Monday, September 26, 2011

Drying Beans

We planted 'Jacobs Cattle', a soup bean with a long and storied history.  They say this bean came across the Prairies in settlers' wagons as this country (and the United States) was being discovered and settled.  It's a plump red bean with white speckles, it is excellent for soups, stews and, of course, baked beans!  As we're interested in supplying ourselves more fully during the winter months, we figured we needed some dried beans.

'Jacobs Cattle' grew well over the summer, as did most of our beans.  We left them on the bushes until everything was crispy, brown and rattling.  Once picked, they spent a couple of days in crates, drying outside in the garage.  I'd go out and shake the crates every so often, to keep them aerated.  Then, because we're desperate for crates as we continue to harvest our twenty eight varieties of potatoes, and as we continue do to Farmers Markets, I turned the bean pods out onto newspaper in the sun room.  The sun room is dry and warm right now, and I can keep the dogs out with a gate.  They've sat there for a few more days and now it's time for shelling.  A little disappointing: each pod should contain five plump beans and most of ours had three beans and a couple of undeveloped ones.  Working with 'fresh' shelled beans in the winter will be a pleasure:  they don't require the long soaking or parboiling that older beans would need.  We'll shell them and then leave them to dry a few more days out on newspaper, then we'll clean them and store them in, probably, canning jars - 'cause that's what's on hand!  Baked beans with Manitoba Maple Syrup! Oh, yeah!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

CSA Bonus Day!

Last time, this year, that we meet our CSA families.  Always a rather sad day, and another reminder that Fall is here!  Thank you, to all our families, for a great year.  Thank you for sharing recipes and tips, for asking great questions and for enjoying the food!  Thanks to Cathy for all the great baking we were able to sample and a special, great BIG Thank You to Sharon, who made us both a gorgeous afghan!  That was the most awesome thing, Sharon, hugs and kisses to you!

Last week we met and, actually, exceeded (by a little bit) our obligations to our CSA families.  Today, is our gift to you, a chance to share in the harvest those things that have done really well for us!  Potatoes, 'Aunt Ruby's German Green' tomatoes, carrots and winter squash are what we're bringing for everyone!  We've organized some potato favorites, we've got three kinds of winter squash that will store well, and Nantes Coreless carrots.  We were hoping to do onions, but the first dig sold well at the Farmers Markets and the second dig was extremely disappointing - mostly small sizes good only for replanting in the Spring.

We'd like to take this opportunity to invite everyone to a Farm Open House on Sunday, October 2nd from 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM.  We're going to make some soup, roast a few winter squash for sampling and have a sale on winter squash, if anybody wants to stock up for the winter!  Come see where it all happens, meet the goats, pet a chicken and see the little kittens in the barn!  Drop by anytime during the afternoon and say hi!  Families and friends are welcome!  Hope to see you all then!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Look What We Found!

You just never know what you'll find when you take a stroll around a small farm!  Egg production has been down significantly the last week or so.  We thought maybe it was the change in weather, shorter days - something like that.  While I was out this morning, camera in hand, I heard some squawking from the trees beside the chicken coop.  The squawking a hen makes when she lays an egg!  Investigating, I find one of the Browns, nesting in the bole of a large willow tree beside the coop!  There are at least six or eight eggs under her! A second chicken seemed to be waiting her turn!  No wonder egg production is down!  I didn't disturb her; for safety sake all the eggs will have to be garbage.  Why the little hen would decide to start laying outside is a mystery - but at least we know where to look now!

A few nights ago, preparing to bring the goats in from their pasture one night, Farmer Man heard some tiny meows!  Investigating, he found two little kittens out on the barn floor!  Afraid the goats would trample them when they came in, he looked around and found a little nest in some hay with two other little kittens!  The mother is not very friendly, so he placed the kittens in and we've largely left them alone since then, except for some peeking and a photo op.  The kittens definitely have the genetics of our barn cats with their orange or beige coloring.  I haven't been able to check their tails because a bob tail or short tail runs through this colony, too.  They are as cute as the proverbial buttons, for sure!  Anyone looking to bring a new kitty into their homes?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The zucchini this morning!
Truck of Hubbard
 Yikes! Yesterday, Tuesday, frost was predicted and for today, September 14, hard frost is predicted.  Yesterday being CSA day, it was hard to balance getting ready for CSA and preparing for frost.  We concentrated yesterday on the really delicate things like summer squash, tomatoes, basil and cucumbers.  Fortunately, our employee Henry was able to come back later in the day and, while we were meeting our CSAers and holding the wee Neighborhood Country Market, he was picking tomatoes like crazy.  He did an awesome job of picking and sorting, so that the golden are together, the paste types are together and so on!  We still have to 'deal' with them all, picking out the ripe, storing the unripe properly - but that will be another day.  There's something, roughly, like three hundred pounds of tomatoes out there!

After returning home from CSA, about 7:30 PM, we had a bite to eat, unloaded the truck and then Farmer Man put on his head lamp and went to harvest all the cantaloupe and watermelon.  He was out until well after dark.  It actually got colder than predicted: about -2 C with a 'feels like' value of -5 C (about 28 F, feeling like 22 F).  We woke up to frost on the grass and roof, and shrivelled plants all over!  Now, for those of you not in Manitoba, perhaps not even in Canada, frost on September 13th is not bad for us!  It has been known to come in August!  It has also been known to come as late as the end of October, so it was inevitable, but still too early for any gardener!  It was a harsh one, too; this was no light touch of frost!

Up this morning and back at it with an even colder evening predicted for tonight!  We had figured that root vegetables would all be all fine; winter squash could take one night, but probably not two of freezing temperatures.  Frost causes water-soaked areas where rot is more likely to start.  It wouldn't really affect the meat, but it makes them rather ugly and more prone to quick deterioration.  Our great selection of winter squash is a mainstay of our Farmers Market business through to the end of October, so worth spending a little time!  We had Carissa and Henry coming to pick potatoes, as we are trying to finish that harvest and get potatoes cured so that we can sell bigger bags for winter storage.  We got that done in toques and scarves.  A little rest and a snack and we were off to the north field, which holds carving pumpkins, Sugar Pie pumpkin, Hubbard squash and the popular Butternut.  Our Butternut have done awesome this year, but few are ripe!  We loaded the back of the truck with Hubbard and the related heirloom Boston Marrow, as well as ten gorgeous Halloween pumpkins.  The bucket of the tractor was stuffed with Butternut.  The truck was unloaded into the garage, and we returned to the field and stuffed it again, this time with more Hubbard and Butternut!  It was an afternoon and evening of cutting stems, picking up squash and carrying them to the truck.  Some of the Hubbard and a couple of the Boston Marrow were well over thirty pounds!  I didn't carry any of them.....

Back at the house, a wee rest, and back out!  Farmer Man took the head lamp and the tractor and went up to the Sugar Pie pumpkins.  He dropped me, drop clothes and a few crates at the lower field of winter squash.  I harvested or covered Australian Blue Pumpkin, Spaghetti and Delicata squash.  The Kabocha and Buttercup will have to fend for themselves - there was no more daylight, energy or drop clothes!  There were still goats and chickens to put to bed.  Farmer Man returned with a bucket load of pumpkins, which are all just parked in the barn.  The last truck load of Butternut and Hubbard was backed up to the garage and covered; there was no energy for unloading.  Now, we wait and tomorrow we'll see what the night brought us!  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CSA for September 13, 2011

 What an odd day!  So lovely the last week and then suddenly, chilly - very chilly this morning.  By noon, the wind was gusting so hard it was hard to stand up straight and walk with a heavy pail of potatoes in each hand!  A tough day to balance harvesting for CSA and getting ready for the impending frost the weather people are predicting!  Picking ripe tomatoes for CSA?  Pick some extra green ones for ripening in the garage!  Picking cucumbers for CSA?  Take everything, 'cause they may be dead by tomorrow!  Who knows?  We're fortunate to be high on a hill, and frost tends to sink to lower areas. (Sorry, Amanda and Ed, Mike and Naomi!)  The predicted 'feels like' temperatures for the next few nights are more than the tender vegetables can take.  Only time will tell......

I had emailed everyone to let you know the basil was ready for harvest.  Basil pesto is quite easy and freezes well for great pasta and other meals all winter!  Here's a super little video with complete instructions for pesto from Sweet Valley Herbs.  Or here's a link for written instructions - very simple.  I could still supply in the next day or two, if you want to give it a try!  You can freeze pesto in ice cube trays, then turn the cubes out into a freezer bag.  Just grab a cube or two when you want to use it.    Or how about a Farm Girl Fare recipe for a tomato, basil, mozzarella pie with an easy cheese crust?  For more great winter meals, here's a great blog post on making Piperade, a blend of peppers, onions, garlic and herbs, that freezes beautiful for quick winter cooking!

Amanda and Ed supplied the gorgeous Spanish white and purple onions today!  They've also sent along three gorgeous cabbages that will be for sale at the Farmers Market - not enough to split for any of the shares, we're sorry to say!  They, too, were scrambling today to harvest before frost, and making those tough decisions on what to spend time on and what to leave.  Of course all gardeners would love to harvest every last bit of produce - but it's not always possible!

Today marks the final share for CSA 2011!  We've now officially spent all your money!  Next week is Bonus Week, a little something extra with the emphasis on winter storage items!  It's a regular pick up and the last Farmers Market next week, except we won't be calling or dropping anything off on Curt's porch if you fail to arrive!  We currently curing potatoes and onions for bigger bags for next week, hardening off some winter squash which should keep for months - if they last that long!  If the frost doesn't get the tomatoes, we'll bring some of those, too!  Any requests for herbs and such for drying, just email!

So, in this week's box, for EVERYBODY:  4 lbs. Eramosa white potato, Spanish and purple onions, bundle of carrots, zucchini, a large Patty Pan (aka.Scallopini) perfect for stuffing, a Sugar Pie pumpkin, a spaghetti squash, 3 lbs of tomatoes, heirloom tomato 'Aunt Ruby's Green', an assortment of cucumbers including 'Lemon Ball'.

Don't forget to 'Like' us on Facebook for updates on the Farm, links to great cooking recipes, canning and preserving ideas and ideas for living a more sustainable lifestyle!  Also, watch your inboxes for a survey in the next few weeks.  We're going to use Survey Monkey to get your feedback on how this season has been for you!  We really hope you'll take the time to let us know how we can improve CSA!  Enjoy!   

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Walk On A Late Summer Eve

Grizzly Bear up front, Scamp in the lane, the goats
and a few chickens in the background.

Little Scamp on the safety of the compost pile!
It's been a gorgeous run of weather this week.  Hot in the day and, typical of a Prairie fall, cool in the evenings.  After our usual crazy busy Friday/Saturday, with two Farmers Markets in two days, we had a relaxing evening and a light dinner.  We know the animals get a little neglected on Friday and Saturday, and heaven knows they all love a little (okay, a lot of) attention!  So we decided to take the dogs for a walk and thought we'd take the goats for a frolic with us.  On our way to the goats' pasture, we cross through the chickens' pasture and a number of the Hens and Chicks started to follow us, hoping for treats, undoubtedly.  As we came out onto the lane beside the hoop house, some of the barn cats were playing, and the friendly little Scamp decided to come along for a walk, too!  Quite the procession!

It's never a long walk with this crowd.  The Hens and the Chicks soon get distracted by new pastures to peck, and fall out of line.  The Bears hassled poor Scamp for a minute until sternly corrected, but by then the little barn cat had fled to the top of last years compost pile and decided to stay there.  Two of the goats, Chocolate and Mabel, became engrossed in some of the weeds growing on the compost pile and stayed to browse.  So Farmer Man, myself, the dogs and Goldie the goat strolled around the windbreak separating the top field.

As we returned to our starting point, Farmer Man noticed the two goatlings left behind were ambling over to the watermelon patch.  A quick grab of some willow branches and he got the attention of all three goats and led them back to their pasture.  The Hens and The Chicks returned to their usual stomping grounds, the barn cats disappeared and the dogs were all heading for the house, looking for a drink.  Just a typical stroll on a gorgeous evening here at Aagaard Farms!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

CSA for September 6, 2011

CSA pick up; Full Shares on one side of the
tree, Part Shares on the other.
The last few years have seen a real boom in the interest in local food, fresh food, chemical-free food, and growing one's own food in North America and in Europe.  We've seen it in the increased interest in Farmers Markets (although finding the farmers is a problem...), an increase in garden rentals and community garden spaces and yes, an increase in CSAs.  CSA is a concept that began in Europe about fifty years ago, and has slowly spread in North America.  The increase in and diversity in CSA is quite incredible across North America!  Some CSA's require the members to do some work, some are pasture or organic meat CSAs, there's even a raw milk/cow CSA to get around the ban on raw milk in most states and provinces!  CSA has gotten so prevalent that CTV did a piece on it late in August!  Here's a link to the piece here.

We had a little communication error with one of our staff members this morning; about double the amount of beets got harvested than we intended.  But, you have a lovely mix of all the beets we grow:  common red round and cylinder, the white beet which is quite exactly like red beets without the color, the bright red and white Chioggia which is mild and sweet and really pretty on the plate, and the golden beet which is also mild and sweet and pretty.  To help you with your big bundle, here's a recipe for a simple beet salad, or how about a warm beet salad with orange vinaigrette?  Roasted beets are a classic side-dish: here's a great recipe for roasted beets with a balsamic vinegar glaze.  If possible, to keep fresh longer, treat the beets like a bouquet, stand in a pail with a little water around the roots and it doesn't need to be refrigerated, just cool and dark.  If that's not possible, put a little moist paper towel or dish towel around the beets and refrigerate.

Now is the time to freeze some of Summer's bounty!  Here's a great DIY post from simplebites on freezing packages of mixed vegetables for use all winter!  It's really quite simple and full instructions are in the blog post!  You can also freeze beets, here's some simple instructions!

Linda Boys kicked in some more celery for everyone today.  Amanda and Ed only had a small pick on cauliflower, not enough to really split, so it will be available for trade or purchase on the Farmers Market table; those of you that read this before you come to pick up will have a bit of an advantage there!  We also dug, for everybody, the unusal 'Russian Blue' potato, whose skin and flesh is dark blue.  It's kind of a cross between a fingerling and a baking potato, with a fluffy texture and good flavor.  It mashes up lovely and yes, your mashed potatoes will be blue!  We love making scalloped potatoes with it, layering common potatoes with the blue!  It also makes a ver good and funky blue french fry.

It's a taste-test kind of a day:  we've got a variety of tomatoes for everyone including a bag of regular slicing tomatoes, a bag of 'Black Plum' and a bag of mixed cherry/grape tomatoes.  There's also a wee bag of tomatilloes, in the jacket, for everyone to try.  This is the green tomato-relative most famous as the basis of the Mexican Salsa Verde, quite nice in salads or fried!  Everyone is also getting some yellow tomatoes; these are known as low-acid: tasty and sweet!  Everyone is also getting a neat little round, yellow cucumber called 'Lemon Ball'.  Although it seems a little prickly, a quick scrub with veggie brush gets rid of those and then the cucumber itself is lovely, sweet and light!

The first of the Winter Squash today, everyone got one, either a spaghetti squash or a butterncup.  Winter squash are different from the summer squash in that you do not eat the skin.  They are best baked or roasted at around 350-375 degrees, either in the oven or on the barbecue.  We cut them in half, scoop out the seeds (which can be roasted, like pumpkin seeds) and place them face down on a baking sheet.  They are done when easily pierced with a fork - the sizes you all have today will take about half an hour.  Winter squash can also be done in the microwave, which will cut down the time to less than half, but we don't think the texture and flavor is as nice.  Spaghetti squash is famous because the flesh then can be scraped out of the skin and is similar to spaghetti, the spaghetti is a variety called 'Small Wonder' and is a peach/yellow skin netted with green.  It can be served with spaghetti sauce or salsa, but I also like it with lots of butter and brown sugar or maple syrup.  The buttercups, the dark green ones with a pale green cup on the bottom, are similar to acorn squash: a slightly grainy texture and nice veggie/nutty flavor.  Any questions just leave them in the comment section of this blog and we'll answer quite promptly!

So: for EVERYBODY today:  A week bag of tomatilloes, large bag of round slicing tomatoes, small bag 'Black Plum', small bag mixed cherry and grape tomatoes, a couple of golden tomatoes (the round is 'Husky Gold', the plum shape is 'Banana Legs'), a slicing cuke, a 'Lemon Ball' cuke, carrots, a couple of onions, celery (some may have two small heads), a 3 lb. bag of 'Russian Blue' potatoes, couple heads of garlic, four kinds of beets, Swiss chard and a winter squash.

Next week's box will see the value of your share go a little beyond what you've paid!  It has been a pretty good year for CSA, and we're getting it done quite promptly!  We always live in fear that some bad years we'll still be delivering potatoes, pumpkins and onions in late October to get CSA finished - but that is not this year!  Two weeks from now, September 20th, will be 'Bonus Week'; the last pick up on that day is our 'Thank You' for allowing us to feed your family, for trusting us with your hard-earned money before you get any food and for giving us such tremendous support and encouragement!  We'll be bring larger bags of potatoes and onions, cured for storage, some winter squash and pumpkins which should keep well past Christmas and anything else that is around that's fresh and ready to go!  So, don't forget - two more weeks of CSA pick up, after today.  Any requests - let us know!  And enjoy this week's goodies!   

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Selling at the Friday Night Farmers Market!

We've had a pal visiting from Vancouver; George wanted to come for a little visit and have a day-in-the-life experience of the little farm in Manitoba.  It's the weekend, so that means the Friday Night Farmers Market and Saturday morning at the Farmers Market at Riverbank Discovery Centre!  It was a great opportunity to get some 'action' photos.  We find that setting up for a market is always a scramble and a bit stressful - there is just never enough time no matter how organized you think you are!  We put George to work in a small way, he helped clean and bundle carrots and beets.  His big job, though, was getting photos of the process at the Farmers Market!

The canopy is interesting on
a windy day!
What goes where?
By the time we arrive at the Friday Night Farmers Markets we've already been at it for six to eight hours!  Farmer Man is usually out the door by around 6:00 AM; first he opens up the chicken coops and turns the goatlings out into their pasture, as well as checking everybody's food and water.  Then he has a quiet tour around, checking on what's ready to harvest.  By 8:00 AM when our little staff arrives, he has a plan and dispatches everyone on their tasks.  This Friday Henry and Blake were off to dig a specific list of seven different kinds of potatoes, Cheryl and Nataliya were off to pick beans.  The harvesting goes on all morning, with the garage being the depot.  As veggies come up to the garage, they are set up for washing, cleaning and drying.  By noon, Cheryl has started to package: weighing and bagging potatoes was first on her list.  Nataliya and I kept harvesting: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, flowers.  Blake and Henry helped Farmer Man cut summer and winter squash, dig carrots and beets.  By 1:00 PM, Carissa has arrived.  Carissa comes to help sell at the Farmers Market, and immediately jumps into the bagging.
The final touch - prices!
And we're off! 
As always, as the time approaches to leave for the Market, there's a flurry of activity!  Farmer Man is loading the truck with crates of vegetables, I'm picking out baskets for displays and making sure I have a float for change and bags, Carissa is still packaging.  We always run out of time:  this week I kind of forget to cut herbs for Friday Night - it's always something!  By 2:30 we're ready to leave.  Shortly before 3:00 we arrive at Shoppers Mall, the Zellers parking lot.  Buddy George is the official photographer today.  First, the little canopy: always a challenge on a windy day.  This is important to keep the sun of the veggies, protection in case of rain (it was a little cloudy Friday, with something like a 20% chance of a shower) and it gives us a little 'presence'!  Next folding tables get set out, table clothes go on, our sign goes in front of the table, baskets come out of the truck.  We start unloading crates from the truck; we need to get some emptied into baskets because we use empties as the base for little 'tables' of crates of squash.  Sorting, arranging, displaying, all with that deadline of a 4:00 PM start.  Next, clips for little cards with the name, price and maybe a little description on each item.  This time of year, there is really not enough room for all the goodies.  A last check: everything is out, everything is accessible, everything has a price!  The big whistle at 4:00 PM and we're having a Farmers Market!  George found it so crazy, busy and crowded that he had to get out of there!  He didn't know people were so enthusiastic about fresh, local vegetables!

Back at home, Farmer Man starts after supper with harvesting for Saturday mornings' Farmers Market.  Henry came back for a couple of hours and helped dig more potatoes and onions.  Farmer Man and I are in touch by phone, so I can let him know what's selling out.  I'm home from the market by shortly after 7:30 PM, and Farmer Man, George and I have a little visit and a bite to eat.  We're up early Saturday morning to dig more carrots and such.  That gets a little harder as we get later in the season because it gets dark earlier on Friday evenings and stays dark later on Saturday mornings!  Farmer Man has been known to harvest late in September with a head lamp on over his ball cap!  Cheryl will come at 8:00 AM on Saturday morning to help clean and package and then her and I are off to the Farmers Market at Riverbank Discovery Centre, leaving at 9:00 AM for at 10:00 AM start.  By Saturday afternoon at 2:00 PM - it's nap time!  Whew!