Tuesday, July 31, 2012

CSA for Tuesday, July 31st!

Before the 'sharing': how many, how much?
We need rain....oh, boy do we need rain!  We're just starting to see some evidence of drought-effects, especially in parts of our fields where the soil is extremely sandy.  In areas where we've managed to improve the soil with compost, things are looking better - for now.  The potato field, about four acres, was newly tilled last year after being in an alfalfa/grass mixture for many years.  It turned out to have big patches of chalky, sandy soil and the effects of high heat and little moisture are showing first there.  The dugout, our one source of water, is already down by about three quarters, but we have no reasonable way to get water to the potato field, as is.  Fortunately, we plant tons of potatoes (that's probably literally, as well as figuratively), so we can bear to lose a few!  The lettuces, which looked poorly last week, are just toasted this week and beyond all hope.  Young pea pods are kind of 'crisping' up.  The onions, carrots and beets, in full sun on a slope, continue to just 'not thrive' - rather a surprise to us!  They're okay, but not growing well enough to dig yet.

The summer squash is the one crop seemingly enjoying the heat!  As the bounty continues, try a few new things!  Check out Thursdays' CSA blog post for links for chocolate zucchini cake, muffins and loaves.  We'd love you to freeze some zucchini for your winter use!  How about zucchini fritters or hash brown?  Shred it, press out excess moisture, spice it to your taste: garlic/salt/pepper, oregano/rosemary/basil or maybe something a wee bit Oriental with coriander/five spice.  Here's a great recipe for fritters from the ever-delightful Smitten Kitchen!

As the Patty Pans get bigger - try stuffing them!  Because of their firm texture, they stuff well and hold their shape.  You can serve them out in cute little slices.  Here's a link for a meat and quinoa stuffed Patty Pan (not familiar with quinoa? It's in the rice aisle at the grocery store, as easy to cook as rice and very, very good for you!).  How about a vegetarian version with spinach?  One of Farmer Man's favorite versions is onion, cream cheese and crab meat - when he's feeling a little decadent!  You can use any recipe that you might use to stuff a tomato or pepper!  One of my other favorite new ideas I've seen on the Web, which I'm trying real soon, is pickled Patty Pans!  Wouldn't that be cute with tiny ones?

The really awesome news:  Menno and Evelyn's tomatoes seem to be loving this heat.  They didn't originally think last week that they'd get enough of a harvest to share with everyone today - but they did!  If you've never tried one of their organic, greenhouse-grown, vine-ripened tomatoes....you're in for a treat!  I was hoping to find enough fresh basil for everyone - I cut it pretty hard for Thursday's tomato treat!  It didn't happen but I got enough for 2/3's of you and everyone else will get oregano (also very Italian and great with tomatoes) or mint.  Herbs will be on a first come-first serve basis! Also a surprise today: first pick on cucumbers, the lovely long English cukes.  There was enough for the Full Shares, until I stepped on one.....so the Part Shares get first pick today and Jes and I had a part of a cucumber for lunch!  Yummy!  One of the few times we eat something before our CSA families!

We wanted to make sure the Single Shares got some peas, so this week it's Edible Pod Peas for you guys.  Full Shares had those last week, so they've got a wee treat of shelling peas this week.  Part Shares get none, but they get the cucumbers, so we're okay with that!  Everyone is getting beans galore - super pick today!  You all know that the purple bean, Royal Burgundy, turns dark green on cooking, right?  Rather always been a disappointment to me that they don't stay purple.

So, for the FULL SHARES: 3 lbs. Warba white potatoes, 1/2 lb. shelling peas, tomatoes, bunch of herb, Crookneck squash, Romanesque squash, Papaya Pear squash, Patty Pan squash, 2.5 lbs. mixed yellow and purple beans, pint of Red Mammoth raspberries.

PART SHARES:  2 lbs. Warba white or Norland red potatoes, English cucumber, tomatoes, bunch of herb, Moroccan or Mediterranean squash, zucchini, Patty Pan squash, 1 1/5 lbs. mixed yellow and purple beans.

SINGLE SHARES:  1.5 lbs. Norland red potatoes, edible pod peas, tomatoes, bunch of herb, Crookneck squash, zucchini, Patty Pan squash, 1 lb. mixed yellow and purple beans. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

CSA for Thursday, July 26th

Surprise! Evelyn and Menno brought beautiful tomatoes!
A drizzly start to the morning: not the best start to a CSA harvest day!  Wet raspberries are a recipe for mush and mold, we weren't sure what we'd be able to harvest when it dried up sufficiently.  We felt okay about it because Thursday's CSAers are getting a special treat today!  Menno and Evelyn are bringing their fabulous organically-grown, greenhouse tomatoes!  A little mucky harvesting through the morning: highly recommend you get everything out of the plastic bags or cartons, including the raspberries!

The summer squash are coming along nicely!  You may have a chance to try some varieties you're not familiar with; love the comments when people try new things!  Of course, the zucchini will keep coming and coming and coming!  We're always looking for interesting things to do with zucchini: love this recipe Tuesday CSAer Amy tweeted for stuffed zucchini - looks fabulous!  You could easily adjust the size of the slice for either a side dish or an entree!  Of course, the best reason to grow zucchini to larger sizes is chocolate zucchini cake!  Here's a fairly simple recipe and here's a recipe that's a bit healthier; love her cream cheese frosting, too!  Of course there is zucchini muffins and bread with two versions of loaves, one with the added zing of pineapple.  Everyone gets some smaller, gourmet sizes in their boxes and a monster zucchini or two is extra free choice!  Deliveries, we're just putting the extras in so email me if you're getting a little over-loaded!

We love it when we hear of CSA families still eating their share in the winter!  It's quite easy to freeze zucchini for stir fries, sautes and casseroles all winter.  Here's some simple instructions from 'Pick Your Own.org', a great site to bookmark 'cause it is all about harvesting, eating and preserving seasonal food!  I must admit when I'm freezing shredded zucchini for winter muffins, I never blanch it: I just shred, pack into freezer bags in the one cup or two cup portions needed for our fav recipes and freeze!

Part Shares are getting kale today - if you're not familiar with it, it is a nutritional powerhouse.  Raw, it's great in salads, but cut it fine because it's got a flavor and texture that's distinct.  You can treat it like beet greens or chard, our favorite way to eat it is in a stir fry with summer squash (and edible pod peas, too)!  Here's a great kale link here, including making kale chips for snacking!  Everyone is getting my, ummm, second favorite bean: Golden French Filet!  The true filet beans are skinny, tender, creamy, yummy little beans - enjoy!

Another wee pick on the peas.  The Full Shares are getting a snack of shelling peas, the Part Shares are getting a small bag of edible pod peas.  As we mentioned in Tuesday's blog post, we like our edible pod peas with some pea in them...great crunch raw, a bit more substantial in a stir fry.  Some of them are quite huge, so you can treat them like a shelling pea, but keep the pods for stir fries or salads!

Mostly with the 'surprise' in mind, we took our first big cut of basil.  It will be a few weeks before it bounces back!  Are you familiar with a Caprese Salad?  Pesto?  We've done pesto with almonds or walnuts, since we're more likely to have those than pine nuts.  We also do a simple pasta, tossing the cooked pasta with olive oil, chopped basil and Parmesan (or any grated cheese would work).

So, for the FULL SHARES:  3 lbs. Warba potatoes, bunch of Chard, shelling peas, 1 lb. of yellow filet beans, 1 lbs. Menno and Evelyn's lovely tomatoes, bunch of basil, pint of Boyne raspberries, a black zucchini, 'gold Rush' zucchini, Papaya Pear, and an heirloom Romanesque summer squash.

For the PART SHARES: 2 lbs. of Warba potatoes, bunch of Kale, edible pod peas, 1/2 lb. mixed yellow filet and purple beans, 1/2 lb. green beans, 1 lb. tomatoes, basil, pint of Mammoth raspberries, small black zucchini, Gold Rush' zucchini and a Romanesque summer squash.

For the SINGLE SHARES:  1.5 lbs. Warba potatoes, 1/2 lb. tomatoes, basil, pint Boyne raspberries, 1/2 lb. yellow filet beans, small black zucchini, small Patty Pan and a Romanesque squash. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Purveyors of Fine Made-in-Manitoba Products!

That's what we're becoming!  There are sooooo many neat, handcrafted items being made in Manitoba, in small batches, where the producers are selling direct at Farmers Markets, without distribution channels.  We love to share 'good things', so we've acquired a few nifty things we'll have with us at the Global Market Brandon, while supplies last.

If you read this blog a bit, you know we've got copies of Getty Stewart's awesome book 'Prairie Fruit Cookbook'.  Love anything specific to our region and needs: read our review here.  We've already made a number of the recipes, including cocktails, entrees and some canning recipes!  Love this book and love that proceeds benefit 'Fruit Share Manitoba', an outstanding volunteer organization!  We'd love to see a Fruit Share Brandon branch, but we're really too busy to spearhead such a development.  If you've got the time to take some phone calls, organize some volunteers to pick back yard fruit - please get in touch!  With the GST, copies are $20.90 - a worthwhile investment!

For the second year, we've managed to acquire a small (teeny, weeny) amount of Manitoba Maple Syrup, from Oakman Enterprises in Portage la Prairie.  If you're a maple syrup lover - you should try this stuff!  It's different from the Eastern sugar maple syrup - more vanilla, caramel tones, not quite as sugary sweet!  It's awesome stuff!  This is really a labor of love for Mitch and Linda; they are not commercial in any sense and don't have a website or blog or Facebook page or any of that stuff!  Every batch is truly handcrafted: they tap the trees on their property, boil down the syrup themselves (a hot, sweaty job) and package up their small harvest.  With our early, warm Spring, this was not a great harvest so quantities are limited!  Bottles are $12.50 and only twelve are available!

I'm currently wearing our last item: 'Sap 'n' Salvy' balm from Prairie Short Botanicals!  I just gashed my ankle big-time on a pallet in the feed shack.  What I reach for is this balm.  I've had mine for a couple of months and have used it on cuts, scraps, bug bites, my raspberry cane scratches and even on the goats' udders when the girls scratched themselves up!  Love this stuff!  Laura is all about using our Manitoba native plants; you may be familiar with the workshops she's led at Harvest Moon Society.  Her healing balm is native white spruce sap and balsam poplar extract, with local beeswax and olive oil (from far, far away but that's okay: canola oil is just not as healing and Manitoba hemp oil can go rancid easier).  I can't say enough about my love for this balm!  Check out her website here, she also has a nice Facebook page under Prairie Shore Botanicals!  If you have a chance to take any of her workshops on wilderness skills (usually with the fascinating Dwayne Logan) or using native plants, go for it!  So much to learn!  We have a limited quantity of the balm in a 25 ml size for $9 and the 50 ml for $18.  A little smear goes a long way!

So, that's some cool Manitoba products we'll be sharing in the next little while!  See us at the Global Market, 12th and Rosser, Fridays from 4 - 7 PM and Saturday from 9 AM until Noon!  If you're interested, but not in the area, get in touch and we'll look into mailing you some!  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CSA for Tuesday, July 24th

It's so nice to be back in the land of the World Wide Web!  Computer problems have plagued us for about a week so we've been kind of out-of-touch, both on the blog and on Facebook/Twitter.  Today however, I managed to connect with my techie 'knight in shining armour', and Doug of HelpTek made it out to the farm to straighten everything out for us!  Doug professes not to be an Apple/Mac guy but (once again) he took care of all the problems with both the Mac and the PC,  and the printer!  Thank you, Doug!

Crazy day!  Our lovely CSAer Deborah had volunteered to help pick raspberries again but had transportation issues: when she hadn't arrived after I'd already been in the raspberries over an hour - I figured something was wrong!  We thought we had a new staff member starting, who also failed to arrive so things got a little crazy!  When our garden helpers Derrick and Henry arrived they got pressed into service: Derrick found himself in the raspberry patch with me!  Henry found himself in the beans!  'Cause yes!  Beans are ready to pick!  And peas!

First, a word about raspberries: this may be the last week for the raspberries.  They're still cropping, but we're past the abundant first flush and, as the picking gets more time consuming, it becomes less worth our while to invest the time.  Especially with so many other labor intensive veggies coming on strong, like beans.  So, if you're a raspberry fan and would like more next week, we could really use your help picking.  You could come the evening before or the morning of CSA!  You could also pet a baby goat, hear a kitten purr, meet Rocky the Rooster!  And volunteers always go home with bonuses!  So, email us if you can help!

First pick today on beans and peas!  It's not an abundant harvest today, so it will be a mixed bag!  Peas are also cropping, in a small way.  We've got a little pick of shelling peas for the Part Shares, enough to just sit on the deck and have a wee snack.  We also got a little pick of edible pod peas for the Full Shares.  These edible pod peas are lovely, and some are a little large and could be shelled.  If you do want to shell them keep the pods: awesome in stir fries and sautes, super in veg packs on the barbecue, and also great chopped into a pasta for fresh, sweet pea flavor!  Or just crunch them like candy!

The summer squash is kickin' in big time!  For your reference, all summer, please check out our Summer Squash Primer Part 1 and Summer Squash Primer Part 2!  Today everyone is getting one of our favorites: Papaya Pear!  This squash is firmer and denser than zucchini, with a nice nutty flavor.  It is absolutely awesome on the barbecue: won't get mushy like zucchini.  Our fav method is slicing into rounds about 1/2" thick, soaking in balsamic vinegar and a little oil then on to the BBQ!  You can grill it and get nice grill marks, without the mush.  Other than that, anything you do with a zucchini you can do with this guy: slice, dice, raw, sauteed, veggie packs, grated.  It may take longer to cook than you're used to, especially in a stir fry or saute!  We also got a wee pick, in the Part Shares, of crook neck squash - the Southern States delicacy!  In the Deep South, they bread or batter thick slices and then fry/deep fry slices.  It's a delicate, buttery squash that comes out like pudding in that sort of cooking method!  Farmer Man does cornmeal/cajun spices and then fries it up! Yummy!  Again, anything you would do with a zucchini you can do with a crook neck, but it is more delicate!  As we hope to do all summer, green zucchini is available as an 'extra' if you'd like one - we don't want to overload you and we grow soooo many more interesting styles.  You know how easy it easy to freeze zucchini for winter use, right?  For muffins, bread and the ever-awesome chocolate zucchini cake just grate now, store in ziplock bags or small containers in 1 Cup packets and take out as you need it!  If you freeze it in bigger sizes it comes out of the freezer in big lumps so you must defrost the whole lump to get your cups worth so easier to freeze in the portion you need for muffins or zucchini bread!

So, for the FULL SHARES:  3 lbs. Carlton potatoes, 1/2 lb mixed green and golden wax beans, 1/2 lb green beans, edible pod peas, pint Red Mammoth raspberries, Papaya Pear squash, Patty Pan squash, Gold Rush zucchini, onions.

PART SHARES: 2 lbs. Alladin potatoes, 1/2 lb. mixed green and purple beans, onions, wee bag shelling peas, pint of Red Mammoth raspberries, Crook Neck squash, Papaya Pear squash, Gold Rush zucchini.

SINGLE SHARES:  1 lb Norland potatoes, 1/4 lb purple beans, onions, pint of Red Mammoth raspberries, Papaya Pear squash, Gold Rush Zucchini.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

CSA for July 19th

We're still having computer problems and I've had to revert to an old computer running Windows XP.  (Some of you are laughing right now...)  Any way, Blogger doesn't like it and it won't seem to allow me to add a picture.  I have a very nice picture of Deborah in the raspberry patch but, I can't seem to share it with you!  It also won't let me spell-check so, even though I have re-read this....it is late.....


Harvest interuptus....that was today when a strange, thunder cloud rolled over about noon.  I was in the raspberry patch, Farmer Man was in te potato field, Henry and Derrick had just arrived to help us prepare.  The sound came first: I though they were doing some heavy work in the distant railway yards at first.  The sound increased, a big black cloud loomed and when some lightening appeared directly south, everyone got to a safe place.  Including the goats, who we got out of the pasture and all into the barn safely.  In about twenty minutes it was all over and moving south and east of us.  No rain, just plenty of sound effects!  Then, did it ever get hot and steamy for the afternoon.

I did, indeed, spend the morning in the raspberries.  CSA member Deborah came to help this morning, and what a pleasure to have.  We're a little particular about our raspberries; I pride myself on picking good berries with little debris.  Deborah gets that - and there's no leaves or twigs in her buckets!  The lettuce may be a little dirty some times, but the raspberries we like clean!  I like picking and eating raspberries now, the raspberries have been producing for about a week and there's a good variety of flavor sensations!   There's the  'just barely' ripe red/orange berries with a bit more crunch and texture, the nicely ripe bright red berries just softening and full of flavor and there's the fully sun-ripened deep red berries, a little softer and juicier, with flavors a little more mellow!   Everyone did get some Red Mammoth today - and we are interested in knowing if you have a preference for last week's Boyne or the Mammoth!  Just leave a comment on the blog!  Check Tuesday's post for easy instructions for raspberry vinegar, a great way to keep enjoying your berries for months to come!

Thursday got new potatoes this week: still quite small sizes but absolutely yummy.  There was a mix picked: the red potatoes were Aladin, the white potatoes were Warba.  Nothing like a new potato!  Like much of what we picked today - the babies don't hold well or keep, please eat them promptly!  And you all know not to put potatoes in the fridge, right?  And never in a bright, sunny place, right?  The potato harvest should start to get a little more reliable in the next few weeks but you may have noticed some of the tiny sizes in your bags.  Grow, potatoes, grow! 

Everyone got some arugula or rocket in their boxes this week.  This is a great addition to salads, with a bit of nutty, a bit of astringency, a bit of peppery!  Try a little plain: if you love it slice it into bigger pieces for a salad, if you're not sure dice it fine for a 'hint' here and there in a salad.

So in today's boxes: FULL, PART and SINGLE Shares all, in various quantities, got: Baby potatoes, Romaine lettuce, arugula, green or multiplier onions, raspberries, and a mix of green and yellow zucchini.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

CSA for Tuesday, July 17th

Internet problems all day today, and evidence even now that I still have problems.  I'm not even going to try to include a picture, to make sure this gets posted in a timely fashion.

Raspberries are in full swing!  We got a good pick on the Red Mammoth, the big, paler red berry, today. The old stand-by Boyne, which everyone got last week, is smaller and a darker red.  Would love to see in the comments below which berry you prefer!  We've actually had great losses in the raspberries over the winter and will have to re-plant, so we're interested in which you like better!

If you're not going to eat all your raspberries promptly, we highly recommend getting them out of the little container.  Berries on the bottom will get crushed and will be more prone to mold!  Don't want to waste any!  If you'd like to extend your raspberry harvest, how about making raspberry vinegar?  Homemade, fresh raspberry vinegar for salads is incredible, and will keep for up to six months!  Put one cup of raspberries into a sterilized jar (wash well, rinse with hot, then boiling water) and add vinegar to cover.  White wine vinegar is most commonly used, but good old regular vinegar works, too!  Make sure the berries are covered by the vinegar. Tightly cover and let the mixture sit three to four weeks in a cool, dark place.  When the time is up, strain and pour your vinegar  into a clean, sterilized bottle.  Don't discard the raspberries - they'll be awesome as is in a salad or on some fresh, local pickerel or another white fish.  Maybe with pork chops?  To make a vinaigrette salad dressing mix with an oil like canola, sunflower or olive!

Nice pick on baby zucchini and summer squash today!  This is the gourmet size: before the seeds have developed, and the texture is just like butter! The long dark green are ...zucchini, which everyone is probably familiar with.  The long yellow are 'Gold Rush', and the golden zucchini is just a wee bit more buttery and tender than green.  The pale green ovals are known as Moroccan or Lebanese squash.  They're going to be a bit firmer, with a bit more of a nutty flavor.  Anything you would do with a zucchini you can do with any summer squash.  Grated or sliced for salads, sliced and diced for stir fries, cut into strips for veggie plates!  Very versatile, these little summer squash!

So, for the FULL SHARES:  A pint each of Red Mammoth and Boyne raspberries, bundle of radish, bundle of green onions, 'Grand Rapids' lettuce, a bundle of specialty lettuce either arugula, mizuna or mustard greens, assorted summer squash.

PART SHARES: A pint of each of the raspberries, green onions, Romaine lettuce, assorted summer squash.

SINGLE SHARES: A pint of Mammoth raspberries, green onion, butter lettuce, assorted summer squash.!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Inaugural Batch of Goats Milk Soap!

Everything is at hand: coconut oil, olive oil, frozen
cubes of goats milk, lye and reference!
Like starting any new craft or hobby, the amount of information available on making soap is monumental, and conflicting.  We've been planning on making soap for a couple of years and I have collected a number of books, bookmarked a number of soap websites and watched a great amount of YouTube videos!  The amount of info is dizzying!  As the time grew closer that I'd actually be making soap, I had to get serious.  I've focused on two books, with slightly different methods and ideas.  I've become a big fan of Anne L. Watson and her 'Milk Soapmaking' book, as well as her website.  I have Anne's other soap book and her lotion book, too.  She makes things simple and no-nonsense.  She dispels myths, writes from great experience, streamlines processes and just makes you really believe you can do this.

The other book I'll be using is 'Making Milk Soap from Scratch' by Anne-Marie Faiola of Bramble Berry fame (a huge Internet web site and supplier of ingredients and accessories).  There's a Soap Queen blog, YouTube channel and Bramble Berry's website has tons of info.  Anne-Marie is an expert, with wide-ranging interests and loves to share what she knows about soap making.  I also love her little book because it's got a hemp-goats milk recipe and a shampoo bar recipe!  She does tend to get a little fancier with both ingredients and methods.

Getting organized for my first batch I chose Anne L. Watson's basic recipe of coconut oil, olive oil, milk and lye.  Simple, skin-loving ingredients and I already had coconut oil for my lip balms and lotion bars.  We usually have extra-virgin olive oil around the house, but because I'd like a pale soap I purchased regular olive oil which is golden and not green.  Lye was the only other thing I had to purchase.  Then, I needed to decide on a mold.  Anne L. recommends sheet molds: she says that a loaf-type mold allows too much heat to build up in the middle which can discolour the soap and you should pour milk soaps to only an inch thick.  Anne-Marie Faiola's book doesn't mention this at all but I will eventually try it both ways!  I had decided to use just a matched pair of plastic storage containers for my first batch, rather than buying anything fancy!

Lye reacts chemically with the milk and oils to create soap.  Lye is serious business: it's extremely alkaline and can burn the skin and ruin surfaces.  There are many precautions for handling lye, choosing proper utensils (no aluminum) and staying safe in both books.  I followed everything carefully, got everything organized, appropriate pots and utensils all out, and fats measured and ready to go!  Then, into the long rubber gloves and goggles and I measured out the lye.

Because of the heat that the chemical reaction of milk and lye creates, milk can scorch and be less skin-loving and less lathering.  The soap can darken in color or get splotchy with too much heat.  Anne-Marie's book offers four ways to make milk soaps, and has a great picture of the color differences depending on the method used.  Anne L. Watson's book has two variations and recommends freezing fluid milk for a paler soap.  I'd weighed out the amount of milk needed for the recipe a few days ago and frozen it in ice cube trays, noting that the amount made ten ice cubes.  I just kept freezing my excess milk in the trays and, when weighing out cubes this morning, I needed eleven cubes.  I had a panic moment that maybe frozen milk weighed less than room temperature!  Nobody mentioned that!  Because of the knowledge that I do from all my reading I figured I had a little wriggle room because the recipe is 'super-fatted', and if I was putting in extra milk I'd just have a creamier soap!

So, I began the process of mixing lye granules into the ice cubes, being careful not to splatter.  Much of knowing when the things are 'done' in soap making is by temperature: lye heats up an incredible amount as it combines with the other elements in soap and when temperature levels out the process is finsihed.  Problem: suddenly the digital thermometer I had just tested didn't want to work!  Rather than mess with it, I just stirred for a really long time, saw the mixture thicken up, stirred some more and then declared it mixed!  Anne L. advised pouring the lye/milk solution through a sieve into the oil mixture and I did capture some granules of undissolved lye - so lesson learned!  Stir some more!  Or get a better digital thermometer!

In the mold, ready for the fridge!
Adding the milk/lye mixture to the oils was interesting!  As I stirred it up, it began to thicken quite quickly and I could feel the pot warming up.  Anne L. has good descriptions of what's going to happen and what to watch for.  A stick blender is used in most modern soap making and I carefully started blending (you still don't want to splatter this mixture, the lye could still burn).  The mixture changed from oily, thin and pale greenish-yellow to thick (almost like pudding), creamy smooth and a nice ivory shade.  Again, the thermometer would have been used to gauge when I was done, but I just kept blending and blending until it seemed really thick.  I stopped and hand-stirred for a while because Anne L. says that if the mixture starts to thin out you're not done!  Love that she's gives you 'Plan B' methods!

So into the molds!  Weighed the two containers to make sure they're even.  Tried to smooth out the tops, but that's hard; these will really be the 'sides' of bars so I'd like them smooth but.....According to directions: into the freezer for about half an hour, into the fridge for three more hours, out of the molds in about twenty four hours, cut into bars then cure for at least three weeks!  It's also recommended to test with pH strips to make sure the lye has been fully used up!  Now, it's just the waiting!  Whew, we've been planning for a couple of years - and we've finally made goats milk soap from scratch!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fav New Toy: Steam Juicer!

The steam juicer: top is for the berries, middle
collects the juice, bottom is water.

So, we make some jelly around here.  And drink some smoothies.  So, we like fresh juice!  Previously, to make jelly, I boiled a big pot of berries in water, slopped the mixture into a jelly bag and let it drip.  Frequently, I made a mess ladling the berries into the jelly bag.  Frequently the jelly bag on its' silly little stand wanted to tip over, or over-flow.  Or I had too many berries for one jelly bag full.  In the canning blogs and such that I follow I heard more and more praises for the steam juicer; I talked to CSAers Norma and Merle who have a lot of experience with one and love theirs.  So I finally decided to invest in one.

I LOVE this thing!  Henry and Derrick picked about four ice cream pails of Nanking cherries for me last night.  In my new life with a steam juicer, after cleaning them I just poured them all into the steamer, filled the bottom with water, put it on the stove, put the over-flow tube into the storage jar and....walked away and did something else for an hour!  When the recommended time was up, I just emptied the receptacle into the jar and cleaned up!  So easy!  And good juice!

I set the over-flow tube into the storage jar,
and got quite a bit of over-flow, but I had
really stuffed the top!
I got a very good deal on amazon.com (yes that's .com not .ca) for a stainless steel 10 quart juicer.  I may eventually regret the smaller size - my four ice cream pails of Nankings just barely fit in, although their volume did go down with the steaming.  For many home canners the size may be more than enough but we're doing things on a slightly larger scale sometimes.  The included instructions were poor (and English was definitely not the author's first language....), but there is plenty of info online and in canning books on using the gizmo.  The instructions do give times for juicing veggies and herbs, which I hadn't given much thought to but I like the idea!  If you do any amount of juicing, I highly recommend one of these!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

CSA for July 12, 2012!

First rinse of the 'Grand Rapids'!
Oh, My Heavens!  What a fabulous CSA pick up!  Thank you to all our members, such a nice evening seeing you all.  Some of our returning members moved to Thursday night and a delight to see them all! (Hi, Norma! Hi, Irene!  Almost too busy to talk to you!  And Irene, I owe you fifty cents for returning jam jars!)  So many new members on Thursday nights and it was so great to meet you all!  And so nice, even though it wasn't a fabulous box.  We've got a couple of people who volunteered to come help with some weeding (woot, woot!), we've got a fellow goat-keeper, love that we've got a day care picking up this year, and we've got some awesome fresh food-lovin' people, some of whom we know well from Farmers Markets!  I think we can throw anything at this group and we'll learn a few groovy cooking tips from them!

We were up at 6:00 AM to harvest raspberries and potatoes for CSA and were greeted by thunder, lightening and a steady rain before I even had my coffee finished!  Raspberries are quite delicate, and wet raspberries in a container are a recipe for mold and mush!  As the rain continued through the milking of the goats, feeding of chickens and right through 9:30 AM it became obvious we wouldn't be getting into the potato field.  (Leon, we promise, swear there will be new potatoes for Thursday's group next week!)  Finally got into the raspberries about 2:00 PM (just as it got hot) but only got a little pick.  A good taste for everybody, though!

We can absolutely use some rain - it's been so hot and dry and the dug-out has become half empty in the past week!  Once the rain quit it was still a little 'mushy' in a few spots but we got harvesting, albeit a little late!  It was relatively easy to pull onions and radishes.  I must say the lettuces were splattered with rain and quite filthy.  We've washed them but they are still going to need a really good rinse!  First little pick on zucchini's, although just enough this week for the Full Shares.

So in everybody's box this week:  Loose leaf lettuce 'Grand Rapids', baby Romaine lettuce, yellow onions, radish, garlic scapes, raspberries and, for the Full Shares only, some baby zucchinis - actually the perfect, gourmet size but many people at Farmers Markets don't want to believe us!  Don't worry, you will all get some big ones, too!  They just seem to appear overnight!

See you next week!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

CSA for July 10th!

Wasn't exactly easy picking!
Ohhhhhh, it's nine at night and I'm late with this blog post.  I'm kind of mushy....it's sooooo hot.  It's still 29 C with a humidex of 38 C (about 110 F or something, isn't it?)  I had boldly stated that I would have the CSA blog post up by 8:00 PM but, once again, I forgot about the milking of goats!  The Mamas were almost in pain by the time we got home, and the babies were crying for food...so we changed out of our 'going-to-town' clothes and milked then bottled-fed the triplets.  Then we changed or topped up water for all goats, chickens, pigs, cats and dogs.  And fed the doggies, who were also kind of 'miffed' with us.  None of us are in the CSA groove, yet!

However, it's great to have one done, and super-fun to see everyone!  Some of our CSA members are now good buddies, and some we've only met through emails or phone calls, or seen at Farmers Markets but didn't really know the names.  It was so good to see everyone!

For how wrung-out I feel you would think it was a fabulous box today, but it wasn't.  When we got it all together and were ready to load the truck we thought it looked kind of disappointing.  Farmer Man may have spent too much time in the potatoes for not much poundage and I may have spent too much time in the raspberries for not too many pints:  but they're both really yummy!  First pick on the raspberries today and it wasn't easy to find them, but they're pretty darn good!  Our new helper Deborah certainly had a 'trial by fire' today, on her first day!  In this heat she spent time this morning with me in the raspberries, then early afternoon (in the serious heat) cutting lettuce, then getting it into big buckets of water!

In the boxes today everyone got the same things, just different amounts.  In the boxes are garlic scapes - the long, curly things.  If you love garlic you'll love scapes!  They have a mild, fresh garlic flavor.  The flavor is best when they're used raw; on cooking the dish is infused with a little garlic flavor but the sliced scapes themselves will taste a little like asparagus.  We love them crushed then mixed with cream cheese for an awesome spread or filling for an omelet, mixed with half mayo and half sour cream or Greek yogurt for a lovely dip!  They're beautiful on salads or sliced fine and sprinkled on those baby potatoes!

Everyone also got a bag of lettuce greens.  The main component is loose leaf 'Grand Rapids', perfect for salads or sandwiches.  There was also a little bundle of romaine, with the roots, so stand them in a glass of water!  Also included was a little bundle of rocket or arugula: a spice, slightly astringent salad green!  It can also be lightly sauteed or added to stir fries!

So in the boxes today:

FULL SHARES, PART SHARES AND SINGLE SHARES:  Bag of baby potatoes: a mix of red Aladin and Norland, white Carlton and Warba, and purple Caribe, garlic scapes, mixed lettuce bag with loose leaf, romaine and arugula, radishes, baby yellow onions, and raspberries.

The first CSA day wasn't without it's drama, of course.  Apparently, when I created email lists for Tuesdays and Thursdays I totally missed Mary and Brian.  They'd gotten the email about picking a Tuesday or Thursday but hadn't gotten anything further.  When I called them fifteen minutes before we leave the pick up site they were a little surprised, needless to say, but made it over.  Sorry, Mary and Brian!  Then, we have a new delivery for Edith, who is away and her neighbor Tracy is taking the delivery.  When we get out our map, their street is not listed!  I left a message for Tracy, and we start asking CSA members who drop by if they have a street map but the street wasn't listed.  Thank heavens for Marla, with her smart phone and smart ways, who googled it or something, and told me where it was!  Tracy did return my call just before we were heading over there and we had a good laugh about being in a new sub-division!  My favorite, though, has to be Suzanne's son John.  Suzanne was away and John (a lovely young man) was picking up for her.  He didn't have the correct info and when I called he was at our farm, thinking pick-up was there!  Fortunately, we're only five minutes from town, so he hadn't gone far!  We connected and he knows exactly where to pick up from now on!  I hope John didn't mind a wee drive in the country!  Oh, the fun of the first CSA pick up!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Global Market Brandon Is So Much Fun!

Loved the ceramic plant markers!

So, Brandon has a new market: a market with so much more than just veggies!  This is a community-group based project, with the land donated by a business to the City.  It's a permanent, colourful installation with wooden beamed tents with bright colored awnings.  Such a great looking space.  The Global Market welcomes farmers, bakers, artisans, crafters and home-based businesses, so a great mix!

A shady food court!
We decided to join this market for various reasons, discussed here.  Grand Opening was Thursday night, running in conjunction with the popular 'Cruisin' the Dub' car show: something like six blocks of vintage cars on display.  What a fabulous evening!  The weather was perfect: not too hot, not too windy.  The place was rockin'!  We saw friends, neighbors, CSA members and previous Farmers Market customers - so much chatting and laughing!  What a great way to introduce a new market.  There was live music to groove to supplied by the Majestics, a couple of food trucks providing good food, the occasional roar of an engine and lots and lots of people!

Awesome traditional Hispanic baking!
Grand Opening on Thursday night had a couple of us fresh veggie vendors, some fabulous handmade art including paintings and ceramics, two vendors of gorgeous locally produced jewellery - one classic metal based and the other had intricate, almost woven earrings, very cool!  There was an hispanic bakery (where I scored some scrumptious coconut buns).  There was a home-based business selling earth-friendly cleaning products (including Norwex re-usable cleaning cloths - which I adore, mine is about five years old now and still going strong after many washes!) and a seller of Epicure, with yummy gourmet spices, rubs and other edibles!  You could have also picked up some CD's or DVD's and some vintage toys from a couple of different small business people!  Such a great variety!
Smilin' Hugh and his son-in-law!

Friday, in conjunction with Brandon's Multi-cultural Festival, there was another market and some great music!  We were back Saturday morning and there were more veggies producers (Ray had fresh peas, don't know how he got those so early!)  There was another jewellery vendor with, again, cool different stuff, and 'Lady of the Lake' was offering coffee, some tasty and healthy smoothies and some awesome baking!  We were really enjoying a busker - a guitar player!  As we were leaving in the early afternoon a painter was setting up with some gorgeous, large scale abstract art!  Such variety at the Global Market!

Adorn yourself or start your
Christmas shopping!
The Global Market has a great new website, so you can keep up on entertainment, special events and such:  check it out here.  They are also on Facebook and Twitter, like us, if you want to know what's going on right now!  Market days, right now, will be officially Fridays afternoon and evenings until 7:00 PM, and Saturdays all day.  The Funky Food truck is there six days a week serving from lunch to dinner!  The Jamaican food truck is open during the evenings right now, I do believe.  We'll be doing Friday's from 4:00 to 7:00 PM, and Saturday mornings from 9:00 AM to noonish.  There will lots of different entertainment!  More veggies producers are coming as their crops come in, more of the vendors from the International Women's Market will be coming and lots of crafters will be coming-and-going each week!  What a great place to do your shopping!  I'm already starting my Christmas shopping: the jewellery and ceramics will be great for so many of the people on my shopping list!  Love shopping local as much as we can!  When you drop by the Global Market, please do come say hello! 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Keeping Cool...While Cleaning The Barn!

Fourteen loads like this!
 It's steamy hot here in Manitoba - with the Humidex +37 C (105 F or something close)!  Farmer Man decided today was the day to clean the barn.  We've got a tour of children coming tomorrow and we want to look spiffy, right? And smell spiffy.....We're a little behind in 'mucking' out the barn, like everything else!  Plus, in really hot weather the excess straw, the inevitable wasted hay mixed with spilled water and urine, will break down quickly and just get dank and 'yucky'.  There's a technical farm term for you: yucky.  Nobody wants a yucky barn!

Where's my nest?

 A little gab fest in the shade!
Like any kid: pigs love to run thru the sprinkler!
This is a job that will often take three to four hours.  In this heat it's going to take a lot longer because breaks are required every forty five minutes or so!  It's a hot, dusty, smelly job!  At least the barn, with the big doors open at east and west ends, has a decent breeze going through it!  The twins and the triplets are free-ranging right now and are surprisingly quiet, nestled into a shady corner of the barn.  The Mommas are in the pasture, Randi and Gaffer are in pens, waiting to get moved to the clean pen so we can clean out their pen.  Farmer Man is certainly peeving the Hens, who have been displaced from their favorite spots to lay eggs!

In the meantime, in the heat, the Momma goats are finding some shade behind the chicken coop, on the edge of one of the shelter belts of trees.  The Hens are under the trees in the most northern part of the shelter belt, just having a quiet gab.  The Berkshires are being spoiled; we're filling waterers frequently in this weather and when we're in their vicinity we turn the hose on them, which they love!  Took a few tries for them to get used to it, but now they come a running!  That water also helps to replenish their wallow: rolling in mud is a natural instinct for them in hot weather!

In the meantime, as Farmer Man rakes out each pen and loads the debris in the tractor, I come along behind raking and sweeping the bits.  Each pen will be given a good half hour to dry out a bit, then I sprinkle a mixture of baking soda with a good dose of lavender essential oil, which I mixed a few days ago.  This will not only freshen the pen, but will help repel insects. First, though, I shooed the barn cats away because lavender essential oil is not good for them.  Then a clean, fresh bale of straw will be broken into each pen, perhaps two in the larger Momma pen.  We've been waiting on fresh straw from June's cut, because our previous load of straw, from last fall's cut, was not really up to par.

Although we feel guilty for not weeding this is a task that had to be done, and with the fresh straw available now was the time!  We're looking forward to tonight's task....shovelling out the chicken coop!