I haven't mentioned our bees lately but it I am happy to report that they have done well this summer. They started the spring strong, with all of our hives surviving the winter. They have steadily built their numbers and stored honey. One hive has grown particularly tall and may require a step stool to lift off the top box of honey!
I have had several requests recently for honey and I wanted to provide an update: Rob will be harvesting and spinning the honey within the next couple weeks and we should have fresh, bottled honey to sell by the end of September. We sell honey in 500g, 1kg, and 5kg containers.
While honey itself is a precious resource (and priced accordingly), the cost of packaging (jars and labelling) is not an insignificant cost. I wish we were able to reuse our honey jars as I know many of you would be happy to return them to us. However, food safety prevents us from doing this as we have no sterilization method here on the farm. Plus, our labels are nearly impossible to remove cleanly. If I find a source for dissolvable labels that will work with our label printer then perhaps we can take our jars to a certified processing kitchen and sterilize them. Until then, I hope you can find a good use for your empty honey jars rather than just recycling because that is neither cost-effective nor sustainable.
On the vegetable front, all are doing well and enjoying the slightly cooler temperatures and rain that we have received in the last two weeks. The tomatoes are still going strong and the peppers are doing well. Our eggplants this year have not done well. We lost a number of the plants early on due to rodents eating the entire tender transplant. And the remaining plants have not thrived. As a result, we have not had nearly as much eggplant to go around this year than normal. For some of you, this is probably something to celebrate ;) but for the rest of you we will have some small eggplants as a choice item in the shares this week. Well, there is always next season for bigger and better eggplants!
,Rather than sharing some specific recipes this week, I wanted to share a few websites and blogs that I particularly enjoy for recipes, food inspiration, and food growing and preserving information. I hope some of you may find these enjoyable too.
Feasting at Home The recipes on this website are absolutely beautiful to look at even if you don't cook a single one. But that would be a mistake because they are also delicious. My favourite aspects of these recipes are their seasonality, the plentiful and creative use of vegetables, the easily customizable options for meat vs. vegetarian, and their ease of preparation.
North Ridge Farm This blog includes recipes, seasonal thoughts and homestead happenings. There is great inspiration for eating seasonally and simply and lots of ideas for preserving the harvest for the winter months.
Venison for Dinner This website mostly acts as a recipe file for recipes that Venison for Dinner talks about on her instagram and youtube videos. While not heavy on the vegetables, these recipes are great staple recipes for things like sourdough bread, yogurt making, making use of unusual cuts of meat, and other important homesteading eating necessities.
Today I planted the last of the 2019 transplants ahead of the all-day rain we are supposed to get tomorrow. These last plants included: spinach, beets, and more salad mix. Plus I direct seeded some arugula and radishes. Now we just need that rain to make everything happy!
I am moving firmly into what I consider the fall tasks here on the farm (but I'm still hoping for several weeks of summer weather!). All of the onions have been harvested and are drying in the greenhouse and the squash will follow shortly. I have sown buckwheat on empty beds that won't be used this season and I am slowing pulling out plants that are at the end of their life. The garlic is nearly all trimmed and you get the first taste of it in your shares this week! The garlic is big, beautiful and delicious this year so I hope you enjoy.
We have another week of sweet corn and although the cobs may be slightly smaller, they are still delicious! The tomatoes are cranking out lots of ripe fruit and, barring some unexpected disease, should continue for several more weeks yet. The zucchini, however, is nearly finished and I expect this week or next to see the last of the zucchini.
After a lovely four days canoeing in the backcountry of Algonquin, we are back with some peak summer vegetables! The tomatoes have ripened significantly while we were away so everyone will enjoy more tomatoes this week. The sweet peppers are starting to ripen and the carrots have grown bigger. And a real treat this week: sweet corn! While I typically grow some sweet corn for us as a family, I don't generally include it in shares. We often lose more than 50% to resident raccoons and skunks and corn is a land and nutrient intensive crop that doesn't lend itself to small scale farms. That said, we've had a great crop this year and there is enough to share.
Late August is not the most beautiful time on the farm: the plants are starting to look a little ragged and care-worn and certain crops are winding down production. Our cucumbers are one of these crops. We will still have some in the trade-in bin for a few weeks but otherwise they are done for the season.
Another crop that is (temporarily) finished is kale. Normally, we have kale through the entire season but we have had a sudden ambush of flea beetles in the past week, which have totally destroyed our spring kale crop. You can see in the pictures below the extent of the damage. And these little insects did all this damage in a three day window! Luckily, I had new kale transplants ready to go and planted those (and row covered them well) today. This means we will be without kale for the next few weeks but should have it for the last couple fall weeks. Those that have greens add-ons will still receive their greens, but it will primarily be chard until the kale returns.
You will see that we have some bonus jalapeno peppers in your shares this week. These hot peppers, like any herbs, are a bonus item. This means that I don't calculate the value of these in your shares and, as such, they are not trade-able. Take them or leave them, as you desire.
We finally have some carrots for share members! These carrots have been slow to size up and they are still a bit small but they are delicious nevertheless. The onions have been doing very well this year and we have some mild white onions to enjoy. These onions are equally great cooked or eaten raw.
I harvested our garlic last week and it looks big and beautiful. Once we wait a few weeks to let it cure, you will be enjoying regular garlic in your shares as well.
A reminder that next week (the week of August 12th) is an off-week for the CSA. I will send a reminder email closer to the date and deliveries will resume the following week.
** Reminder regarding vacation days and double shares**
Anyone who has taken a vacation day(s) needs to take their double share on any week up to (and including) the week of September 9th. We cannot provide double shares on the final 3 weeks of the season as these shares are already nearly double in size. Please send me an email or record in the check-in book the week in which you want your double share. Thanks!
We've had zucchini in our shares for a few weeks now and you may be looking for further inspiration on how to use these prolific vegetables. Since I never buy zucchini out of season, we eat our fill in the summer and it often makes an appearance in nearly every meal we eat. Roasted in sandwiches and as a side with eggs, grated in pancakes and breads, cubed in stirfries and soups, and grilled on the BBQ are all favourite ways to use the zucchini. For more ideas, check out these recipes:
The Three Best Ways to Cook Spiralized Zucchini Noodles
Creamy Zucchini Soup with Walnuts and Dill
Baked Zucchini Fries
Blueberry Zucchini Lemon Cake
You know that it is peak summer when tomatoes, beans, and basil appear in your shares! We get our first taste of tomatoes this week with greater quantities in following weeks. They look (and taste) fantastic and make a delicious sandwich or salad topping. Although I'm sure I don't need to tell you how to use up your tomatoes...
This week we learned that we had been approved for a grant from the Carrot Cache to help in the cost of expanding our greenhouse. Our plan is the double the size of our current greenhouse and use the expanded portion as a permanent growing area for tomatoes and peppers in the summer, as well as cool crops in the early spring and late fall. Compared to our current caterpillar tunnels for tomatoes, the greenhouse will provide greater height to allow us to use a more efficient trellising system and, thereby, increase yields. This will also free up the caterpillar space for other crops such as cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, and others that will benefit from covered growing.
I'm very excited about this addition (even though it means extra construction tasks this summer and fall) because it will also allow me to extend the CSA season. I am still working out the details but you can expect more options and more weeks of production for the 2020 season. My long-term goal is to maintain the current share numbers but expand them over a longer period of time. Compared to a high number of share members just in the summer months, this helps to balance my work load more evenly across the year.
Kale and Chard make regular appearances in our shares throughout the season and many people enjoy them lightly sauteed with garlic, added to a smoothie, or in soups and stews. But if you are looking for other ways to use these delicious and nutritious greens, try one of the recipes below:
12 Favourite Kale Salads
Feta and Kale Dip
Swiss Chard Pesto
13 Creative Swiss Chard Recipes