Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Summer CSA Week 10

Things are looking up on the farm.
After a few days of feeling absolutely horrible from pneumonia, my dear pig Joey has regained his appetite and is reminding me when I am late getting his dinner to him. This is all good.
A nice slow steady rain yesterday perked up a few crops, and encouraged newly planted seed to pop out of the ground.
And..what the heck. September is on the horizon and we are still planting. Maris planted more beets today when I was out doing my deliveries. Will they make it? Who knows for sure? Yes, if we get a good long fall, and in the worst case, they will be teeny beets.
The hoop houses are all getting ready for the winter crops, but i haven't stared to plant yet. it's still too hot. I'm just waiting for the cooler weather. Doesn't sound like the tail end of this week will be it!


Baskets today were quite loaded.


Tomatoes, peppers, both sweet and hot, beans, beets, African Blue basil, chard, parsley or leaf celery, bronze fennel, lemon grass and a number more things as well.


Some of the baskets had Tinda squash in them..a squash used in Asian cuisine. It is a lovely mild flavoured squash..and what other vegetable rhymes with Linda? I just had to grow it.

Want a different recipe to try? This one is yummy and easy. And easy is always good.

(from Canadian Living)



Ingredients

  • 2 bunches Swiss chard, (2-1/2 pound/1.25 kg)
  • 4 tsp (18 mL) soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) sesame oil
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) sugar

Preparation

Remove stems from Swiss chard and reserve for another use. In large pot of boiling salted water, cook leaves for 1 minute; drain in colander and rinse under cold water. Press to extract as much liquid as possible; transfer to bowl.
In small bowl, mix together soy sauce, sesame seeds, sesame oil and sugar; pour over leaves and toss to coat.



Cold Swiss Chard Leaves

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Small Grower's Rant-Why are you haggling with me?






I think I am turning into a grouch.
It seems to me it happens every year about this time.
I think it is because I'm tired.
I always describe this time of year on the farm  like finishing a marathon. The finish line is in sight, end of the main season and I'm crawling towards it with every little bit of energy I have left.

When I write on my blog I try to be pleasant. I'm a positive person and grateful for all I have and the fact I do what I do for a living.

But it seems to me people really don't understand it very much at all.

People idealize it. Be your own boss, work outside, get exercise. YES, YES and YES! It's all true.
But also true is the fact that the weather dictates my success any given year, it is very hard work physically, my hours are very long, and I don't get out much.  I'm not bitching. This is all my choice.

Also true is the fact that I have one family income-mine- and that the bills roll in. Vet bills, bills to fix my old car, pay help, buy supplies, look after my family. You know. Just like you and everybody else.  Food bills aren't too high, thank goodness.  And I don't live a life with too many frills.

This week I think the hard work really proved it has gotten to me. It has been a hard year. Dry beyond belief, and some crops have struggled. We've worked hard...very hard to keep things growing and healthy and to grow quality food.
It was when the haggling started that I started to get a bit irate.   I try to set my prices reasonably considering that I grow organically and grow some pretty cool food.  But my prices are my prices and honestly I have had people say to me that my prices aren't enough for the work I do and they shove a little extra cash in my hand. Happened today in fact, and thanks so much for that.
Personally I haven't seen a lot of small growers like myself cruising in a Mercedes, letting the world know of their lucrative career choice. Do you?
I also don't see people going into Tim Hortons and asking for a better deal. Or to restaurants, or grocery stores or clothing stores or.... well where else?
It's kind of insulting actually and I don't think people who haggle with me get it. I work hard and I am not trying to rip anybody off. I'm trying to live and support myself and my family doing this.
I don't make minimum wage. It's legal when you're a farmer you know. Food prices are such that I don't.  I knew that getting into this field.
But when you quibble over 50 cents a pound for my tomatoes, or an extra 50 cents for my beans or garlic I want to cry. Honestly. Because I'm tired and have tried hard. Gone the extra mile so to speak. Some things I grow are quite unique and hard to find. And like all small farmers I do work hard to produce what I grow.
I'm not ripping you off, I am simply trying to make a living.


Thanks to all who respect that.





Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Summer CSA-Week 9 and Open House September 2nd


Here we are again. Another week and another problem. I'm pretty sure someone is testing me to see what I am made of. That is other than vegetables.

Can you believe it? Joey, my dear pot bellied pig has PNEUMONIA!!

I went away for the weekend, a rare thing in and of itself and came back to a pig who didn't come out of his house when I called. I waited, called again and no Joey. That's just weird. So I got a few apples and popped them down and no Joey still. My heart sank. Until I heard a low grunt and I knew at least he was still with me. But Joey not eating means Joey doesn't feel good at all.

Yesterday the vet came out and Maris encouraged Joey to cooperate so the vet could take his temperature (105 degrees). Two strong shots of antibiotics and today he appears to be on the mend.
Maris was impressed with Joey the sick pig's strength. Even sick, Joey gets what Joey wants. 


Hopefully most of the veggies in your baskets today were recognizable. 
I will point out that the basil today was spice basil and it is really distinctive-you may not even recognize it as being basil. Oregano accompanied it.


If any of the peppers in your basket looked like any of the above-they are very hot. Wrinkled peppers equals scorchers. (Aren't they pretty though?)


The heirloom beans keeps coming too. When I say there are beans in the baskets, it can be different ones every week. How many varieties am I growing? Honestly not sure. Quite a few and some you won't see much of because I need to save the seed. I have a number of varieties that I got from the Heritage Seed Library in England and the beans are ultra-cool. But I've got to save all the bean seeds I can because I was only gifted with 5 seeds to begin with.

I'm having a small event on September 2nd (from 1-3 pm) as well that I'll mention here. 
I usually do my "Tomato Bash" on this date, but this year I have decided to downgrade it. Sorry folks-I just don't have it in me. I'm totally evented out!
I do welcome you to the farm though to join me in a tour of the garden, a chance to try a few of the tomatoes, peppers and some other interesting things I am growing. No chefs, no wine, no charge.
There is some cool stuff this year.
I'll provide non-alcoholic beverages, so please let me know if you are coming so I can plan accordingly.
I'll have some veg for sale, as well as the growing line of "Tree and Twig Preserved".  Nine different basil jelly varieties, beets, beans, tomatoes all done up with interesting spins.

This weekend, Saturday August 25th don't forget Rawstock in Niagara on the Lake. It's the first annual and there are some great folks there! (I'll be there.... not implying I'm great!)
I'll  also will be at Feast of Fields on September 9th at Cold Creek Conservation Area , Township of King and am super honoured to be invited. This is like the grand-daddy of chef and farmer events.

I've been talking to a few people lately, so will add a few things here for you to peruse.


And the delightful (and funny as....) Karen from The Art of Doing Stuff Tree and Twig Field Trip-Profile of a CSA Farmer


And from The Huffington Post-a recipe


Charred Tomato Salsa!

Ingredients

  • 6 medium vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion, cut into thick slices
  • 1 jalapeno chile
  • 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 450F.
  • Place the tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, and garlic on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
  • Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 10 minutes or until the vegetables have started to blister.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  • Peel, seed, and chop the tomatoes roughly. Seed the jalapeno and chop finely. Peel and mince the garlic, and finely dice the onion.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  • Peel, seed, and chop the tomatoes roughly. Seed the jalapeno and chop finely. Peel and mince the garlic, and finely dice the onion.
  • Mix the vegetables in a large bowl and add the cilantro, lime juice, and cumin.
  • Season the salsa to taste with salt and pepper and serve


Darn they are cute! Saved from a sure demise.




Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Guest post-Jo's Roasted Beets with Rosemary and Feta

Who brings a rice cooker camping?

Last week, an old childhood friend of mine returned to the area after a year of living in Egypt.  Christine and I have known each other all our lives, and we do love a good camping trip, so I offered to pick her up at the airport and go straight to the campground if it was all the same to her. She was game, as always.

On Monday I got a cold, but decided not to let it get me or the camping trip down, so I soldiered on.  On Wednesday morning, I packed poorly, though, and one of the last things I threw in the car before heading out was a gigantic rice cooker.  I knew we'd booked a campground with electricity, so what the hey.  It looked strange, but I saw a Chinese family do it once at a campground, and I was jealous they had so much perfectly cooked rice! 

I also threw in my huge box of CSA veggies, a couple of weeks' worth.  I didn't sort it, just brought it all.

The first night, I was unpacking the car and pitching the dining tent and I hauled out the rice cooker.  It was HUGE.  Hilariously huge.  Christine thought it was a gas, as she likes rice as much as I do.  That night, I felt like soup and rice and wasn't feeling particularly energetic, what with the cold and having pitched the tents, so I put a can of Campbell's on the stove and a cup of rice in the rice cooker.  Of course that doubled in size once cooked and I wasn't thinking.  I dumped the soup into the rice (instead of the rice into the soup) and wound up with a VERY unflavourful batch of predominantly rice with faint canned vegetable overtones.  Frankly, it was foul.  Christine was good spirited about the whole thing, and did eat it, but I was shaking my head, knowing how much good food I'd brought, and how I'd opted for crap.  

The next day, after a crazy hike which included a 27-flight climb up a ravine (I have a pedometer with an altimeter built in!), we were famished.  Christine was on kitchen duty and she started going through the CSA box.  I'd stupidly forgotten to pack spices, but it didn't even matter.  Heirloom organic vegetables have FLAVOUR (unlike a can of Campbell's soup) and she meticulously chopped up and sauted up onion, garlic, kale, chard, tomatoes and beans.  I was on rice duty, and tossed in a can of chick peas which I'd managed to bring.

The whole thing came out so damned good, we both couldn't stop talking about it for hours afterwards.  Probably because the meal the night before was such a let down, but DAMN those veggies were amazing.  Food always tastes better outside, to top it off!  Add it to a monster hike, and you are golden.

A few days later when we got back to town (and I got back from the walk-in clinic with an aggravated case of bronchitis! Yikes!), Christine made supper with the remnants in the basket.  At that point, it was rosemary, beets and beans.  She said she LOVED beets and although usually they are a pain to cook, these ones were teensy and would take no time at all.  She said that feta went really well with beets... something about the sweet and sour that comes together.  I'd only ever had beets with vinegar before, so this was going to be something interesting.

I'll include the recipe she used below, it was amazing!  Who knew?

Roasted beets with rosemary and feta

Ingredients

  • 6 beets, (about 1-1/2 lb/750 g)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary, (or 1 tbsp/15 mL dried)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley or rosemary
  • feta cheese

Preparation

Cut beet tops to leave 1 inch (2.5 cm) attached; leave tails. Place on 16-inch (40 cm) piece of foil. Sprinkle with garlic, rosemary, 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the oil, salt and pepper. Fold to form packet. Place on rimmed baking sheet; roast in 400°F (200°C) oven until fork-tender, 1 hour.
Wearing rubber gloves, peel and trim beets; cut into 1/4-inch (5 mm) thick slices. Arrange on warmed platter; drizzle with remaining oil. Sprinkle with parsley and mix with cubed or crumbled feta cheese


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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer CSA Week 8




I fully recognize that the last few weeks when I have begun these posts, I haven't had great farm news to share. My rooster and chicken gone. My duck hit on the road. These are things that are very difficult to bear. I wish it had gotten better, but again today the news is bad. Actually much worse than bad.
Pickle, a farm favourite and my beloved cat of many years suffered a stroke last night. At the vet today we learned that it was the result of a brain tumour and nothing can be done.Tomorrow will be a very difficult day for us all as I take him back to the vet again for the last time. I am so sad, so you will likely note a lack of joviality in this post.  For that I apologize.  Sometimes I wonder if I am cut out to handle all this.


The baskets today had quite a bit in them.  Beans, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers of different colours, an herb bundle with basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, mint and leaf celery, cabbage, kales, and then the following possible suspects depending on the basket-zucchini, tomatillos, ground cherries, eggplant, pickling melons (a bit fuzzy and eat them like cukes). If you are unfamiliar with the tomatillos, they are the larger husked fruit and are essential for salsa verde. If you've been in my CSA before though, you'll no doubt recognize them.
One of my favourite things to do with lots of these veggies, is to create sauce for pasta. I'm not sure there should be any rules at all about what can go in tomato sauce. Tonight in mine I added tomatoes, unpeeled to a pan of sizzling onion and garlic. Throw in some peppers, both sweet and hot, kale, beans, some apple from one of my trees, basil, thyme, leaf celery a bit of kosher salt and a pinch of cinnamon and voila. It was good. The cabbage is so young and sweet that I just slice it into chunks and serve as is. Homemade bread on the side (see my no knead bread recipe on this blog), dessert from Rise Above in St Catharines and we're all good.

Or if you feel more adventurous, try this. It's delicious!

Cabbage Koora

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 dried red chile peppers, broken into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon skinned split black lentils (urad dal)
  • 1 teaspoon split Bengal gram (chana dal)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
  • 1 pinch asafoetida powder
  • 4 green chile peppers, minced
  • 1 head cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated coconut

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; fry the red chile peppers, urad dal, chana dal, and mustard seed in the hot oil. When the urad dal begins to brown, add the curry leaves and asafoetida powder; stir. Add the green chile peppers and continue cooking 1 minute more. Stir the cabbage and peas into the mixture; season with salt; cook and stir until the cabbage begins to wilt, but remains somewhat crunchy, about 10 minutes. Toss the coconut into the mixture and cook for 2 minutes more. Serve immediately.



Sunday, August 12, 2012

Garden Pictures on an August evening

The long shot..a garden always is

Thar's sesame seeds in those thar pods

Spigiarello

Indigo Rose

Oodles of brassicas

Morelle de Balbis

Naga Morich

Wenk's Yellow Hot

Red Malabar Spinach

Huckleberries-I'm hoping for more WINE!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Maris the Amazing Farm Intern Reflects



Hey all. I’m going to have a few more blogs before I leave Tree and Twig. The busy part of the farming season has come to an end and Linda and I have started to discuss an end date for my internship (I think she’s getting fed up with me). I’ve got a few notes on the regular happenings and then some on the important lessons I’ve learned while lazin‘ about this farm.

The ducks are doing great. The older duck has been developing more and more adult feathers every day, and the younger guy has finally started to grow its own starting today. They’re still getting noticeably bigger everyday and we’ve started talking about when they’re going to move to New Leaf with all the other birds we have wandering around. They’re still a little young and the turkeys seem to pick on them every time I’ve had them out and about while visiting on weekends.

I’ve pulled, hoed, and tilled about a billion more weeds since I last mentioned them in a blog. That’s been the case for both here and at A New Leaf. I did spend a day at my mom’s house in downtown Hamilton to help out around the house and guess what she had me do for her... pull weeds! Oh well, the war against them is finally going downhill as there are only a limited number of weeks left in the season and we’ve mulched huge areas of the plants to prevent any resurgence. 

Number one lesson from my experience at Tree and Twig: farming ain’t for quitters. Running even a small farm business takes everything you’ve got and then some. But if you’re a hard worker and can see things to their end, then it’s a beautiful ride all the way through. You start off with gusto and excitement for the growing season to begin. Your body and mind get stronger and ready to persevere by the time the old-you would have collapsed. Herculean tasks become the regular and after transplanting so many seedlings, digging so many holes, pulling so many weeds, and __(insert farming activity here)__ you feel like you can take on anything and all you ask when presented with another tolling task is: that’s it?  

I’ll include some more ‘what i’ve learned’ next time around, but I think i’ve rattled on long enough for today. Thanks for tuning in.