Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas.
If you bought seed, plants or veggies from me. Or didn't.
If you read my blog. Or didn't.
May peace and love surround you and hope encourage you
Whoever you are,wherever you are and whatever your circumstances,
All the best for 2012. 
I hope our paths cross.
Here...or there!

Take time to work, it is the price of success.
Take time to think, it is the source of power.
Take time to play, it is the secret of perpetual youth.
Take time to be friendly, it is the road to happiness.
Take time to love and be loved, it is the privilege of the Gods.
Take time to share, life is too short to be selfish.
Take time to laugh, laughter is the music of the soul.

Love from the farm,

Monday, December 19, 2011

Eat in the past and live there too!

Years ago at the height of my fanaticism for heirloom vegetables I coined the phrase "Eat in the past".
And yes. It's still there on my website, and will be carrying over onto the new website in 2012.

Clever? Maybe. But maybe not.

Some people might look at it and think "hmm, what is this? Eat expired food? Spend all day in the kitchen and forego modern conveniences?"

Well, of course it really only means try heirloom vegetables. Grow them, eat them and keep them alive.
Because as long as people are growing them and eating them, the seed continues to be in existence and in demand.  Considering 90% of our vegetable varieties have disappeared over the past hundred years this is pretty important.

In some ways living in the past is important too.
My parents lived through the depression and although they were very young, it clearly had a huge influence on how they lived their lives and how they raised my sisters and I.

They didn't buy things they didn't need. When they shopped they looked at quality and price.
We weren't poor, middle class I would say. But "a penny saved is a penny earned" is how we lived.

My mom gardened on a big scale and canned and froze much of her produce.

No food was ever wasted. My whole life I didn't see (or do I see now) food in our garbage can.
One tea bag made two cups of tea, everything was made from scratch and you ate everything on your plate.
And yes. If I didn't like something I sat at the table till I ate it. Not how things are to be done now I know.

But most people were the same.

I remember every summer after my dad had harvested the wheat, taking a bushel full of the beautiful golden grains to our elderly neighbour. It was his morning cereal for most of the year. He would soak a portion overnight, then cook it up for breakfast,  and add a bit of sugar and milk.
For some reason we didn't do that. Maybe mom figured that was more than she could get away with. Kids and all, you know.
Our breakfasts were oatmeal porridge, Red River Cereal or Cream of Wheat.

I was reminded this summer of how simple our life really was by seeing a branch in my elderly friend's yard.

This branch, propping up her laundry line nearly made me cry as a memory came into my head. She must have wondered as I stared at it.
That's what my mom did. With a nail hammered in the top to hold the line, that branch held up that line for nearly 40 years. It's funny to think about it. It was good enough, and did what had to be done. No gadgets, no purchases. Nothing shiny and new. It was just a branch.

Many these days would have you believing that being environmentally friendly is also about buying products that are labelled as such. And sure. If you have to buy something, I guess that's the way to go.

But I think lots of times we're still buying things we really don't need. Buying stuff fills some strange vacant spot inside us.

A few years back I went to a big "green" event in Toronto and came out with my head spinning. "Green" was interpreted as buying more stuff and there was a whole massive building full of it for sale. Maybe the stuff was more environmentally friendly. But with "greenwashing", maybe it wasn't.

I'm not sure buying more stuff we really don't need is the way out of this environmental mess we've gotten ourselves in. Even if it is (supposedly) environmentally friendly.

Maybe it is buying less. Making do with what we have.

I don't want to relive those childhood years.  (Well, actually maybe if I could, I would. They were really good years.)

But clearly, here we are today and this is where I want to be.

It all comes back to tomatoes.

Maybe we should be a bit more like the tomato.  A tomato that is overfed and overwatered simply doesn't taste as good as one grown with a bit less attention. The best tomatoes I ever grew were ones which grew on my hard-to-manage clay with water withheld for the season. They thrived on less.

If we had a bit less maybe we'd appreciate what we do have a bit more. We might even see that all that stuff isn't necessary for us to be the very best we can be.  And the residual effects of less consumption might be good for the bigger picture.

It might not be that bad to live in the past.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Guest Post-Arugula Cottage Cheese Dip

Leslie must spend a good bit of time in the favourite kind of CSA customer!
(Not to mention my favourite kind of person.Very sweet!)
I'm very much appreciating her creativity, especially since she is so willing to share her recipes.  And after my little Christmas potluck here on the farm, I've had the honour of  sampling her dishes too. Yum!
Thanks for the post, Leslie.
If you'd like to read another post I wrote about arugula, it was a year ago I wrote about Astounding Arugula
Don't think about it that way? Maybe if you try this recipe you will! 

Is it a dip? Is it a salad dressing? Is it a sandwich smear? Well that is for you to decide! What I do know is that it is tasty. I found this recipe for an Arugula Cottage Cheese Dip on a website called and immediately thought it would be a perfect way to use some of the beautiful arugula Linda put in my basket this week. Something about arugula makes me think about the summer. Maybe it is because one of my favourite salads in the summer is a simple mixture of arugula, feta cheese and watermelon. When I smell and taste the peppery goodness that is arugula I am instantly feeling warmer and dreaming of the summer. This recipe is great as a dip, salad dressing or even smeared on a sandwich. The choice is yours…enjoy! 
Arugula Cottage Cheese Dip
4 ounces of arugula (about 4 cups packed) coarsely chopped
1 cup of cottage cheese
1/3 cup of mayonnaise 
2 tbps fresh lemon juice 
¼ cup chopped chives or finely chopped scallions (green parts only) 
¼ tsp salt 
Fresh pepper to taste
1 clove of garlic  **
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Add more salt and pepper to taste if desired. This dip will keep for several days in the refrigerator. 
** The original recipe did not call for garlic. I am a firm believer that everything tastes better with garlic in it. Feel free to leave it out if you wish. ** 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's Now on the Farm

This is not the post I planned on writing.

The post I should be writing is about my 2012 CSA.

The last few weeks ( or has it been months?) have been about planning for next year.
Getting the seed listing done, planning Seedy Saturday, my CSA, my farm events and other farm business.

I'm tired of living so far in the future.'s the now on the farm.

After putting up a new chicken coop this summer, fixing up and attaching a chicken greenhouse,which acts as their winter playground/scratching area, I am truly confounded  that the rats have already chewed through two layers of plywood door to gain access to the chicken food. How can this be? Not fair.

At least let me get a good solid month of it being together before you burst my proverbial bubble! 

Game on I say. My solution to date has been to cram the doors at night with clay pots, which covers the  hole they've already chewed and seems to prevent them from chewing new ones. 

Pots weren't too busy this time of year anyway.

The rats have the next move. I'm waiting.

I really don't like rats that much.

It's been an interesting fall. We've had some pretty chilly nights, but all in all, it's warm. And in the hoophouses, it has been down right hot at times. It's hard to regulate the temperatures.

Crops are confused.

Some cute little tatsois have decided spring is upon us, so are flowering with eternal optimism. Bless them. I'm enjoying their happy colours, especially on the cloudy and dreary days.

The hot peppers that my friends the Maniacis brought seed back from Florence for are still alive and kicking. They are leaning up against a black barrel of water which is providing them with enough heat during the cold nights to carry on. How much longer, I wonder?

It's neat to see the little tomato plants that have popped up from seed. I know their germination will all be for naught if I don't interfere.  The cold weather will finish them off sooner or later.
Tomorrow I'll pot a few up and pop them under my lights indoors with the rooted basil and rosemary cuttings. Who knows? Maybe I'll get a tomato. Or maybe just the wonderful smell of the tomato plant when I brush it with my hand. That's okay too.

And miracle of miracles. I found a tomato under my spigiarello plant that was ripe and ready to eat. In the hoop house of course. But wow. A fresh tomato in mid December works for me.

                                                             (I'm eating the tomato!)

                                            But there is still lots of fresh food going out. 

The seasons and years are colliding right now. Cleaning seed from 2011 for 2012, harvesting food from 2011 but planning for 2012. 

The weather is cooperating now. I'm planning on that for 2012 too.

But we'll see about that one.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Guest Post-Mustard Green Stuffed Portabellos

Thanks once again to my friend Leslie for the great sounding, and soon-to-be-tried recipe. 
Yes, friends, it is mustard green weather!
Mustard greens are one of the most satisfying and simple crops to grow in the winter hoop house, and they cover the whole range of colours, tastes and textures. From frilly and mild mizunas, to the pungent heat of Giant Red, mustards are a good bet for winter greens.
Here's a bit more information about them from an earlier post  And I hope you enjoy this creative recipe as much as I am going to!

Merci encore, Leslie.

Mustard greens are part of the cruciferous family of vegetables (collard greens, kale, broccoli, etc.) They are often referred to as the super-veggies because they are full of phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, and fiber. Research has shown that eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables may help lower your risk of getting cancer. The recipe below is just one extra way to get these peppery greens into your diet on a regular basis. 
Mustard Green Stuffed Portobellos
This recipe is based on the recipe for Natale Stuffed Portobellos that appeared in the December 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times. The original recipe uses spinach instead of mustard greens and is put together a little differently. 
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
4 large portobello mushroom caps
2 Tbs breadcrumbs
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup chopped onion 
8 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup light cream or soy creamer
10 oz fresh mustard greens (or any combination of swiss chard, mustard greens, spinach) 
¼ cup grated Asiago cheese
4 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped
  1. To make mushrooms: Preheat oven to 3750F. Whisk together oil, vinegar, and garlic in a bowl. Brush mushroom caps with oil mixture, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 30 minutes, or until tender. Remove from baking sheet and place on paper-towel-lined plate to absorb excess moisture. 
  2. To make filling: Heat remaining oil/garlic/balsamic mixture in a skillet of medium heat. Add mustard greens and cook until wilted. Remove from pan and drain any excess moisture. Wipe out skillet and heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté 5 minutes, or until soft. Add sun-dried tomatoes and garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Stir in cream, and cook 2 minutes. Add cooked mustard greens back into the skillet. Stir in cheeses, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. 
  3. Return mushroom caps to baking sheet and spoon filling into the caps. Top with breadcrumbs and return to the oven for 5 to 7 minutes until crumbs are toasted. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Uncle Howard's Tomato

It was surprising how many people read the post about the garden story contest.  Thanks for reading!

You never know when you propose these things exactly how they will be received.  Will, in fact ANYBODY send me a little story?

As with everything I do, numbers really don't mean too much. I'm happy with a few exquisite tomatoes, as opposed to a field of edible cardboard. I'm happy when I hold an event if a few folks come, or if lots of people come.

So I had 3 entries. And I think I am grateful for that.  If I'd had 10 entries, how would I possibly have picked a winner?

And I loved all 3.

Genevieve for the sheer joy that comes out in her story as she describes her garden successes.  I can relate to being in the garden in my nightgown.  On more than one occasion...the joy of country living! Michelle and her tenacity in spearheading what is going to be a wonderful community garden in Burlington.

And Rob's.

Well Rob, that is just a great story! It makes me think of heirlooms and the stories that are associated with them, and of course the huge family connection we have to specific foods. I hope Uncle Howard's tomato is out there growing and thriving as it's loss would be terrible. I mean really... a tomato that can bring that much joy to a person who no longer enjoys food? That's a treasure.

So Uncle Howard"s Tomato is my winner. But in the true spirit of gardening, and because I enjoyed all three, Genevieve and Michelle, there will be 10 packets of seeds for you both as well.

Thanks so much for sharing your garden stories with me.

And now sit back and read this one. Love it!

Uncle Howard's Tomato

When he was nineteen, my mother's Uncle Howard got kicked in the head by a horse.  It knocked him unconscious for a few minutes, and when he "came to," he discovered that he no longer had a sense of smell.  And even worse, he had almost no sense of taste.

Imagine living a long life without the enjoyment of any olfactory or gustatory sense whatsoever: knowing you must eat, feeling hunger of course, but taking no pleasure in chewing and swallowing.  My Great Uncle Howard was a very thin man.  He performed the chore of eating purely for necessity, and if not for his wife, my Great Aunt Martha, he probably would have forgotten to eat more often than not.

One year I drove my Grandfather and Grandmother to Florida, and we stopped in to visit Howard and Martha, who had a winter cottage on a residential piece of land.  There, Howard revealed to us that although his sense of smell was completely and utterly gone, he did still have a tiny bit of taste sensation.  He could only taste one thing, however.  He was very excited, because he had finally grown a tomato in his garden that he could actually taste.

He waxed eloquent over the taste of that particular tomato, and crooned over its size and shape. To think, he had grown it in his own garden.  Finally, after all of these years, he could again taste food!

Isaac Asimov wrote a short story where life has evolved on a distant planet under multiple suns. Only once every couple of millennia did the suns align on one side of the planet, so that half the world was enveloped in night and the beings there could see stars.  Only once every couple of millennia, therefore, could they see and wonder at the true extent of the universe.  For Uncle Howard, the taste of that tomato was like a single window into a universe that he thought was forever denied to him.

I wish now that I had paid closer attention to the type of tomato Uncle Howard had discovered. Does that tomato still exist?  Has someone kept its seed alive, growing it year after year?  Would its taste be pleasant to me, or is it so profoundly tomatoey that only a person without a nose could eat it?

When I pick a tomato from my backyard garden plants, I smell its scent, fresh from the vine, a scent that is truer than any supermarket tomato can give you.  I take a bite, grateful that I can taste it.  It tastes so good.  I think of my Uncle Howard and I wonder: is this the one?