bowl on top; this keeps the early pancakes warm until I'm finished the batch.

Both these producers are tapping Manitoba maples, also called boxelder, botanically Acer negundo.  Linda is also tapping Silver maples, Acer saccharinum.  If you're interested in some of this great product,  you can follow Aagaard Farms on Facebook or Twitter, and I'll let you know when Hiltje will be back at the Friday Night Farmers Market.  Or contact us at!  If you're in Manitoba, if you're interested in eating local and supporting small producers you've got to try this stuff!  Or how about tapping your own trees this next Spring?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Joel Salatin is Coming to Brandon!

The Manitoba Conservation Districts Association (MCDA) is hosting their annual conference December 12 to 14,  2011 in Brandon.  The conference, called 'Inspiring Change,'  has lots of great stuff, of interest to farmers, ranchers, conservationists, environmentalists and regular people, too!  The big item for me is that Joel Salatin will be the keynote speaker on Tuesday.  Joel Salatin is an awesome fellow who has been on the forefront of the fight to support the small farmer, for stepping away from factory farming, for getting back to raising chemical-free local food in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner.  Farmer Man and I aren't 'fan' types, but Joel Salatin is kind of like a rock star to us!  We've read his books, get his articles in different magazines we subscribe to, follow his Tweets!

Further information will be available shortly on the MCDA website here (still under construction).  I have a PDF of the poster and registration which I could not figure out how to get into this blog but I'd happily email it to anybody.  Just leave a comment with your email address or email us at!    

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Water Is Not Really Our Friend This Year!

Manitoba has experienced an over-abundance of water this year - the 'Flood of the Century' and such has been an interesting experience.  Things are slowly returning to normal in Brandon, some dikes have come down, levels are receding.  Farmer Man has, just in the last two weeks, finally managed to plow most of the land we've been unable to use this year.  We went, rather quickly, from cool, rainy and waterlogged to record setting heat and humidity the past week.  In the 'Careful What You Wish For' category, we were saying a nice little storm would be good: cool things down, settle the dust, give the gardens a little drink.  So, what did we get this morning?  A rumbly thunderstorm that dropped about four inches of water in an hour!  The pathway from the barn to the house partially washed out, a field of beans just recently planted partially washed out, young plants battered to the ground including all the corn and leaking in the sun room!  Just talked to some friends in town who said Brandon's 10th street was a lake, water was up over the grass in front of the store front and water was coming over the door sill in the back of their shop!  Well, everything did get a drink, though.....

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

CSA for July 19, 2011

Carissa, Lesley and the white cap way at the end, Nataliya,
in the raspberries at 7:00 AM.
So, the weather has gone from too wet to scorching hot!  Priorities change and, for the first time this year, we're concerned about watering!  Always something different on the farm!  Some vegetables have kicked into action with the hot weather: the beans and summer squash are flowering like crazy, the cucumbers are spreading and the tomatoes are setting lots of fruit!  The spinach, on the other hand, not so happy.  So, not a fabulous, laden box this week, but we can see the potential for one soon!

We're getting a good pick on baby potatoes this week.  Included in everybody's box is some fresh cut spearmint.  It is excellent with new potatoes - here's an easy little recipe here.  I prefer spearmint to peppermint because it is not quite so strong.  Excellent for a fresh cup of tea: just a leaf or two covered with hot water is so tasty - and completely natural.  Excellent for mojitos, too......Raspberries and mint over ice cream and yogurt is also awesome - and look!  There are raspberries in the boxes this week!

We are just delighted to have Linda Boys back growing for CSA.  She won't be able to contribute as much this year, as she has suffered greatly from flooding: completely losing her bottom garden, close to the river in Minnedosa.  But she's got some good stuff in her top garden, including some gorgeous fennel bulbs for the Full Shares.  Fennel is kind of like round celery, with layers 'wrapped' around the center; it has a light licorice/anise flavor.  Here's an easy recipe for roasting the bulb, you could do this on the barbecue.  Fennel is also great raw, in salads: here's a neat one with oranges and dried cranberries for 'zing'.  How about a great sauce/dip?  The foliage is also tasty chopped into salads, chopped and sprinkled on your new potatoes!

Gemma of Gemma's Garden is supplying green onions today.  Gemma is growing chemical-free not far from us.  Farmers market aficionados may know Gemma from a few different markets around town for the last number of years.  Not only did the weather affect Gemma's garden but she's on a waiting list for surgery, so she didn't get much of a garden going this year and won't be doing Farmers Markets.  She and her family did, however, get onions in and she's supplied tasty green onions for everyone today!

Also joining CSA today is the Stephenson family of 'Arizona Edibles'.  Who knew there was an Arizona in Manitoba!  Tom will be found at some Farmers Markets this year and right now has an abundance of peas.  We were happy to take some off his hands for our CSA families.  In this odd year our peas are still a ways away, so this is a nice treat!  Nothing like fresh peas!  They are also nice with a little chopped mint. Thanks, Tom!

So, for the FULL SHARES:  3 lbs. Warba baby potatoes, one fennel bulb, large bundle green onions (multipliers), head 'Deers Tongue' lettuce, bag of butter lettuce, bag of Romaine lettuce, spearmint, 2 pints raspberries, 3 lbs.peas.

For the PART SHARES:  2 lbs. Warba baby potatoes, small bunch green onions (multipliers), head of 'Deer Tongue' lettuce, one bag butter lettuce, one bag Romaine lettuce, spearmint, a pint of raspberries, 1.75 lbs.peas.

CSAers: please feel free to add to the comments section to let everyone know what you're doing with the goodies in your box!  Don't forget to Like Aagaard Farms on Facebook or follow @aagaardfarms on Twitter for reminders of pickups and loads of great info on eating well, preserving, gardening and living a little greener!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

CSA for July 12, 2011

Carissa bagging lettuce!
It feels like it has been a long time coming, but today is the first CSA share for our members!  We look forward to seeing old friends and meeting some new ones; since much of our advertising and communication is done online (you know, save a tree!), we haven't even met some of our new members yet!  It won't be a very large share today, the cool wet spring means everything is late, late, late!  But, with warm weather the last week and this week, things are just exploding in the garden and the shares will just get better and better!  We looked back on our records and in the six years we've been on the farm, we've always been picking raspberries by this date. This year, we're still at least a week away - but they're looking good!  Keep your fingers crossed for next week.

One of the most interesting things in the box this week is garlic scapes.  I blogged about them here, they are a short-lived treat for anybody who likes garlic, with a mild, fresh garlic taste.  One of our favorite things to do is garlic scape pesto, here's the recipe.  They are great chopped for stir fries and sautes, chunks tucked into chops or chicken before grilling or baking, or mashed up into cream cheese for a great dip/spread!

The herbs are doing well this year.  Everyone is getting marjoram or garden oregano in their box.  This is the perfect time to harvest: the flower buds have formed but not opened!  Marjoram is mild, and goes well with meats and poultry, beans, chilies, garlic and onions.  As it is fresh, if you are following a recipe calling for dried oregano, use 2- 3 times the recommended dry amount and add it towards the end of cooking.  This herb will also be great chopped fine and added to salads.

So, for the FULL SHARES:  2 lbs. new potatoes of 'Caribe', a purple skinned, white fleshed potato.  1 bag 'Esmeralda' butter lettuce, 1 bag baby Romaine, 1 bag 'Grand Rapids' loose leaf lettuce, small bunch of radish, bunch of baby yellow onions (more 'kick' than green onions), bunch of garlic scapes and a bunch of marjoram.

For the PART SHARES: 1 lb. new potatoes of 'Carlton', a white potato.  1 bag of 'Grand Rapids' loose leaf lettuce, 1 bag of baby Romaine lettuce, a bunch of baby yellow cooking onions, a bunch of garlic scapes, bunch of marjoram.

There are plenty of the garlic scapes, so if you love garlic, if you are interested in making pesto - help yourself to more!  And enjoy!

Monday, July 11, 2011


I'm seeing a little red.  Little red, shiny berries!  Such an amazing amount of strawberries were offered at our two weekend Farmers Markets that I went a little overboard.  At the Friday Night Farmers Market, Mayfair Farms from Portage came with their luscious berries, and at the end of the day offered a wee deal.  I came home with three flats.  Then, at the Saturday morning Farmers Market at Riverbank Discovery Centre, the lovely little family farm Good Earth came from Glenboro with their gorgeous berries and, wanting to support local growers (!) I came home with two more flats.  After my standard Saturday afternoon nap, I rose to a fridge stuffed with berries!  So, time to start the canning for 2011.  Sunday, which we usually take as a day off, was a berry day; 'Strawberry Fields Forever' kept running through my head as I washed, hulled, rinsed, crushed, stirred...well, you get the picture!  As it stands, I have fourteen jars of conventional pectin jam, five jars of honey sweetened jam made with Pomona's, I have two batches of strawberry-balsamic-rosemary jam marinating which I'm about to can and, as I faced the last flat at 9:00 PM last night, I got out the blender and the dehydrator and I have ten sheets of pure strawberry leather currently cooling. Whew!  Now, what if strawberries show up at the Farmers Markets again this coming weekend.......

Saturday, July 9, 2011

That's What I'm Talking About!

After a slow start, the Farmers Markets are kicking into gear.  With a little warm weather this week, gardens are starting to take off, and more market gardeners have something ready to sell.  Local food is getting a whole lot easier in Brandon!  We have made the tough decision to cancel the Thursday Night Farmers Market at Riverbank Discovery; there is just not enough produce or vendors to fill four markets a week.  Some of our poor grower friends are still under water from flooding, and will never make it to market this year.  The Friday Night Farmers Market had more vendors, more customers and more action this week!  Fresh strawberries from Portage were a nice addition, since strawberries are going to be a little rare around here this year due to the flooding.  Saturday Morning at Riverbank Discovery Centre was also bigger and better, and nice strawberries from Glenboro were a hit.  For us, a good cut of some lettuces (finally) including baby romaine, a buttercrunch type and a gorgeous, frilly loose leaf.  We had the first little dig of baby potatoes, the last cut of garlic scapes and loads of fresh herbs with a nice cut of cilantro!  The 2010 jams are selling out, with lots of interest in my sugar free jams, made with honey using the awesome Pomona's Pectin.  Coming home with me both nights: strawberries!  Let the jamming begin for 2011!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Garlic Scapes: Get Them While You Can!

If you love garlic, you will love garlic scapes.  It's a short-lived delight, available for a couple of weeks early in Summer.  We always say it's what gets us through until the garlic bulbs are ready later in the summer!  Not familiar with scapes?  Lots of people aren't.  We took them to both the Friday Night Farmers Market and the Saturday Morning Market at Riverbank Discovery Centre this week.  A few people were delighted to see them; most asked what the 'curly' thing was!  Love introducing people to something new at the Farmers Market!

Garlic scapes are the flowering stocks of garlic plants.  They should be removed so that more energy goes into the formation of the bulb.  The upside to all that work is that they are delicious eating!  Milder than a garlic clove but stronger than garlic chives with a fresh, almost sweet flavor, this first cut will be very tender and awesome for fresh eating on salads, in a tuna salad, salsa and such.  They are also great for cooking, although they should be added later in the cooking as they are a little delicate.  Perfect for sautes, stir-fries, in omelettes; we diced them and put them on a pizza with shaved asparagus a few nights ago.  Yummy!  Later today, we're doing a garlic scape pesto from this recipe, which has almonds instead of pinenuts.  On the food blogs, they're pickling them!  Very useful for the garlic lover, but in another week they are all gone.  We'll have them at Tuesdays' Neighborhood Country Market, and the last cuts will be available at the Friday Night Farmers Market and Saturdays Farmers Market at Riverbank Discovery Centre.  Have you tried garlic scapes?