Thursday, September 27, 2012

CSA For Sept. 27th

Hand-picking the ripest pear tomatoes!

Hard to believe that it is the last CSA day for the year!  It will feel very odd next Tuesday and Thursday - like there's something we're forgetting, something we should be doing.  It will take us a few weeks to 'stand down'.

Today's last pick up is about stocking you up a bit: there's a choice of potatoes, cured and ready for storage.  Depending on your share size, you'll get varying amounts.  Potatoes do best with dark, cool storage - but with some moisture, not too dry.  If you've got a dry space in your pantry or kitchen, try placing a pan of water in with the potatoes.  Dry storage isn't a big problem - the skins will just dry out faster and become harder.  Not a huge issue 'cause you'll probably eat these potatoes within the next month or so!  You know that the skin holds half the nutrition - so just scrub 'em and keep eating the skin when you can!

We've also got a spaghetti squash for everybody - they store really well so you can pick from some 'ready to rumble' or one that you can eat with Christmas Dinner!  Although we don't think the flavor or texture is quite as nice, it is easy to microwave winter squashes - and cut your cooking time down by more than half!  Here's simple instructions for microwaving spaghetti squash - but it applies to all the squashes.  If you like it spicy, how about a mac-n- cheese style Spaghetti squash with jalapeno cream?  For something a bit more exotic, and not even slightly local, how about spaghetti squash with shrimps or scallops?  If you cook up a big one, this breakfast loaf sounds awesome - we may try it this weekend!

The variety of tomatoes going to CSA! The bags
of slicers have some to ripen on your counter!
Everyone is getting to choose from among a number of different tomatoes today.  There are some yellow pears, a very limited amount of 'Indigo Rose' and a few cherries.  There's also bags of Aunt Ruby's German Green (which seems to have become a CSA favorite), Brandywine, Opalka, mixed bags of the low-acid Husky Gold and Lemon Boy, as well as some conventional red.  Most of these are ripening in our sun room because of cold nights - they'd all be dead and done if we hadn't picked them last Friday!  Enjoy the last of summers' fruits!

And for everyone: what's a late September CSA without a pumpkin?  Everyone's getting a pumpkin today - some gorgeous Sorcerer, or a bit of Sugar Pie is available, by choice!  Sorcerer is a beautiful, big pumpkin, totally appropriate for decorating but also good eating!  It's not quite as smooth as Sugar Pie or quite as sweet - but delicious none the less!  The hefty size makes it an awesome selection for freezing!  We just roast pumpkin, take out the meat, mash it a bit with a fork, then we pack it into freezer bags in one cup portions - perfect for a batch of muffins or a pumpkin loaf all winter!  Just remember, if you're following another recipe and it asks for canned pumpkin - it may assume that the spices are in the canned product - so you may need to add the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove yourself!  Here's the pumpkin pie spice mix I use, and I make up a bit to have in the spice rack!

It's been so nice seeing everyone every Thursday - a great group of enthusiastic 'local foodies'.  We've had so much fun swapping recipes and cooking techniques, and even dehydrating tips (Thank, John!).  We'll be at the Global Market Saturdays until October 13th - hope to see some of you there!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

CSA For Sept. 25th

CSA 2012 is not going out with the bang we might have wished for.  It hasn't been a great harvest and we're just squeaking by the value set on everybodys' share.  In better years, we'd meet the value on the final pick up day and then have a bonus day - but this is not that kind of year.  Still, the last CSA pick up is always a sad day for us: we have so many delightful people within our CSA families and we won't be seeing them for a while now!  Oh, we'll see a few of them at the remaining Global Markets, some will come to the farm to buy eggs or potatoes through the winter, but mostly we're saying 'good bye' today - until next year!  The last CSA day is also a wee bit of a relief for us - the work, the toil is done for another year; maybe next week on Tuesday I'll finally give this house a really good cleaning!  Or maybe the dogs will finally get a haircut....

It's a spaghetti squash kind of a day - 'cause that is what the harvest is!  Everyone is getting spaghetti squash, in varying amounts, depending on the share size!  It's the most unique of Winter Squashes: once baked, it comes out of the skin like threads of spaghetti pasta!  It's nice as a side dish, either served savory with spaghetti sauce, or sweetened up a bit with maple syrup or brown sugar.  Treat is like a pasta, and toss it with veggies and feta cheese.   Keeping with a Mediterranean theme, how about a Chicken and Spaghetti Squash dinner?  Spice it up Moroccan style - yummy!  Cook up a big one, 'cause there is soooo much more to do with it:  we love these spaghetti squash pancakes from the divine Mollie Katzen!  How about a Spaghetti Squash and Meatball Muffin?  Or, mash it up good and use it in a snack muffin, like this recipe!

Everyone is also getting a 'Sorcerer' pumpkin, a medium size pumpkin.  Yes, it would make a good carving pumpkin for Halloween, but it's also good eating.  Not quite as smooth a texture as Sugar Pie' pumpkin, not quite as sweet, but still good eating!  Hmmm, pumpkin spice pancakes!  Yes, just roast a the pumpkin, mash up the meat for fresh pumpkin puree!  We've made a version of these before: just delightful, and the house smells so good!

We brought along a variety of potatoes, and everybody got a selection, based on the size of their shares.  There was a basic good red, 'Roko, the classic baked potato 'Russet', the delightful 'Island Sunshine', the very tasty 'German Butterball' and another red 'Purple Viking'.  Everyone also got to pick from a selection of tomatoes: cherry, classic red slicers, low-acid yellows, Brandywine or Aunt Ruby's German Green.

We also brought half of the watermelon and cantaloupe harvest; the other half will go to Thursdays' families.  It wasn't a big deal: they are generally small and unripe.  We've been covering them every night for almost two weeks - there's another chore we won't be sad to see finished.  On the kitchen counter, they should ripen within a week, you'll know when the fragrance of the fruit is apparent.  We're not sure how a family of four will split these little guys: maybe a spoonful for everybody in yogurt or on ice cream!

We've so enjoyed our Tuesday CSA families!  We hope you've all enjoyed the fresh-picked food - harvested just for you!  We hope we've introduced some new food to some of you and shared some good recipes!  We've love to hear from you and get ideas for next year:  Caryl mentioned at today's pick up that she'd love sunflower heads, ready to harvest sunflower seeds to roast!  That's doable!  What would you like to see next year?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

More Than Just Frost....

Another bucket load to unload at the garage!
With just a touch of Mother Nature's hand, the growing season is largely done for us!  Friday night was not just frost, or even hard frost: Friday's night's temperatures went well below the freezing mark.  Our thermometer read -7 C (about 18 F) at 6 AM Saturday morning.  Vegetables are done growing for this year!  There had been hope for the summer squash and cucumbers after the touch of frost last week: the tops had been touched but the inner plant was okay and they had started to flower again and had some new growth.  Now, all hope is gone and the plants are all blackened, collapsed heaps, almost unrecognizable.

We had some warning in the weather forecast - although it did get even colder than predicted!  Thursday was CSA day for us so we were busy harvesting for our families, but taking a little extra of everything when we could.  Friday was all-out last-chance harvesting.  Where do you start when it might be your last chance to harvest?  Well, first you prioritize:  anything in the ground like potatoes and beets will be fine.  Then you look at the economic value of our products and those products in demand.  For us, priorities were winter squash and tomatoes.  Everyone is tired of summer squash: they've sauteed, muffined, loaved and frozen to the max!  Winter squash, from pumpkins to Kabocha to Delicata, that's what customers and CSA families are looking for now.  And tomatoes - well, you can never have enough!  Lots of customers are still looking for good paste or plum tomatoes for canning sauces and salsas!
The tomato plants are just crispy now!

So, Friday morning right after milking, the harvesting frenzy began.  I set to work on tomatoes, Farmer Man to winter squash.  Farmer Man definitely had the harder task (as is also so!), because he was cutting squash, filling the tractor bucket, unloading at the garage and doing it all again.  That included twenty pound carving pumpkins, fifteen pound Marina di Chioggia, heavy Australian Blue pumpkins, ten pound Red Kuri and numerous five to ten pounders of everything else.  We briefly considered not attending the Global Market, to get in as much as we could.  We decided we could get enough done, and still be there to sell as expected - just a wee bit more disorganized then usually.  I set to work in the tomatoes, starting with the Romas, Margeritas and Opalkas, using a three bucket system: ripe, almost ripe and green.  We both left lots of small, under ripe product in the field - just not worth our time and space!

Fortunately, Henry and Derrick came to help and got right to work in the tomatoes with me.  We worked feverishly all morning.  About 1:30 we stopped to prepare for the market.  Fortunately, much was at hand and we knew how much we needed to prepare.  Potatoes were already curing in the garage, getting ready for winter storage in the root cellar.  Farmer Man bagged potatoes, I portioned tomatoes, we both weighed and labelled winter squash.  Off to Global Market for me, Farmer Man returned to the farm to keep harvesting!

Basil in the hoop house is largely okay,
except for a little patch right by the wall.
I must admit, even with the knowledge I had, I was not fully prepared for the temperature drop at the market Friday night.  I was freezing, just freezing by the time Farmer Man came to pick me up!  I had big plans to keep harvesting, but after milking the goats, I was assured that there was not much more to do except cover excess squash that was on tables outside the garage.  Up early Saturday morning to prepare for market and we could see the damage had been done!  Prepping for the Global Market Saturday morning was quite easy because everything was right at hand!  A peak in the hoop house, and everything there seemed largely okay!

Even though the 'growing' season may be finished, the work is not done by any means.  There are still potatoes and beets to take up.  Garlic still has to be planted.  Stakes and cages have to be removed from tomatoes, assorted other tags, fencing and such has to be picked up.  We'll leave a lot of plants in the ground, as is, for winter, to help capture snow and decrease soil erosion.  And maybe, just maybe, our late planting of lettuce will still grow and we'll have a fresh salad in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

CSA for September 20th, 2012

Left, Hubbard blue and orange, right, Kabocha orange
and blue!
I noticed this morning, during milking, that the goats' coats are getting thicker and rougher.  I noticed it particularly on Choco, who has the shiniest, silkiest coat of all the goats!  Winter is just around the corner.....

This is the second to last CSA basket of the year!  It still has some of summer's great flavors - the tomatoes have been doing all right in their protected little spot, although not ripening very quickly.  The weather forecast predicts a cold night for Saturday, so we may pick everything in the tomato patch Saturday afternoon.  This could be the last taste of truly vine-ripened tomatoes.

Some of the Full Shares and the Single Shares are getting Hubbard Squash today.  This is a very old American variety, said to be part of the Native Americans 'Three Sisters' plantings of corn, beans and squash.  The Fulls mostly have a blue Hubbard, although some have Kabocha, the Singles have orange Hubbards.  Now remember: for the Part Shares who have blue Kabocha 'Confection' - Winter Squash recipes are largely interchangeable!  I like the look of this custard pie made with Hubbard squash - sounds like a family heirloom recipe.  This Maple-Nut Hubbard side dish sounds really yummy, too - and simple!  I think it would be great with pork!  This weekend we're going to try this recipe for Sweet and Spicy Kabocha Squash - maybe with chicken.

We're sharing two of our favorite potatoes today!  I think we've mentioned that 'Sangre' is the one we use the most, but today's choicest get used a lot, too!  We've bagged up 'Linzer Deleketess', a beautiful old fingerling: waxy and dense, but beautiful nutty flavor.  Great in tinfoil on the BBQ, great roasted - and make too much: they make awesome hash browns!  'German Butterball' is the other selection today.  It's similar to Yukon Gold, which used to be a fav, but the flavor is just outstanding!  Good for fries, boiling, mashing!

So, for the FULL SHARES:  4 lbs. Linzer fingerling potatoes, 4 lbs. German Butterball potatoes, garlic, lg. Hubbard or Kabocha squash, beets, Aunty Ruby's German Green tomato, slicer tomatoes, pint of mixed cherry/grape tomatoes, cucumber.

For the PART SHARES:  3 lbs. Linzer fingerling potatoes, 3 lbs. German Butterball potatoes, garlic, Kabocha 'Confection' winter squash, beets, Aunt Ruby's German Green tomato, slicer tomatoes, Husky Gold tomato, pint of cherry /grape tomatoes.

For the SINGLE SHARES:  2 lbs. Linzer fingerling potatoes, 2 lbs. German Butterball potatoes, garlic, Hubbard squash, beets, Husky Gold tomato, red slicer, pint of cherry/grape tomatoes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

CSA for September 18th!

From left, regular tomato, top Lemon Boy, Husky Gold,
below Pink Brandywine, ripe Aunt Ruby's Green,
far right unripe Aunty Ruby's.
It seems very much like Fall around the farm!  The garden renters are pulling their gardens; what was productive growing space just a few weeks ago is now barren earth, with little piles of brown, crispy vines and bushes.  Throughout our own gardens, touches of frost are evident in the open spaces everywhere and all the plants are looking tired and drooping.  Along our driveway and throughout the shelterbelt, the frost has started the process of leaves turning.  The early fall colour - particularly ash, is already bright yellow, and the Manitoba maples are well on their way to gold!  Even the goats seem to feel it: their favorite treat, willow branches, seems to be attacked with extra urgency, as if they know they won't be getting it much longer.

With the coming of Fall and the end of the growing season, so too comes the end of another season of CSA.  Next week will be our last delivery of boxes!  CSA has gone longer this year than last - every growing season is different, it seems.  We'll reminisce about the successes and failures later - meanwhile we're still hurrying to get things harvested and finished for the last week!  We'd like to finish our potato harvest, to give the varieties adequate time to cure for good winter storage!  We're hoping to pick a lot of tomatoes before it's too late (which could be any night now!) so everyone can have some green ones to ripen over the next few weeks.  So many tasks still to complete.....

It is a tomato tasting day for Tuesdays CSA!  A lot of our interesting heirlooms are always late.  Everyone has the golden 'Husky Gold' to try today, a low-acid, sweet, juicy tomato.  We've included the weird and wonderful looking 'Aunt Ruby's German Green'; just a delightful tomato that stays green.  It is ripe when it's a little soft and has some yellow tints to the green.  Hardly anyone is getting one that is actually ripe today but just give it a few days on the counter.  The Full Shares also have Brandywine, probably the most famous heirloom.  It is pink when ripe and just awesome flavor.  As Farmer Man likes to say: "If you go somewhere for a $40 hamburger, the tomato on it will probably be Brandywine!"  Enjoy the taste sensations!

Everyone is getting a 'Sugar Pie' pumpkin today.  This little pumpkin is the one for pumpkin pie; although all pumpkins are edible, this one has smoother flesh and sweeter taste.  It is also excellent as a side dish, simply roasted and mashed a bit.  We also use it in muffins and loaves.  It would be great in this recipe for Curried Squash Soup with Lentils.  Don't forget to save the seeds for roasting!

So, for the FULL SHARES: 3 lbs. Mark Warshaw potato, 4 lbs. Cherry Red potato, lg. bundle of beets, Sugar Pie pumpkin, Bush Delicata winter squash, cucumber, assorted tomatoes, onions, garlic.

For the PART SHARES:  2 lbs. Mark Warshaw potatoes, 3 lbs. Cherry Red potatoes, sm. bundle of beets, Sugar Pie Pumpkin, Bush Delicata winter squash, Lemon Ball cucumber, slicer cucumber, assorted tomatoes, garlic.

For the SINGLE SHARES:  2 lbs. Cherry Red potatoes, sm. bundle beets, Sugar Pie Pumpkin, Lemon Ball cucumber, slicer cucumber, assorted tomatoes, garlic.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Open Farm Day Manitoba, 2012!

Set up and ready to go first thing today!

Today was Open Farm Day in Manitoba, and we opened our farm to the public.  The last couple of years, we've had an Open House late in September for our CSA members and Farmers Market regulars, so we knew how we were going to do it.  We had a couple of tables out, with some of our produce that was fresh and ready to go.  We had some of our neat heirloom tomatoes and rare potatoes out on display.  And we had our hand-made soap, and natural skin care products.  We had our CSA promo board and the few brochures we have left, plus lots of business cards.  We even brought outside the thirty year old aerial photos of the farm, for contrast.  We had no idea how many people we may see during this province-wide event.  We were wondering if we'd just see some of our usual suspects.....especially with Veteran's Way being marked as 'Closed - Local Traffic Only'.

The Squash display, with some heirloom tomatoes!
Well, the goats and us made some new friends this year!  We had a great turn-out; we were very steady all day and met some awesome new people and families!  Yes, we did have a good showing of CSA members, and we did see some of our Farmers Market customers - a number who had never been here before.  But, we loved making new friends, and had sooooo much fun with all the children who came out!  Yes, the goats were a hit!  The chickens got over-fed with scratch treats.  The barn kittens, unfortunately, scratched a few people this afternoon, but they are just not used to so much attention.  Our doggies, Blaze in particular, were in heaven with all the love and pats!

It is so fun to see a child 'meet' a real chicken for the first time!  Some poor families are going to be listening to 'cock-a-doodle-doo' for some time - kids loved the roosters crowing!  So many gorgeous giggles!  Some youngsters were climbing into their cars still crowing - and I'm sure Mom and Dad would have to put up with it at least until the next farm!  For kids the animals were definitely the attraction, but we had some great conversations with Moms and Dads about food, about CSA, about Farmers Markets!  We had some gardeners who loved looking at, trying and talking about growing all our unusual varieties of tomatoes, potatoes and squash, both summer and winter!  We had some grain farmers visit and had interesting conversations about growing a whole bunch of different stuff, rather than one crop.  A fabulous day, all around!

Bad blogger that I am, I got a few photos early and then the camera got rather forgotten in my pocket as I went from hostess to tour guide to shopgirl to the 'Vanna White' of winter squash!  Oh, well!  Fortunately, a few CSA members were around taking some photos (Looking forward to them, Naomi!) And, The Brandon Sun and the Western Producer were here, so there may be a few more photos out there!  Loved hearing, too, about the number of farms people were planning to visit: I hope all the participating farms had as much fun as we did!  Thank you to everyone who came for a visit - hopefully see you next year!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

CSA For September 13th!

Left, common red, Lemon Boy, Husky Gold, below
that a Pink Brandywine, big monster is Aunt Ruby's Green
and an unripe Aunt Ruby.
First morning that I've reached for my little down vest.  We love our down vests:  Spring, Fall or Winter they are that perfect little extra warmth without adding bulk or weight.  This is the first day since, oh, April maybe, that I've reached for it!

It's a tomato-tasting kind of a day.  You all have some variety in your baskets!  Everyone got an heirloom 'Aunty Ruby's German Green' - a tomato that is ripe when it is green with a yellow/orange tint and somewhat soft to the touch.  It is not sour like an unripe tomato - it is juicy and sweet and delightful!  You mostly all got one unripe - let it sit on the counter for a few days!  There's a mix of the yellow, low-acid tomatoes.  The warm yellow is 'Husky Gold', the paler yellow is 'Lemon Boy'.  Both very tasty without the bite of red tomatoes.  The Full Shares also got a pink Brandywine - perhaps the best known of the heirlooms for outstanding flavor!  Brandywine is rarely pretty - but always tasty.  Everyone has a basket with mixed grape/cherry tomatoes.  The red cherry and yellow and red grapes you've had before.  Also in there is the heirloom pink/brown 'Chocolate Cherry', a juicy burst of flavor.  And everyone will get 'Indigo Rose', although not all are ripe.  It is ready to eat when it is purple/black with a distinct Rosy pink end!  If you get an unripe one, leave it on the counter for a few days.

Spaghetti squash is very unique in that it's the only one that comes out of the shell in pasta-like threads. Pretty much all the rest of the Winter Squash come out with a texture like mashed potatoes.  We love spaghetti squash with spaghetti sauce, or just butter and brown sugar or maple syrup.  Here's a great recipe we shared on our Facebook page for a spicy spaghetti squash with black beans!  So cute, served using the skin like a bowl!
From left: yellow grape, red grape, Chocolate Cherry,
cherry tomato, Indigo Rose.

The Winter Squash are sooo awesome for baking.  A pumpkin pie from a fresh pumpkin is the best!  If you're roasting up a squash for dinner, sneak out a cup of the cooked flesh for baking with later.  We use most of the Winter Squash interchangeably in baking recipes; we'd have trouble going back to using the canned stuff.  Our go-to recipe is here for muffins.  We've made the muffins with the 'Sugar Pie' pumpkins, Hubbard, Kabocha and Butternut squashes!  All great, all different in small ways!  Don't forget that a lot of canned mixes have the spices included, so if you're substituting in a recipe, you may need to add the cinnamon, ginger, allspice or clove, and nutmeg.  You can make up your own little jar of 'pumpkin pie spice' to have on hand: here's a good mix here!  You've all got the classic 'Sugar Pie' pumpkin today  - the best for pies and baking because of it's smooth texture and sweeter flavor!

So, for the FULL SHARES:  4 lbs. Roko red potatoes, 4 lbs. Island Sunshine potatoes, mix of slicing tomatoes, pint of cherry and grape tomatoes, garlic, onions, Sugar Pie pumpkin, cucumber, a dozen corn on the cob, zucchini.

For the PART SHARES:  3 lbs. Roko red potatoes, 3 lbs. Island Sunshine potatoes, assorted slicing tomatoes, pint of cherry/grape tomatoes, garlic, onions, Sugar Pie pumpkin, cucumber 9 corn on the cob, zucchini.

For the SINGLE SHARES:  2 lbs. Roko red potatoes, 2 lbs, Island Sunshine potatoes, assorted slicing tomatoes, pint of cherry/grape tomatoes, garlic, onions, Sugar Pie pumpkin, cucumber, six corn on the cob, zucchini.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

CSA For September 11th.

A touch of frost on Sunday!
The day started rather sad, with all the coverage of the memorials for 9/11.  Hard to shake the feeling, especially as it was cold, cloudy and windy as we got started this morning.  I was wearing the most layers I have this season - and rather wishing for a hat!  Time to get into the chest and get out my beloved caps and fingerless gloves!

A touch of frost on Sunday.  It is really just in evidence in one part of the gardens, in the top of the slope on the east end, where there is no shelter belt.  Odd place, as frost is suppose to sink.....Some of the winter squash are all that appear damaged, and it is only a minor set back.  The top-most leaves have 'crisped' up a bit, nothing major!  It certainly does make one feel the season is drawing to a close; the renters are starting to clean up their plots, leaving bare, sad little patches.

We hope you're coming to see us this Sunday, during Manitoba's Open Farm Day!  We'll be giving little tours from Noon to 4 PM, and we're just five minutes east of Brandon!  All the instructions are in the previous blog post.  Pet a goat, pat a doggie, chase a chicken...and a free barn kitten with every visit!

Everyone is getting a little tomato taste fest today!  Everyone has a golden tomato, a 'Husky Gold'.  All the golden tomatoes are low in acid, and great for people with stomach problems, canker sores and such.  They are also very tasty - sweet, juicy without the acid 'bite' of red tomatoes.  Everyone is also getting a mixed pint of cherry and grape tomatoes.  It includes an heirloom 'Black Cherry', golden and red grape and the wee cherry tomatoes.  The Full Shares also have an 'Opalka', an heirloom  Roma type tomato often used for sauce and salads: meaty and flavorful!

So, for the FULL SHARES:  5 lbs. Bintje white potato, 5 lbs. Roko red potato, slicing tomatoes, pint mixed cherry/grape tomatoes, cucumber, 9 cobs of corn, spaghetti squash, mixed bell, jalapeno and Hungarian Hot Wax peppers, garlic, onions.

PART SHARES: 3 lbs Bintje white potatoes, 3 lbs. Roko red potatoes, slicing tomatoes, pint mixed cherry/grape tomatoes, cucumber, 6 cobs corn, spaghetti squash, bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic, onions.

SINGLE SHARES:  2 lbs. Bintje white potatoes, 2 lbs, Roko red potatoes, slicing tomatoes, pint mixed cherry/grape tomatoes, cucumber, 4 cobs corn, small spaghetti squash, bell pepper, garlic, onions.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Open Farm Day 2012!

Grizzly Bear would love to meet you!
Last Spring, we were contacted by Manitoba Agriculture, Farm, and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) about participating in the province's Open Farm Day.  We had come to their attention thru Food Matters Manitoba, I believe, and seemed a good choice because we were close to Brandon, a mixed operation and kind of known in town.  Since we already do an Open House for our CSA members and Market regulars, we figured we may as well!  So, next Sunday, September 16th, noon to 4 PM, are you coming for a visit?

What should I tell you about coming to the Farm?  Well, we're not a quaint, pastoral little place.  We're a messy, noisy operation working seven days a week!  We're weedy, slightly unkempt, our chickens free-range and we take goats and dogs for walks so there will be, ummm, excrement. If there's no rain this week, it will be dusty on our tour and there may be bugs.  The chickens may be squawking, the roosters will probably be crowing and the goats may be calling; it probably won't be peaceful.  Our goats are in their natural state and have horns, which require some respect.  (The goats will be in pasture, not free-ranging).  We have two roosters, largely nice boys, but they deserve a wide berth and some respect 'cause their spurs can rip your pants.  Sounds like fun?

We would really be delighted to show you around!  We just want you to be prepared!  Dress very casually, wear comfortable, sturdy shoes that can get dirty.  Dog and kittie treats will be well received.  We are just five minutes East of Brandon, quite easy to access.  You will head east on Veteran's Way, a road officially closed due to the construction on the Bypass.  You will be 'local traffic' on Sunday, so just go past the barrier.  Veteran's Way is straight, curves at the RCMP office (at Grand Valley Strawberries, if you're familiar), straightens out again and then coming up almost right away on your left is a little gravel road called Chalmers or 107W.  Turn left onto Chalmers, going north, and we're at the top of the hill, on the east side.  To get you oriented, we are directly east two miles from ACC On The Hill!  We'll have some signs out that day, that MAFRI has been kind enough to supply!

Not close enough to visit us?  There's lot of farms of all types all around the province and around the country that are open! Check out to find out what's going on around you!  If you're in America, there's probably something to be found with your local extension office.  So get out of the city and visit a farm this weekend!  Give a hug to the people growing your food - we could use it! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The End of One Chapter for the Goat Triplets!

Farmer Man feeds Marble, one last time!
This morning was the last morning that our little goat triplets will get milk.  Yes, Marble, Myrvan and Marty are now officially weaned!  They grow up so fast!

If you follow this blog, you know the triplets were rejected by Mama Mabel at birth, and we've been bottle feeding them since the beginning.  It was, originally, a big daily chore:  the babies got milk four times a day for the first few weeks!  We'd milk the does in the morning, feed the triplets, a few hours later we'd warm milk in a 'bain marie' style, and feed again.  We'd do that again in the afternoon, milk and feed again in the evening.  The chore went down to three times a day, then two times a day.  Two times a day was fairly easy to fit in because we fed them at milking time, morning and night.  Our Mama Goldie takes a long time to milk; we'd milk Mabel first, fill the babies' bottles, then Farmer Man would feed them while I milked Goldie.  The feeding itself never took long - the babies could empty a full bottle quickly!  Not necessarily neatly, but quickly!

Myrvan and Marty are big boys now!
Milking has been a messy, sloppy chore!  We got used to coming back to the house somewhat splattered and changing into clean clothes!  Bottles would drip, goats would stop to sneeze, milk moustaches would get whipped off on Farmer Man's shirt!  It was, however, good bonding time and we really see the difference in how comfortable the triplets are with people, particularly in contrast with the twins who came last and were well cared for by Mama Choco.  Gaffer, being the first born and only kid for a few weeks, has always gotten lots of attention.  The twins came last, almost a month after Gaffer and two weeks after the triplets, and it's not that we were bored with's just we were busy with the triplets, and busy with planting, busy with weeding and Choco was keeping them in line!

The amount the triplets have been getting at each feeding has been slowly reduced over the weeks from ten ounces each feeding, to eight, back up to ten when we went to down to two feedings a day, then eight, then six, then four ounces.  We went to just a morning feeding a couple of weeks ago and bumped the volume up a bit, then reduced, reduced, reduced until this mornings' feeding was really just a mouthful!  It was all over in seconds!  The triplets have all taken to a grain ration with gusto, enjoy their hay and love, love, love some willow tree!  We're sorry to see the shared time go...but perhaps we'll just turn it into grooming time - so we can still hang with the triplets! 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

CSA For September 6th!

Some interesting things for the trade table!
Lots of signs of the imminent arrival of Fall around the farm today!  Our day started with the barn cats being very interested in getting into Farmer Man's shop, where the feed is stored.  Once we got into the shop, definite signs that a little critter had been feasting on the sunflower seeds that the goats get as part of their grain ration.  More signs of mice in the bean patch, where lots of beans were discarded because of mice bites! The mice like to eat out the seeds in the older beans, nibbling a perfect little half-moon out of the bean.  We apologize if any nibbled beans escaped our scrutiny!  Also, while in the bean patch this morning, a flock of wild turkeys went overhead - a very distinct sound.  They were followed shortly after by a flock of geese, honking on their way south west.

Some interesting things on the trade table today!  Some different tomatoes, including the golden 'Husky Boy', a low-acid tomato but very sweet, juicy yet meaty.  There is also a heirloom cherry tomato called 'Black Cherry', a dusky purple/rose coloured tomato.  Very tasty, not really sweet, kind of 'smoky', but very juice!  Maybe try some Lemon Ball cucumbers, an old variety that's round, yellow, thin-skinned and very tasty!  Some tomatillos are available, as well, if you've been yearning for some fresh Salsa Verde!

We've dug a few new varieties of potatoes for you today:  'Blue Mac' is a blue/purple skinned white potato with a lovely flavor, smoother texture - but not as creamy as Sangria.  We've also got 'Island Sunshine', the first dig of a baking potato.  This one has the fluffy texture of a 'Russet Burbank' with a more golden flesh.  Excellent baked, mashed or good for fries!  A good pick on corn, tomatoes and cucumbers for everyone today.

Everyone is getting spaghetti squash - the rather unique Winter Squash whose cooked flesh will come out of the skin like spaghetti!  We usually cut them in half, remove the seeds, rub with butter or oil, and bake face down in the oven at about 350 C. until the skin can easily be pierced with a fork (for the big guys, maybe 45 minutes to an hour!).  You can cook them in the microwave and cut your time down by more than half, but we don't think the flavor or texture is as nice.  Once cooked, the meat can be scrapped out with a fork and comes out quite like spaghetti!  You can eat it like spaghetti with tomato sauce, or just with butter, salt and pepper.  I like all my winter squash, including this one, with a little brown sugar or maple syrup!  Cook extra of the squash and try this recipe for spaghetti squash pancakes - they're very good!  Remember, uncooked piece of Winter Squash will hold nicely in the fridge for 7 - 10 days, so don't be intimidated if you got a big one!  Try to leave the seeds in a half you won't be cooking right away!  A whole Winter Squash, kept in a dark and cool place, will keep for months!

So for the FULL SHARES: 4 lbs. Blue Mac potatoes, 4 lbs. Island Sunshine potatoes, 8 cobs corn, cucumbers, Lemon ball cucumber, 2 lbs. tomatoes, 1 lb. Dragons Tongue beans,  Romanesque zucchini, Crookneck squash, Patty Pan squash, Spaghetti Winter Squash,

PART SHARES:  3 lbs. Blue Mac white potatoes, 3 lbs. Island Sunshine potatoes, 5 cobs corn, cucumber, 1 lbs. tomatoes, 1 lbs. Dragons Tongue beans, Romanesque zucchini, Crookneck squash, Patty Pan squash, Spaghetti Winter Squash.

SINGLE SHARES:  2 lbs. Blue Mac potatoes, 2 lbs. Island Sunshine potatoes, 3 cobs corn, cucumbers, 1 lbs. tomatoes, 1/2 lbs. Dragon Tongue beans, Romanesque zucchini, Crookneck squash, Patty Pan squash, Spaghetti Winter Squash.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

CSA For September 4th!

A couple of garden renters were a little
overwhelmed with tomatoes!
I started to type August in the title...just habit I guess!  With the changing of the month, we also see a change in the gardens today.  The Summer Squash looks, well, tired.  The plants are a little broken and battered from all the harvesting, there is not much on them and just a little flowering going on now.  (There may be a collective cheer going on right now!)  However, with cooler days and a little rain, they may rebound!  The Dragons Tongue Beans are also winding down, this is probably the last Tuesday pick for them!

But, as one thing ends another comes on.  The field tomatoes are doing tremendously right now!  Some of the tomatoes today came from a couple of our garden renters: they went away for a week vacation to Banff and came back to an overloaded garden!  They don't can tomatoes, took what they could use and asked us if we'd could make use of any of the ripe ones!  The peppers are coming nicely and we have high hopes for the watermelons and cantaloupe.  The Winter Squash is just beginning, and the late potatoes, some of our most interesting varieties, are getting to be a decent size!  Our onions are a disappointment this year - not enough rain for the sandy soil we planted them in.  We're also not sure the broccoli will be able to recover from the attack of the flea beetles.  Every year it is the same in that some things do well, some things just don't.  It's one of the reasons we plant a wide variety of stuff, and work with growing partners.

We have a wide variety of Winter Squash growing.  You'll probably be able to try things you've never had before!  Today, everybody is getting a Butternut Squash - probably one of the best known kinds.  It's famous for its' sweet, nutty flavor and smooth texture.  Just a reminder:  with Winter Squash you do not eat the skin and the seeds are eaten only when roasted.  Cut the squash down the middle, scoop out the seed packet and then roast or BBQ in the skin, or peel, cut into chunks and boil or steam.  One of Farmers Markets regulars, a very elderly lady, has trouble cutting into Winter Squash, and freely admits that she takes them into her garage and throws them on the concrete floor!  The broken pieces are then washed and prepped!  Any recipe for Winter Squash can be used with any of the varieties; the complexion of the dish will change with the varying aspects of the different squash.  Buttercup and Red Kuri are a little drier, Kabochas and Butternut are a little creamier.  Winter Squash, unlike Summer Squash, keep for literally months if cool, dry and dark.  They continue to ripen and particularly Kabocha improve with curing!

Here's a link for doing Butternut on the BBQ!  Here's one of our favorites:  Curried Butternut and Apple Soup - we served it at the farm's Open House last year!  Butternut, really any of the Winter Squash, can be used in any recipe for pumpkin pie, muffins or cookies!  We just bake a big one, mash it up as a side dish that night with dinner, and use the rest directly substituted into a muffin or loaf recipe.  Or how about healthy baked Butternut Chips?

So, for the FULL SHARES:  4 lbs. Sangria Red potatoes, 4 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, cucumbers including a Lemon Ball, zucchini, lg. Butternut squash, green pepper, 7 cobs corn, 1 lb.  Dragon's Tongue beans, tomatoes, onions.

PART SHARES:  3 lbs. Sangria Red potatoes, 3 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, cucumber, zucchini, med. Butternut squash, 5 cobs corn, 1 lb. Dragon's Tongue beans, tomatoes.

SINGLE SHARES:  2 lbs. Sangria Red potatoes, 2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, cucumber, zucchini, small Butternut squash, 3 cobs corn, 1 lb. Dragons Tongue beans, tomatoes.

Monday, September 3, 2012

And The Berkshires Are Off...

It looked like it was going to go sooo well! 
Today was set to be the day the Berkshire pigs were going away, going to market, going to Disneyland: how ever you'd like to put it.  It is Labour Day Monday, but East 40 Packers, our processor, receives today so that everybody can be busy tomorrow, I guess.  This has, historically, been a difficult day for us, sending away an animal that you've raised from a baby can be emotionally trying.  We have, this time, been a little more careful to treat the Berkshires as livestock: no naming, no scratching behind the ears, no hanging out with them.  They made it a little easier, too, by biting Farmer Man and attacking a chicken over the last month.  Still, there is a certain sadness sending them off to their fate.

Their departure will lessen the daily chores a little bit, which will be nice.  Ten less mouths to feed and, boy, were those hungry mouths!  It will be a little easier on Farmer Man not to be loading those large bags of feed, or hauling over big buckets of veggies twice a day.  I'll be happy not having their aroma wafting towards our bedroom window when the wind blows a certain way!

We're were hoping for easy loading; we didn't want to startle or frighten the pigs, we wanted everything calm and cool.  Farmer Man had been 'training' the Berks for quite a while to follow him with the buckets of veggies and bread.  He'd lead them down to the loading end of the pasture and feed them there. worked to a certain extent.....

Our cattle-raising neighbors, the Oxleys, had graciously agreed to take them in, since we don't have a stock trailer.  Martin O. drove up early this morning, after goat milking, scoped out the situation then positioned the trailer at the west end of the pasture.  The trick would be to herd the pigs into the trailer, channelling them through some loose fence panels.  Martin's girlfriend will forever be 'Ms. T' in our minds, after Mr. T. of A-Team fame, because she held her side of the fence all morning, even though confessing to be newish to farming and a complete newbie to pigs!  And, yes, it took pretty much all morning!

How about a little bread?
 Farmer Man did, indeed, have the Berks trained quite well.  They did follow him right up to the trailer, right away!  All ten.  The step up, into the trailer, proved the problem.  Even though he had tantalizing food such as dry bread, apples and cucumbers laid out deeper inside the trailer, none of the pigs could seem to get up into the trailer, a matter of less than a foot.  Farmer Man cajoled with food for over half an hour, even going to get the cobs of corn we had planned to freeze this afternoon!  No dice!  Eventually, we got five of them corralled in the loose panels, and forced them to climb in by slowly shutting the heavy door of the trailer behind them - they had nowhere else to go.  Now, however, the other five pigs were onto us....and had to be slowly rounded up and herded toward the fence panels.

We ended up getting the last five in pretty much one by one.  Herd into the little 'corral', head into the trailer by closing the heavy trailer door behind them, etc, etc.  There was a few break outs, a few of us got a finger caught in the panels, got knocked around a little or got stepped on but no major injuries!  The pigs would always run down to the far end of the pasture, back to their wallow (just so they could get us really dirty), so it was a lot of walking and herding, a lot of patience.  The last two proved quite difficult; fortunately father Oxley, Mike, arrived with some press board panels, which helped close off any chance of escape.  Finally, all ten were loaded, happily munching on all the good veggies, and they were off!  Thank you to the Oxley clan for all your help!  Now, we look forward to some awesome Berkshire pork in our freezer for this winter, meat we know has never been fed antibiotics or hormones, that was raised with kindness, lovely pasture and lots of naturally grown vegetables!