Another fantastic harvest at Our Farm!

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Donkey pictures

It’s starting to get dark awfully quickly these days when the sun goes down, so we didn’t get any pictures of our new family member last night. This morning was another story, though!

 

 

 

 

So he’s basically a smaller version of Banjo with a bit more *ahem* equipment. And a green halter instead of a purple one.

We’ve had lots of great suggestions for his name so far, and nominations will remain open for another 24 hours. After that, we’ll pick our top three choices from the suggestions and let you vote. Remember, anyone can suggest a name and vote on the top three options – you don’t have to be a CSA member or a previous customer.


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Name-That-Donkey contest time!

We’ve had quite the evening here at Our Farm. Banjo the donkey went to a new home where he’ll be happy hanging out with horses and not have to put up with sheep, and while we’re happy that he’ll be where he belongs we were still sad to see him go.

But there’s great news! We took a quick drive down the road to pick up our new donkey. He’s been living with sheep and goats, and he seems to be settling in with our sheep pretty well so far.

There’s just one problem, folks. Our new donkey doesn’t have a name. Can you help us with this?

We’ll take name suggestions here in the comments and on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Our.Farm.CSA and then we’ll pick our top three choices and let you decide!

Our new donkey is a five year old full male jack, and he’s what would be considered a large miniature donkey. It got dark out pretty quickly, so I’ll take some pictures tomorrow morning and you’ll be able to see if your favourite name “fits” the little guy.


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I can only imagine…

You’re standing in your kitchen right now with your hands on your hips thinking, “What on *earth* am I going to do with all these cucumbers?!”

Now I’m here to help you out with that. How about cucumber sandwiches (no recipe necessary for that), gazpacho, fridge pickles (no canning required!) or fermented spicy cucumber kraut? If I told you kimchi today when I was giving you your veggies… sorry. I got mixed up, I meant kraut.

There’s a website called Real Food Freaks that posted a recipe just last week for Fermented Spicy Cucumber Kraut – think sauerkraut but made with cucumber. And because it’s fermented you can keep it around for a long time and still preserve the nutrients and tastiness.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups cucumber (finely grated in a food processor)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion (Or 1/4 cup fresh)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoons liquid whey
  • 1 heaped tablespoon sea salt
  • filtered water (to cover)

Optional

  • 4 pieces chili peppers, chopped (These are mini,but spicy, from the Asian store. Use more or less to taste)

Note

Lacto-fermentation is the process of fermentation using a fruit or vegetables natural enzymes to make a vinegar.  The end product is a live probiotic that will aid in digestion of proteins and other hard to digest foods.  Lacto-fermentation also helps to build your bodies good flora and will assist in fighting off the bad bacteria that will make you sick.

Directions

Step 1 Grate the cucumber and set aside. (Make sure you cut of the cucumber ends first. There is an enzyme in the ends that will make the cucs mushy if you don’t)
Step 2 In a quart mason jar add all the ingredients except water and cucumber.
Step 3 Add grated cucumber to the jar and fill with water. Leaving 1 inch of air at the top. I usually add a lettuce leaf at the top to hold the ferment under the liquid.
Step 4 Cover tightly. Leave at room temperature for 3 – 5 days. Test to see if it is slightly sour at day three if not keep fermenting.
Step 5
When soured to taste, refrigerate. Then enjoy!

It sounds pretty straightforward, and I’m going to give it a try myself this week so I’ll let you know how it works for us.

Another idea for helping to use up some of the cukes, that will buy you at least a week or two of time to go through them, is to make fridge pickles with them. It’s great for the smaller pickles and ones with a few more bumps on them (they tend to make crispier pickles), and it can be done in small batches. The extra-special beauty of fridge pickles is that anyone can make them, and you don’t have to worry about traditional canning – you just can’t leave them out at room temperature. HipGirlsHome.com has a great page all about fridge pickles and provides the following instructions:

Here’s the formula for making roughly one quart or two pints of fridge pickles:

1. Wash and cut up your vegetables and pack them into a clean jar. Use whatever veg you’ll eat (or put into a martini): cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, onions, garlic, etc. Weight of your starting produce will vary depending on what you’re pickling. Eyeball it at the market, and if you end up with too little veg, just use a smaller jar (or make more brine to account for extra space in the jar).

It’s up to your palate how to prepare the veggies. I’m a fan of the raw pack (putting the veg in the jar raw), but if you like a more tender, cooked texture, then you can blanch the veggies and/or cook them in the brine (step 3) for a bit to soften them up.

2. Add spices, fresh or dried directly to the jar. For a quart jar, use anywhere between 1/4 and 1/2 tsp of whole dried spices like peppercorns, fennel, cumin, coriander, dill, cloves, or whatever sounds delicious to you.

3. Combine in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil:

  • 1 cup any kind of vinegar
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 Tbs of Kosher or any non-iodized salt

You can add sugar if you like a sweet pickle, but the above is a standard tart pickle recipe. Try starting with 1 tsp sugar; be sure to taste the brine to see if you like it.

4. Pour your just-boiled brine over the vegetables in the jar.

5. Wipe any vinegar spills from the rim with a clean towel or a paper towel and put on the lid. Any lid is fine here since you’re not shelf-sealing the jar, reuse your already used two-piece lids or recycle those single-piece screw lids that once capped salsa, tomato sauce or peanut butter.

6. Now for the hard part. Hide the jar in the back of the fridge for at least a week. Two weeks is better, and three weeks is best. Your pickles will only continue to become more deliciously infused. But if you break into them early, I won’t tell. They’ll keep what seems like forever, but if you have pickle experiments in there from more than 6 months back it’s probably time to do a fridge inventory.

That leaves us with gazpacho. You can put practically any summer veggies in a gazpacho, and it’s a great way to use some of the lovely garlic that was in your bins today, too. I found a cucumber-based gazpacho recipe at foodandstyle.com but next week once we have more tomatoes than the tiny taste you got this week, I’ll post a recipe for a tomato-based gazpacho.

Chilled Cucumber Soup with Yogurt and Fresh Mint

serves 4 as an appetizer or 12 as an hors d’oeuvre
active time: 20 min

For the soup

  1. 1 3/4 lbs (794gr) seedless cucumbers – peeled and cut in 3” pieces (or 2 lbs (907gr) regular cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut in 3″ pieces)
  2. 1/4 medium red onion – skinned
  3. 1 garlic clove – skinned
  4. 1 jalapeño – stem removed, halved and seeded
  5. 8 large mint leaves
  6. 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  7. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  8. 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  9. 1 teaspoon sea salt
  10. 1 – 6oz (170gr) non-fat plain yogurt
  11. 1/2 to 3/4 cup spring water to taste

For the garnishes

  1. lemon oil
  2. 1 medium yellow tomato – seeded and cut in 1/8” cubes (or 8 yellow grape tomatoes quartered)
  3. tiny mint leaves
  1. Step 1: Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor with 1/2 cup of the spring water. Pulse a few times so the ingredients are coarsely chopped, then process until soup is very smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. If necessary, thin with the remaining water to the desired consistency.
  2. Step 2: Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight, until well chilled. Place the soup in the freezer for 30 minutes before serving.
  3. Step 3: Ladle soup in chilled soup bowls or cocktail glasses. Drizzle a little lemon oil in the center of each bowl. Garnish with a few tomato cubes, a mint leaf and serve immediately.
  4. Cook’s note: The soup can be refrigerated up to 2 days.

It sounds delicious!

We’re super happy to be getting back in the swing of things here at Our Farm, and we’d like to thank you once again for  your patience and understanding during the drought. We’ll have more selection in the next few weeks, and things are starting to really perk back up with the rain we’ve had. We’re very encouraged and we’re looking forward to having bountiful harvests throughout the rest of the summer and fall.

Have a wonderful week!


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Banjo’s here! An update and a reminder

This last week has been mucho busy – we’ve got everything on the greenhouse done except for one door (and the door handle on the other door), and as soon as that’s taken care of we can call the building inspector. Yay!! The peas have started to blossom, so we’re on track for having peas in the first harvest on June 9th (<——— there’s your reminder. I’ll be contacting people with a small share soon to tell you if you’re starting on June 9th or on June 16th). Spinach is up, kale looks fantastic, I wouldn’t be surprised if garlic scapes appear in time for the first harvest, the beans are looking good, lettuce & mesclun mix & swiss chard are not looking promising due to all this heat we’ve been having (they’re cool-weather crops which are normally great for spring, sadly!) so I’ll re-plant and put out some lettuce seedlings I started on our seedling racks in the basement just in case. Sometimes, forethought pays off! The first planting of potatoes – Penta White variety – has sprouted. The Yukon Golds are not up yet, but they should be breaking through any day now. Carrots are up and with a bit more help from our irrigation system they should come along nicely in the next few weeks. The beets are looking fantastic, and it’s about time for me to get another planting going for them. The onions are growing really well too. Cabbages are coming along, the broccoli’s having a bit of an issue this year and I’m not sure what it is. It may work out, but if it doesn’t I’ll start a second batch in August so we can have some fall broccoli at least. It’s a bit too hot for starting any now, unfortunately.

Got the first batch of chickens moved out onto pasture last week and they’ve adjusted wonderfully. It’s always interesting to move the three groups from their separate brooder boxes into one big moveable coop. It really brings home that there is such a thing as “pecking order” and it takes them a bit to figure it out when you bring a new group together. Pretty funny bird brains, I’ve got to say. That group will be ready for sale probably in the last week of June/first week of July, and because the price of organic grain went up again our price will be $5.09/lb. There’s only 50 birds in this batch, so please let us know asap if you’d like to reserve any before we sell out.

We went to Peterborough to get Banjo the donkey on Saturday. That was a veeeery long drive with my dad while Matt stayed behind to clean the brooder boxes for the new batch of chicks (it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it!). Extremely glad we waited one more weekend instead of trying to drive Highway 7 on a long weekend pulling a horse trailer! He proved that donkeys are legitimately known as stubborn, because it took four people two and a half hours to get him in the trailer. Poor guy did not want to go, but now that he’s here he seems to be settling in nicely. Matt’s posted lots of pictures on his Facebook page, but for some reason I  can’t seem to share them to the Our Farm Facebook page. I’ll have to do a separate post with Banjo pictures for those of you who aren’t on Facebook. I think he’s a little bit lonely being all by himself this week – even if we go visit with him a few times a day – but the sheep will be arriving on Sunday so that should give him something to occupy his time. I’m in love with him already, and I can’t wait for the little lambs to get here so I can fall in love with them too!

We got our second batch of chicks this morning, and while they settled into their cozy new homes I finally managed to locate the missing box of irrigation valves. Hurray! That meant I could finally hook up the irrigation system for the garden. Hopefully that will make a big difference in growth rates of the veggies over the next week. As a matter of fact, I think we’re going to have to install the trellis for the peas this weekend.

Last but not least, I’ve been very busy with paperwork for the barn we want to build for housing the sheep and keeping our hay dry this winter. While it seems like it’s been ages and tons of work, it’s finally paying off. The financing for the barn came through, and I just heard this morning that the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in Guelph has conditionally approved (i.e. it’s approved, just needs the manager to sign the paperwork) our Nutrient Management Study. Basically, that means that the province requires any new barn being built have a plan in place to deal with the manure from the animals that will live in the barn. You have to have your NMS approved by OMAFRA (see, I’m learning the lingo!) before you can even apply for a building permit from the city.

Well, Banjo’s still got some of his winter coat to shed, so I’m going to go out and brush him & keep him company for a bit, then I’ll till up the last potato patch so tomorrow night I can plant the Red Chieftan and Blue Russian potatoes. After that, it’ll be tilling and planting the parsnips, turnips, radishes, etc., etc., etc. along with building the raised beds in the greenhouse as soon as the inspector signs off on it. Never a dull moment around here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!


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So much to tell you!

We’ve been busy little bees around here lately. Our first batch of chicks are about a week and a half old now, and starting to get adult feathers on their wings even though they’ve still got downy yellow baby fuzz on the rest of their bodies. I saw a couple stretching their wings out yesterday for the first time, so they’re well on their way to growing up enough to go outside on pasture in a couple of weeks. Till then, they’re cozy and happy in their nice dry brooder boxes.

We’ve found a donkey to guard the sheep – his name is Banjo and he’s a five year old gelding who’s been with sheep before so it sounds like he’s going to be a perfect fit for Our Farm. We’re going to pick him up next weekend, so he’ll have a couple of weeks to settle in before the sheep and lambs arrive and he’ll have to go to work.

There’s now some bees boarding with us as well. They’re not ours, but the three hives being kept here by our new friend the beekeeper are going to be an incredible help for us with pollinating the veggies in the garden! We’re really happy to be able to host bees on Our Farm, as we feel that they’re such an important part of the ecosystem and of course they’re under so much threat from colony collapse disorder. The beekeeper was very happy to find a place he could be sure there was no pesticide or herbicide spraying going on, because so much scientific evidence is building up that spraying an extremely common class of chemicals called neonicotinoids is a major contributing factor to colony collapse disorder.

Of course, we need to have veggies flowering in the garden for the bees to pollinate. :) We’ve been busy planting beans and spinach and swiss chard and carrots and potatoes to accompany the kale and beets and peas that were already planted. Lettuce and mesclun mix are going in today, too since their beds are already prepped it’ll just be a matter of hoeing a row, dropping the seed in & covering it up. Onions will be transplanted in one night this week. Next weekend it’ll be more potatoes, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash and cucumbers, along with more beets and lettuces and spinach and carrots and beans (thank goodness it will be a long weekend!). I’ve been having a lot of fun using my new Dragon flame weeder. I can’t even tell you how satisfying it is to destroy dandelions with this monster!

Last, but certainly not least – especially in terms of size! – we got the cover on the greenhouse yesterday with a lot of help from some of the most incredible people. In no particular order, my mom and dad, Aunt Jane and Uncle Jacques, Aunt Teresa and Gilles, my brother and his friend Darren, my cousins Tim and Amy, and our Awesome Neighbour Henry. Thank you so much to everyone who helped, we couldn’t have done it without all of you! Today, Mat and I are going to work on finishing one end wall along with the roll-up sides. Gotta go get at ‘er.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone! Have a lovely day. :)


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Katahdin Dorper lambs 2012

Katahdin Dorper cross lambs born April 2012. They’ll be coming home to Our Farm at the beginning of June, and we’re really looking forward to them becoming the foundation of our flock. Sorry about the voiceover, they were just so cute that I couldn’t help the babytalk!


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It’s been way too long!

I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I posted a update here, but time flies when you’re keeping busy! We’ve been prepping out in the garden, applying compost to garden beds, laying out drip irrigation tape and working on Spring weeds in preparation for planting, working on the greenhouse (just about ready for putting the cover on it, keep your fingers crossed for warm & wind-less weather next weekend please!), and getting ready for the arrival of our first batch of chicks this coming Wednesday.

Since we’re only a little over a month away from first harvest, I’ll be getting in touch soon to let those of you with small shares if you’ll be in Week A (starting June 2nd) or Week B (starting June 9th).

Funny weather this year, eh? Last year, we had so much rain that we couldn’t get into the garden on time to plant and had our first harvest delayed by two weeks – it put such a dent in our plans that we worked our butts off to get this greenhouse so we wouldn’t have that worry this year. And of course now I’m practically doing a rain dance to get some moisture to fall from the sky. We had a nice good stretch of rain and snow last week, which helped things a bit… but we could still use a few more days here and there to keep the garden moving along. It may be chilly today, but I’m going to transplant out the kale and onions and beets, and seed the spinach and swiss chard. Peas are up finally, after we got that rain! It won’t be long now…

Signed,

Your busy, happy farmer. :)


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2012 vegetable CSA sold out!

Thank you to everyone for your interest. Just a quick update to let you know that we are sold out for the 2012 CSA. If you’d like to get on our waiting list for next year just send an email to ourfarmcsa@gmail.com with the subject line “2013 CSA waiting list” and we’ll do our best to accommodate you next year.

Even if you’re on the waiting list for the CSA, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook to get blog posts automatically in your news feed – we’ll post an update every week during harvest season with at least one tasty recipe for seasonal veggies. It’ll be like following along with the CSA to get in the swing of things.

Now that the day’s turned to sunshine and I’ve bought every tray that Canadian Tire had left in the store, I’m going to grab a bite to eat and start some more lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.


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April Fool’s weather?

Hi there!

So, um, I went out to the garden early this morning to get the peas planted into the four beds I prepared for them yesterday. I started early hoping to beat the rain that was forecast, and I figured if the thermometer said it was 3 degrees I’d be okay, right? Wrong! It started to snow, of all things! Mother Nature’s definitely playing tricks on us.

Oh well, moisture is moisture. I planted the peas anyway and then put up my little platic arches and stretched row cover over them. Peas are very cold hardy and the row cover will act as a miniature greenhouse to keep any frost off the seedlings once they germinate. We’ve still got a week or two to think about building their trellis, and we’ll be going with a sturdier metal trellis design this year.

In other veggie news, last week I potted up the kale from its tiny cells in one tray to bigger pots so the roots will have space to grow before it goes out in the garden – one tray of kale became four trays in the course of about two hours. It’s finicky, painstaking work. Then I started more trays of onions, spinach and swiss chard, along with tomatoes and peppers. This weekend I potted up one tray from the first planting of onions, but I’m running out of trays so I’ll have to run into town to get more before I can start more brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and beets. We’re running out of room on the seedling rack shelves, so I’ll be glad next weekend to get the kale transplanted out to the garden. I’ll have to pot up the first plantings of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower soon, and that’s going to take up tons of space on the shelves!

We ordered lumber and sheet metal for sheep pasture shelters this week – turns out you need building permits for those, too. Plus I’m trying to get quotes for electrical and plumbing for the barn, and trying to get a hold of someone certified by the province to do a “nutrient management plan” (yes, that actually does mean a “poop plan” for the manure) before the city will sign off on a building permit for the barn. I swear, if it wasn’t for the gardening, lately this would feel more like office work than farming. But planting is so much fun, it makes up for all the paperwork. Planting’s almost as much fun as harvesting and eating!


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