Summer Plenty

With August, summer finally arrived.  So did good yummy food.  We have been picking our heirloom tomatoes for 3 weeks now, and couldn’t be happier!  We are also enjoying our fingerling potatoes – we have cooked them on the barbecue, pan fried for hashbrowns, boiled for potato salad – they are truly versatile and delicious.

We have been going to the Nanaimo market on Wednesday’s for 3 weeks now and enjoying the sunny evenings there.   All in all, the hard work we put in all summer is really paying off.  I’m having a lot of fun experimenting with different tomato recipes (thyme creamed tomatoes.. yum) and have just made a chard drink to go with breakfast this morning.

Chard Green Smoothie

4 Chard leaves, roughly chopped
1 piece of fruit (banana, nectarine, berries – whatever you have handy)
1 cup of milk
2 spoonfuls Greek yogurt
1 tbs ground golden flax seeds

Put the chard and flax and milk in a blender and blend until smooth.
Add the fruit and remaining ingredients, blend until smooth.

You could add some honey or maple syrup if you wanted to make it sweeter, but we like it simple.  I made it especially because Ramona is battling a nasty summer cold, and this is packed with tonnes of goodies to keep you healthy.  Hope you try it out!

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Day off

That’s right.  Today is a day off.  Even though Stephen and Jeremy have gone to dig up 30 pounds of potatoes.

We had a GREAT Tour of Farms – a really fun day that allows us to share what we do with the community.  And as a reward, we are only doing things we want to do today.  However it will be busy later in the week as we will be starting the Nanaimo market on Wednesday, doing chicken delivery to Victoria and picking up Jess (the daughter Jess) from the airport, covering the Philberg Festival, plus our regular Saturday at the Duncan Market.

Yeah you heard me – more delicious chickens available Friday.  Email or call us if you want one (which, trust me, you do!).

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The good, the bad, & the ugly

We’ve been so busy around the farm that sadly, I’ve neglected to communicate our triumphs and tribulations. We finally have everything planted, with the exception of some succession crops. As we all know, Spring was late but we’ve worked hard to catch up and have larger plantings of corn, fingerling potatoes, golden beets, chiogga beets, purple carrots, heirloom tomatoes, paste tomatoes, pickling cukes, winter squash, fennel, melons, Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage, & Cinderella pumpkins, to name just a few, than ever before. With a little cooperation from Mother Nature, we should have a grand harvest.

Our first batch of pasture raised, organic meat birds have all sold and they are they best chickens we’ve ever raised. Juicy, tender and succulent, we were extremely pleased with the result and decided that it was worth all the extra effort. Raising birds on the pasture is not only a lot more work but fighting off predators is stressful and cuts into our sleep! We’ve learned, the hard way, to outwit the racoons and eagles who seem to have nothing better to do than hang around, watching for an opportunity to snatch one of our tasty chickens.

We’ve been having fun with lavender – made lavender cookies and the most delicious beverage ever- lavender lemonade for the Cowichan Agricultural Society meeting the other night (recipe to follow). Not only is this wonderfully thirst quenching, it’s pretty to look at. This has to be the original pink lemonade. I poured boiling water over the lavender petals, getting a murky grey color infusion. The addition of fresh lemon juice resulted in a lovely alchemical reaction as it tuned a pretty, soft pink. We can’t get enough of the stuff around here, especially on hot days.

Lavender Lemonade

2 c. boiling water
3 T. dried lavender or 1 c. fresh
1 c. lemon juice
1 c. sugar
8 c. cold water

Steep the lavender in boiling water for 15-20 min. in a covered pot. Strain and add lemon juice, sugar and water. I add the sugar first to dissolve and then add the juice & water. Chill.

Honey bees

Meet our new little pollinators. We added some European honey bees to help out at the farm and they set the pace for shear busyness.

We’ve finally had some success hatching out our own chicks. We let one of our Buff Orphington hens go broody and she hatched out 5 healthy little chicks. We put them in their own little nursery and they couldn’t be cuter. What a great mother she was! They’ve joined one of our other flocks now, and we’ll integrate them with the rest of the layers as they develop pecking order skills.

Crazy drama going on down at the pond. This was the scene that Jeremy stumbled upon while going to collect the eggs the other day at lunch.

Never a dull moment, I’m off to harvest the lavender, but I leave you with this sweet pea  photo – you can almost smell them!

Thanks to Jo-Anne's weeding, we have an abundant crop of heavenly smelling sweet peas

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Bald Eagle or BOLD Eagle

I know that bald eagles are supposed to be endangered and so we have to protect them all but I must say that I have no sympathy for them.  Certainly they are eating well, because like the raccoons, they can’t keep their icky talons off of our chickens.  They have claimed the lives of many of our layers and our beloved rooster Shakespeare (who Lucky, the main rooster, tried to save by attacking the eagle).  I have a fear of birds, but an even more intense detestation of eagles, not the least because when they kill things it also brings giant turkey vultures and ravens around.  Bird city – not my thing.

Here’s the scene:  Yesterday morning I went outside to let the little chickens that live on our upper field out of their brooder so they could graze in their pen.  Just as they all rushed outside to enjoy the day, I had gone a few feet away to refill their waterers.  Just then I hear a huge commotion – the chickens are FREAKING out, and I turn around to see an enormous bald eagle landing in their pen!  Their is no roof or anything on this pen because there is an old satellite dish and many trees surrounding it, certainly too small for an eagle to land in.  Or so we thought.  All was not lost though because I proceeded to scream my head off in hopes that someone would come outside, and too try and scare the eagle away.  I was sure there was going to be a massacre in the pen…luckily enough I scared the eagle away after about a minute of screaming and he flew away with empty talons.  The chickens remained unscathed (but extremely scared).

The creepy bit is that this bold eagle clearly had been watching the activity of the little chickens and trying to gauge whether it could fit in and take off again (they need a lot of space to take flight) because it was in there within 2 minutes of me opening them up.

And no, I haven’t seen Hitchcock’s The Birds.

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News and Memories

No wonder the raccoons couldn’t keep their creepy human-like hands off of our chickens: They are delicious!!! Just in case you didn’t get in on this batch, they will be more coming in just a few weeks.

In other news we got all of our pumpkins in the ground and it brought on some really good feelings. Not just because our lower field is *thisclose* to being planted, but because when I was little I used to help my grandpa Don grow pumpkins. Really big pumpkins. Planting out the pumpkins was similar to a feeling I got in the greenhouse the other day pruning the tomatoes. The smell of them reminded me intensely of my grandfather, who was known for singing to his tomatoes and tickling them with a feather. Though my grandpa and grandma are gone now, I think they would be really proud of what I’m doing here. It’s nice to remember.

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Finally, it’s really summer!

The solstice has come and gone and I must say we spent it well. After a good days work we enjoyed our evening with a delicious dinner, a game of bocce ball (Stephen and Ramona WHOOPED Jeremy and I 18 to 4…) and an evening bonfire with popcorn and hot chocolate. Jem and I moved some stuff down into coochifridos (our cabin/camper van) and have spent a couple nights with the fresh air and morning sunshine pouring in. We have also been able to keep a better eye on the chickens.

Fun fact: Raccoons like chickens. I like chickens. I do not like raccoons. Our meat birds, which will be available in a week, are guaranteed tasty, tested vigorously by our neighborhood raccoons. They couldn’t seem to keep their hands off of them, though we have foiled their recent attempts with maximum security and really bright flashlights.

In other news, we had the Chief of Food Security from the Ministry of Agriculture come and visit our farm at the beginning of the week. It was an interesting visit, particularly the round table discussion Stephen set up with several local farmers – and again reminded me how hard people work to put food they believe in on our community tables. I think small farms provide the epitome of food security, much better than a barcode does anyway. It’s strange because, while farmers obviously need to make a living, I don’t think food should be treated as a commodity because it is worth so much more than money. I really enjoy eating food, not only because it tastes good, but because it feels good to know where it comes and what has gone into it.

Speaking of tasting good, we have been attending to the berries which are being pollinated like crazy by our honey bees. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into some tayberries!!

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Heating Up

Well finally the weather is cooperating with us a little bit more.  Jeremy and I just got back from the Sasquatch music festival in Washington, and brought the sunshine home.  It’s interesting to see how the weather affects us on the farm – considerably lifting our moods, and also adding a different dynamic to the daily chores (aka keeping better tabs on weeds and watering) and how we spend our evenings (planting and enjoying a late dinner on the deck).

We are making progress and the lower field is filling up slowly but surely.  It is a lot of work.  Probably the most work I’ve ever done in my life.  Working and living on the farm has really shown me how much respect farmers, and food, deserve.  As hard as we work, it is just as important to take the time to fully enjoy the fruits and vegetables and herbs and flowers of our labour.  Now that summer is finally here, I intend to do so.

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Onions, sweet onions!

4500 sweet onions in the ground! With the help of our young neighbor down the road, Jessi and I got all the onions planted by the end of the holiday Monday. What a great relief! The soil was still a bit too moist to run the roto-tiller but we went for it, and I can’t say I’m sorry, in spite of the fact that we ended up with lots of little balls of wet earth mixed in. That said, we will wait before we do anymore roto-tilling. The potaotes, carrot and beet seed, and hundreds of squash and melon plants will have to wait for a little more cooperation from Mother Nature.

Adding to our feeling of accomplishment was the planting the 4 of us did in the big greenhouse. Most of our heirloom tomato seedlings are in the ground, nestled into our special organic happy potion, under landscape cloth and irrigated. What a beautiful sight! The excess tomato plants will go on sale at the Duncan Farmers market this weekend.

Baby steps but we are inching toward summer. Meanwhile, the brassicas, arugula, spinach and peas, all cool weather crops, aren’t complaining.

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Rain, rain go away!

What to do with all this rain? First thought that comes to mind – order some ducks. It would be nice to see someone happy with the excess moisture on the farm. This past Sunday was brutal, to say the least. Every time we think we’ll be able to get the machinery on the lower field if we have just one more dry day, it rains. And did it ever come down – steadily for the whole day, starting in the wee hours. We had rented an excavator to do some big jobs around the property, which included expanding the ditches in the lower field. The excess rain gave us an opportunity to test those ditches, which we found lacking – good to know while we still had the excavator. After much walking, digging with the shovel, considering the flow of water in general and specifically the way our piece of land integrated with our neighbours, the guys set out to remedy the situation as much as it was possible to do so. Jeremy on the excavator, and Stephen acting as a shovel wielding consultant, spent the day (rain suited up) encouraging Mother Nature‘s bounty to keep flowing off our fields and into the system of ditches and streams in our small valley.
After a few more hours digging with the big boy toys, our gentle stream turned into a raging current, with tributaries that fed into other fast moving bodies of water, formerly considered ditches. It was awesome to see the water rushing off the fields and realize that we can contribute, albeit a small way to the change we need.
Ever optimistic, we again hope that after a few days of sun, we can get down there with our tractor and start tilling the soil in preparation for planting. We’ve got thousands of sweet onions ready to be moved into a new home, like two weeks ago! Not to mention the potatoes and hundreds of other plants already started in the small greenhouse.

Enough grumbling, I think I’ll go make a Margareta and pray to the sun gods.

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