While I sit here and write this post, Kimmy is pulling the last of winter squash plants from the field now that we are all done harvesting. This week, we are excited to include spaghetti squash in the shares for everyone! This is our first year growing spaghetti squash and they have grown well and taste delicious. I will most definitely be growing more of them again next year. For ideas on how to prepare these unique squash, see the recipe section below.
This weekend, Rob, Kimmy, our boys, and I all attended an Ecological Farmer's of Ontario (EFAO) fundraiser and farm tour. It was an all day event where we toured four ecological farms (all on the same road) and learned more about their operations. I find these tours one of the best ways to learn more about farming and gain new ideas and make valuable connections.
The first farm, Blackshire Gardens, is a farm that grows shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, and dried beans for wholesale markets. Rob was interested to learn more techniques for successfully growing shiitakes. We also hope to expand our asparagus patch and were interested to see their 1 acre asparagus patch.
I have visited the second farm, Cedar Down Farm, previously but it is interesting to visit a farm at various times throughout the season to see how their work evolves. Cedar Down Farm has a large CSA program and I always glean some tidbit of information related to growing for CSA customers.
On the third farm, Crickhollow, we first ate a delicious potluck lunch. I will unabashedly say that ecological farms and gardeners have the best potluck dishes! We then toured this biodynamic farm and learned more about the philosophy of biodynamics, including the importance of a closed-loop farming system, where all inputs come from on the farm (for example, any manure amendments added to the garden beds come from the farm's animals).
We then took a wagon ride to the fourth farm, Green Being Farm. We haves visited Green Being Farm before and enjoy interacting with all their pasture raised animals. They also run a winter CSA, which is delivered to the same location as our Guelph pickup during the winter months.
After these informative tours we were able to meet (and take home) our new Kune Kune pigs, which were born at Green Being Farm! Kune Kune pigs are a small sized pig that are native to New Zealand. They are not a common breed in Canada, with only a handful of breeders raising them, so at this point we will be raising them as breeding stock. This means that we will breed them and sell the offspring in an effort to introduce these pigs to the Canadian market. Eventually, as this breed becomes more common, they will then be marketable as meat pigs. The three primary reasons these pigs are desirable are: 1) they can be raised on pasture alone (unlike other breeds which require significant feed inputs to grow to size; 2) they are small and easier to manage than larger breeds; and 3) they have a gentle and friendly disposition that makes then a great match for young families.
We have decided to name our two pigs Penelope (or Penny, for short) and Mortimer (or Mort, for short). They are still young but we should be able to start breeding early next summer.
Weekly Share Contents:
Spaghetti Squash is a great alternative to those who avoid gluten. But even if you don't, there are many great ways to use this versatile vegetable.
For some delicious spaghetti squash ideas, check this link out! http://www.skinnymom.com/9-healthy-and-hearty-spaghetti-squash-recipes/
You will be excited to know that Rob has started taking supers (the upper hive boxes where the bees store honey) off the hives in preparation for harvesting honey! We won't have the honey ready for this week, but you can expect it for sale in the following week or two. So far, it looks like a decent harvest, with quantities similar to last season. When Rob harvests the honey at this time of year, he collects all the supers and takes them to his beekeeping friend who has a spinner. This means that rather than cutting the comb and straining the honey by hand, he can spin the frames. This allows us to extract the honey in a fraction of the time.
In other farm news, we are working steadily at prepping beds and harvesting vegetables for winter storage. We harvested our potatoes last week with a total harvest of 385kg (not including the early potatoes we included in the shares). This is a smaller harvest than desired, but still workable. It just means that we won't be selling any bulk potatoes at the end of the season or at the farmers market. There was a fairly high number of potatoes that rotted in the ground prior to harvest. We are unsure if this is due to the late blight or heavy rains near the end of the season. We culled out the rotting potatoes and decided to start including the potatoes in your shares two weeks earlier than typical. You will still receive the quantity and frequency of potatoes I planned for but just at a different time frame. Because of the rot, I was concerned that the potatoes might not store well and didn't want to hold on to them only to lose them in storage.
The red and yellow onions, as well as the shallots have dried nicely and you will be receiving these regularly for the remainder of the season.
Kimmy has been busy laying plastic mulch mats around all our newly planted Seabuckthorn bushes. These mulch mats will help keep the weeds (primarily twitch grass) away from the immature bushes and allow them to get established without competition. I am looking forward to a BIG seabuckthorn harvest in a few years time!
Rob, with the help of our intern from last year, Ian, has been busy working on a contract farm design and planting job. We will share more details when the project is done, but they are planting perennial fruit and nut trees on a large scale to serve as a demonstration of how to incorporate trees into agriculture. This is an exciting project and an area of our farm business that we will be expanding on significantly in the next couple of years.
The final bit of exciting news around here is we are beginning the process to apply for organic certification! A new certification programme, offered through Procert (one of the primary certification bodies in Canada), has just started that is geared towards small scale farms of less than 10 acres. The application and approval process takes a bit of time so we won't expect the process to be finished until mid-summer 2016. Nevertheless, we are excited about the potential to make our organic farming techniques official! This winter I will be spending much time gathering information and making many spreadsheets! A key component of certification is a clear paper trail of all the inputs, techniques, purchases, and activities that our farm uses.
Weekly Share Contents
Chard or Kale
Beets are a favourite vegetable for us. In addition to being highly nutritious and versatile, these delicious vegetables store very well so that we can enjoy them throughout the winter. Most commonly, we roast them, grate them raw into salad, make borscht, or add to smoothies and juices. For more ideas on how to use beets, visit these links:
Today is particularly busy, with it being Terran's 10th birthday and the day we need to get all the potatoes harvested out of the field. So I'm going to keep things simple by including a picture gallery as this week's post!
To see more pictures of our produce and our farmer's market stand, please visit here!
Weekly Share Contents:
Napa Cabbage or Celery
Ground Cherries or Tomatillos
Here is a simple recipe for Napa Cabbage Salad that I made last week. I omitted the daikon and snow peas, added carrots, and substituted cilantro for the chives. But otherwise it was the same :) http://www.marthastewart.com/343978/napa-cabbage-salad
An exciting new addition to our farm just arrived today: four alpacas! We are the proud new owners of 3 adult females and 1 young male. The 3 females have come bred, so we should be welcoming some crias (the name given baby alpacas) in approximately one year. Alpacas have a long gestation period of approximately 11.5 months and generally give birth to one cria. Twins occur in less than 1 of 1000 births.
We have been wanting alpacas since we purchased our farm, but they are not an inexpensive animal and the equipment required for the market garden took priority. However, this summer, we were offered these alpacas for free as their current owner was no longer able to care for them. In addition to being super cute, these alpacas will be shorn for their wool. Alpaca wool is a highly sought after wool that is warm, soft (and not itchy like sheep's wool) and doesn't contain lanolin, so is considered hypoallergenic. We will be selling some of their wool and processing some of it ourselves. Luckily, my grandma is an experienced spinner and weaver and my mom is an experienced knitter and weaver so we will be picking their brains on how to use this wool! I want lots of alpaca socks and sweaters and Rob says all he needs is an alpaca loin cloth. Ha! Our biggest immediate challenge will be ridding our pasture of burdock. Burdock is a weed that grows rampant around here and if the burrs get into the alpacas fleece it can make it worthless or unusable.
On the vegetable front, the vegetables are continuing to grow well and I see many ripening winter squash and our fall cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli are looking great. In the share this week you will be receiving many of the same vegetables that we have been enjoying for the last few weeks but I imagine next week will bring a big shift in the types of vegetables. Root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and beets will become regular weekly additions with some special root vegetables like parsnips, daikon radishes, and watermelon radishes making occasional appearances.
We also have some more napa cabbage to enjoy and some savoy cabbage coming soon that I am really excited about. I have noticed that cabbage are not a popular item with share members but I am going to persevere in the hopes that you will all feel the cabbage love! We all love cabbages around here and use them in a myriad of ways: sauteed with potatoes and zucchini alongside eggs for breakfast, shredded into a lettuce salad, roasted in the oven with a splash of balsamic vinegar, slowly caramelized with olive oil, paprika, and onions and served over pasta, and, of course, the classic coleslaw. And we turn many cabbage into sauerkraut and kim chi to enjoy over the winter months. And if you think you can't use a cabbage up fast enough, remember that they last for over a month in the fridge! Have I convinced you yet?! Probably not, but I can't help but try. :)
For any share members that missed the chicken delivery but would like some chickens, please fill out our booking form and I will plan on a second delivery since we still have some chickens available. Our neighbours prepared one of our chickens for us when we went for dinner this weekend and Rob tells me it was one of the most delicious chickens he's eaten. The chicken was marinated in bourbon and BBQ sauce and then cooked on the BBQ. Once we have the official recipe, we will share with interested share members!
Weekly Share Contents:
I write this list of vegetables with the strong possibility that the contents may change as there are a few different crops that may be ready in sufficient quantity but I won't know until harvest tomorrow (maybe melons and tomatoes!)
Spinach or Chard
Green and Yellow Beans