Monday, October 31, 2011

This Time of Year

All the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are off the fields. If they didn't make it off they are finished. We've had some very hard frosts.

 There are new harvests in the hoop house...french breakfast radishes.

Lots of root crops to sell and store..carrots, beets, winter radishes and a surprise crop of scallions I had sort of forgot about.

Vegetable baskets are still going out. It's nice to be able to add some English walnuts. The baskets are a mix of summer and fall.

Ever try making walnut butter?  It's nice to be able to make your own nut butters out of your own nuts.

There are lots of hardy greens right now. Some from outside, some from in the hoop houses.  Chards, kales, spigiarello.

And dry beans to pick. I've lost count of how many kinds. Just lots. It's been tough to get them all dry.
A late spring planting and a bit too much rain this fall. Some will be seed, and some will just be good eating.

These are the hoop house greens. There are lots of lovely little greens now. Many, many mustards, kales, arugula and chards. Good stuff.

It never ends. It just goes on...differently. But it goes on.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Tell Me a Garden Story" Contest and win seed !

I've entered a few contests lately.  Really... why not?

One I entered is a makeover contest.  I'm really hoping I win. I mean, I had to send in a picture and everything so they get a sense of whether or not there is any raw material to work with at all.

I'm not sure if the "farmer" label in my write up will throw them off. They must wonder why someone who does what I do would want a makeover.

Probably will help me sell more vegetables I figure. Can you imagine driving by and seeing a glamorous farmer in the field working? (Me!)

Surely you'd slam on the brakes, put your jalopy in reverse and come back to buy vegetables from me. That's what I think anyhow. We'll see how it all turns out.

Well, I'm not proposing to make anyone over.  Heaven forbid.

But around this time last year I offered The Great Seed Giveaway on this blog to good response. Again this year  I have some left- over seed, as well as some nice new seed harvested fresh from my garden for 2012 sales.  Some very intriguing seed, rare seed and just plain cool seed.

So tell me your garden stories!  In return I'll send the author of the story I like the best 25 packets of seed for your 2012 garden. This selection will include vegetables (including some rare tomato seed), herbs and flowers as well.  Heavy, of course, on the vegetables.  And with the author's permission, I'll print the story on my blog.

Preferably the stories will be non-fiction, no more than 500 words in length and about your vegetable garden or vegetable gardening experiences. Pictures are welcome, as are amusing stories!  I don't care if you are new to gardening, an experienced gardener, or how large or  small your garden. If you grow in pots, send in your story! Children are welcome to write in too.  Gardening embraces and enthrals us all.  And I'll mail the winner's seed anywhere in the world. I'd love to hear from faraway places.

Please send your entries to me at before November 30, 2011.

Win some cool seed.  Seed and stories are for sharing!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Guest Post-Pickled Tomatillos

Thanks for another great post, Leslie!

There are so many tomatillos at this time of year. Some I planted, many I didn't. My theory with them is that if you plant them in your garden one year, you'll have them for life. They are the most prolific self seeders in my garden.

I'm glad to have another way to use them. I'll be using my "Hinkelhatz" peppers for this recipe, which was my very best producing hot pepper this year.

I seem to have a real love/hate relationship with tomatillos. When they first start appearing in my CSA basket I am happy to see them. A batch of Salsa Verde, a pot of Mexican Chicken Soup all great! However, it is when they continue to show up in mass quantities. One person can only make and eat so much Salsa Verde. So being a person who loves all things pickled I was taken back when I saw pickled tomatillos as part of dish on a menu for a restaurant that was featuring a local menu. Could it be possible? Pickled tomatillos? Would my love of all things pickled come to an end once I tried to pickle them? So the quest to find a recipe began and was quickly satisfied with the recipe below from The Joy of Pickling. I adapted it slightly but was very happy with the results. I must say I am feeling more love than hate for the tomatillos that are appearing in my basket these days!  
Pickled Tomatillos
1 pound husked green tomatillos, washed
2 sweet or mild peppers, cut into strips or 1-inch squares
2 to 3 hot peppers (jalapeno or other types found in your csa basket) seeded and cut into pieces 
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 cup white wine vinegar 
1 cup water
2 tsp pickling salt 
1 tsp sugar (I like a real vinegar pickle so I omitted the sugar in mine) 
  1. Halve the tomatillos if they’re small, quarter them if they’re large. In a 1 quart jar, combine the tomatillos, peppers, and garlic. Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil in a nonreactive saucepan, and pour the hot liquid over the vegetables. Let the contents cool.
  2. Cover the jar tightly with a nonreactive cap, and refrigerate the pickles for about 1 week before eating them. They will keep, refrigerated, for at least 2 months. 
Makes 1 quart
Recipe adapted from The Joy of Pickling. 

Hinkelhatz heirloom hot pepper

Friday, October 21, 2011

Raw squash salad-who knew?

Wow. Tonight for supper I cut into a 32 lb squash, not a simple task I tell you.

As I explained to my friend Emily, I'm sharing this baby. Some for me, some for the puppies, some for the chickens. And of course some for Joey, my pig, who is tiring of tomatillos on his stringent no grain diet.

The squash in question is a fabulous heirloom variety, "Musquee de Provence".

The wonderful Seed Savers Exchange, (whose seed I sell!) describes it as:

"(Cucurbita moschata) (aka Potiron Bronze de Montlhéry) An heirloom cheese pumpkin from the South of France, introduced to American gardeners in 1899 by Vaughan’s Seed Store in Chicago. Gorgeous squashes, up to 20 pounds in weight, look like wheels of cheese, and ripen from green to burnt sienna. Deep orange flesh is dense and of superb table quality. Very long shelf life. Intolerant of cold. 110 days. "

Mine clearly got a little larger than 20 lbs, and it was a true surprise to find them all.
They crept into a bit of a valley, and grew to this massive size while shaded by tall meadow grass.

What to do, what to do?

Did I mention there are lots of them?

Well thanks to two magazines I subscribe to for the inspiration. Edible Buffalo got me thinking of squash in a way I'd never considered, with a recipe for "Raw Butternut Squash Salad" (Fall 2011,Number 14).

And Mother Earth News with a great little page on roasting squash and pumpkin seed . Great magazines both.

I also found this recipe which appeared in The New York Times. And yum , it worked with my squash too.
Give something different a try!


1 butternut squash(about 1 1/2 lbs), peeled, seeded and grated.

1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used organic canola)
1-2 Tbsp sherry vinegar, or to taste
1 Tbsp minced ginger
salt and pepper

Combine squash , raisins, oil, vinegar and ginger in a salad bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Toss, then taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to several hours.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (well, nearly)

Sighted today...

Not dry enough for dry beans-but my yummy lunch regardless

Chocolate Naga Jolokia. Pretty, n'est pas?

The fiery Tepin (Bird pepper)

Really? Where did this come from? Seen for the first time in the garden today!

Ching Chang Choi

Restaurant veggies-lots of colour!

Ndrow Issai eggplant

She tried her best. And it is good enough!

Lots of squash. And some big ones!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall on the Veggie Farm

Well, it is still pretty busy here on my little farm.

I'm not exactly laying on the chesterfield watching the soaps and eating bon-bons. Yet.

But much like the bumblebee on the dahlia, I'm slowing down. Not quite as slow as the bumblebees, who in this chillier weather sit on the dahlias and don't move for hours. But the pace isn't quite as hectic.

The hoop houses are all planted for the winter.  I was a bit late doing this. and should have done it in September, but somehow it crept into October when I finished up.

But things look good. The "Ching Chang Choy" (I love saying it!...did I say "Ching Chang Choy?) is, after a 30 day growing period, harvestable.

The kales, many varieties of mustards, mizunas, arugulas, onions, chards, chois, carrots, radishes and lettuces are looking just fine. There will be lots of greens all winter.  I'm just wrestling with the fact that I need to buy new ag fabric and that I can get the same product at one fifth the price in the US. Love to buy Canadian and all that, and if I had all that spare cash just laying around, I might do it. But really. I probably wouldn't because that is just dumb.

It's been a bit tough getting all the dried beans in. I use them for seed of course for next year, and also to eat them too as a wonderful protein source for the winter.

There are lots. Probably around 30 varieties, including some really very special ones from the Heritage Seed Library in England. 5 rare little bean seeds planted in the spring are now hundreds and hundreds.

Because I planted late in the spring, due to the wet conditions, they are late drying on the vine to harvest.  I got some picked today, but -egad - rain, and lots of it in the forecast tomorrow.

We're fortunate. There hasn't been a hard frost yet. So I'm still finding some tomatoes in the garden, although they are fading. But peppers? Oh my. So many. And BIG tomatillos.

These tomatillos are ones from the seed of some that I purchased at a farmers market in Salinas California several years back. I'd never seen such big tomatillos!

And this pepper? Well, help me out....I'm not sure what it is. Lots of times when I plant things out, I assume I'll know what the plant is when it bears fruit. Not so with this one.
As I do with a few other hot peppers, I'll dig them up and bring them in to overwinter. Maybe i'll identify them eventually.  A little internet research may turn up something.

I've taken cuttings for my African Blue basil and have them growing indoors under the lights. I'll have to take more cuttings from them before the spring rolls around. This is a fabulous basil..but not one that grows from seed. I got my original plant 5 or so years ago. It has had hundreds of offspring since that time.

My rosemary plants will overwinter in the hoop house, and for insurance, one will come right inside the house. Rosemary is a tender perennial that won't winter outside...with the exception of the hardier "Arp" variety. I'll take cuttings from them late winter.

My chards, kales, carrots, beets and radishes will still last a good while outside. But before the ground freezes, I'll get the roots up. I like to make sure they get a bit of frost. They are so much sweeter then.

And there are still seeds to collect. Most veggies that produce seed annually need to get a little over ripe before the seed is viable and at it's best. I've got lots of seed now for this fabulous mini-eggplant, Slim Jim.

Ah yes, the couch beckons. But there's still lots to do.

But rest will come.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Farmer Interview

Farmstart  is a pretty cool organization. They came down to speak with me years ago to discuss what it was I was doing as a small farmer with a small degree of success. Read about it here.

In a nutshell : "The objective of FarmStart is to support and encourage a new generation of farmers to develop locally based, ecologically sound and economically viable agricultural enterprises."

Exploring Your New Farm Dream is one of their course offerings this time around, and I've been asked to participate in one of their assignment " TheFarmer Interview" by a person I know who is exploring options for her retirement.

I liked the questions and thought they might make an interesting blog post. Thanks, Cathy. It's good to think about these things sometimes.

1.     How did you prepare to become a full-time farmer? For instance: Did you take courses before you started? After? Which courses? Where?

Well, no, no, no and no.
I grew up on a farm as not just a mere bystander. We picked and sold veggies on Hwy 6 in front of our family farm, my birthday was always in the middle of the corn harvest, and my favourite place in the world to be was in those fields, in the bush. Just on that marvellous patch of land.

So how did I prepare? Well, I was born into it, and I knew a fair bit before I took the plunge. I gradually made my growing area larger and larger while I maintained my social work career, until one just had to go. 

So logically, the one I made money doing was the one I left behind. But I also left behind a career that was highly stressful, reasonably unsatisfying and a bureaucratic nightmare.

I did complete my Certificate of Horticulture through the University of Guelph in my early farming years, but this I did for interest.

I'm going into my 15th year of farming, and there was not a plethora of courses or people doing what I was doing 15 years ago. 

I have a very extensive farming and gardening library, but more than that, I learned from doing. And from doing, I learned what I loved. 

And I loved heirlooms, seed saving and chemical free agriculture.

2)     What was the biggest farming obstacle or problem that you did not foresee? Was there a solution?

I can't think of what the biggest problem would be that I've had to overcome. I haven't seen any that have been insurmountable. One would be learning to grow on clay soil, which I've pretty much got sorted out now, and loving it because it is clay. I mean - is the glass half empty or half full?
Clay has it's detractors, but it has so many positives, and can be successfully worked on  and improved upon year after year that I refuse to sell it short.
The weather is the biggest variable and poor weather can ruin my season as it does any farmers. My hoop houses ensure I can grow some things even in poor weather, but a season of poor weather regardless, means a poor year for me income-wise. 

3)     What advice would you give to start-up farmers? Any hints on how to do it all, especially if you’re the key person involved?

My advice is just do it. I can't tell you the number of people I have talked too over the years who read books, took courses, looked at farming from every angle possible...and then went no further. 
Key in this is finding your niche and developing your market in advance as much as you can. 
Become known for something unique that you are able to grow really well and you can grow it reliably. 
What is lacking in your area? Most restaurants I know of are screaming for more year round salad growers. Develop a beautiful and tasty mix and visit restaurants with it to see if it will sell. And if it is quality, don't undersell yourself. Charge what it is worth. Or is it something else? Globe artichokes, or are you the pepper gal?  Don't repeat something that's already being done-ad nauseum.

If you are the key person involved, how do you do it all? You work hard. That's it. You just work really hard. You work hard in the fields, you plan, you work hard to give your business a good image, you work hard at customer service and most importantly you put out a superb product and do what you say you are going to do.  Be trustworthy, be honest and be the person you would like to deal with in business. 

It's hard work. Work hard.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Guest Post-Another view of a veggie basket

Thanks to Tiffany for the following post with yummy ideas on how to use your veggies from the baskets.
Typical baskets at this time of year hold a whole lot of food, likely around 15 or more items. What to do with it all ?  Here you go...
And ps. Thanks for the education!  Conserva? I thought it was a typo, but as it kept appearing I sensed not.  Now I know!  (recipe for conserva here .... minus the cheese for Tiffany.)
And to both my fantastic guest bloggers and great cooks, Leslie and Tiffany....I'm open for dinner invites at your convenience!
(I'm starting my planning for next year's CSA- drop me a note if you are interested, information will be on the website in early 2012.)

Conserva on puff pastry, and we have....

pizza! With added tomatoes and garlic.

Most weeks, I look at my basket brimming with Linda’s veggies as a challenge. 
What can I do with them to do her hard work justice? 
Greens are easy. Her hardier collards and kale are usually stir-fried, my favourite way to eat them.
Chard is turned into the filling for the easiest-ever tart. 
Peppers, well, the creative well ran a little dry so it was either salads or stir-fries, too. 
But her tomatoes this year were the recipients of most of my creativity. 
I jarred sauce. I made conserva. I oven-dried some and their salty sweetness makes them as easy to eat as candy. In fact, after 12 hours of dehydrating in my oven, I almost didn’t think I was going to have anything to show for my hydro bill and time because I nearly noshed the entire first batch.
When I finally managed to exercise some restraint, I sealed them in a freezer bag and tucked them behind some local strawberries I froze in time earlier this summer. 
My tomatoes three ways have left me smitten and missing summer already. Fortunately, I have the season saved in mason jars and baggies.
And memories. I made some of the most amazing roasted tomato soup with Linda’s heirlooms. Easiest soup ever. I dressed roughly chopped tomatoes in olive oil and salt, put them in the oven at 450F and after 40 minutes, I had the rough outline of what would be soup. 
A hand blender would make it happen and Linda’s gorgeous basil — a temperamental plant in my world but an herb that clearly does as Linda wants it to when growing on her farm — took the soup from good to summer in a bowl.
One of the simplest meals to make, though, is pizza. It’s rare that I order out for pie, mostly because of my freakish dairy restrictions. If it’s not goat, it’s really no good for me.
With my conserva beckoning me in the fridge, I broke out the last roll of puff pastry in my freezer, thawed and unrolled it; a blank canvas for the night’s meal.
I brushed on my conserva, knowing full well it’s a fancy word for tomato paste and wasn’t really pizza sauce, but I didn’t care. It was packed with summery flavour and that’s really what I was craving as I slathered it on the crust.
I sliced some of Linda’s tomatoes, roughly chopped some of her garlic and blanketed it all with goat’s mozzerella. 
But one veggie of hers isn’t allowing me to make that claim, no matter how much attention and care I devote to it.
I’m always thrilled with I see tomatillos in my basket. I have visions of salsa verde in my head when I see their husks peeking through the pile of other goodies.
I scrub all their stickiness off their beautiful lime green skins and roast them. Blend them. Add garlic, onion, chilies and cilantro.
But it never fails. It always turns into gelatinous goo. 
I’m convinced the tomatillo hates me. 
Unrequited love bites. 
Oven ready tomatillos

Roasted and yummy!

Sunday, October 9, 2011


...for wonderful memories,

... my girls, friends who need me (and I need them!)

Well, yes.  For Pickle

...for someone to cuddle.

...for small miracles,

...for diversity,

 and for the chance to do what I love.

Of course, for tomatoes....

...for beauty and...

the opportunity to carry on.
There's so much to be grateful for.

I am.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Of Tomatillos and Joey

I have a pig named Joey. Handsome boy isn't he?

Joey unfortunately has an affinity for grain.  Sadly, I guess I have encouraged this by giving in to his whoops and squeals when he felt that the veg and fruit diet wasn't sufficient.

It got out of control. This summer when Dr Reid, my awesome large animal vet from Dunnville came out for his annual "Joey" visit, he made it clear. " Joey is40-50 lbs overweight. No more grain"

Oh wow. That's a whole lot of weight to lose. Try selling that one to Joey.

It hasn't been his favourite task.  But he is getting there...the bulges are receding. That handsome piggly shape is reappearing.  And despite the less frequent protestations, he is seeming more pleasant.  Happier.

And a happy pig makes a happy Mama. That's me!

He has eaten a lot of tomatoes since the diet began. You know, the split one, the guts from the ones remaining after I saved the seed, those with bad spots.
Slurp! He loved them all.

He also enjoyed the apples from my trees, the weeds from the garden (although not so much) and some older lettuces.  

The cabbage family he doesn't do, so that all goes to the chickens. He just simply would never eat cabbage, and clever he is. Dr Reid told me it's a good thing, as cabbage, kale, broccoli and the like are somewhat toxic to pigs and can make them sick. 

Joey's no fool. 

But now we're late in the season. The tomatoes got a slight hit of frost last night and the end is in sight.

So tonight in desperation I threw him in some tomatillos from my bumper crop. 

And he liked them!  Yahoo- Joey likes tomatillos!

Tomatillos are one of about 100 members of the physalis family. Others you may know and love are the ground cherry and my personal favourite the Cape Gooseberry. So yummy.

Tomatillos have a pleasant lemony-herbal flavour, and are generally cooked. When used raw, as my mom frequently did, they have a sharper, more acidic flavour. 

And they grow like gangbusters. Tomatillos are one of those garden plants that always self seed. I frequently tell people that if i didn't pull them out, I would just be Tree and Twig Tomatillo Farm.  They would just take over.

Joey just gets them straight up. Frankly, he doesn't even care if I strip off the husk.

But if you're getting lots of tomatillos from your garden, the market or even from's a great recipe to give a try. As great as Salsa verde is, tomatillos can do more than that!

Diced Gazpacho Salad
(from Elizabeth Schneider's classic " Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables")

7 medium tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp oregano
1 handful parsley, not chopped
Black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 medium cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/4 " dice
1 large red bell pepper, diced into 1/2 "squares
1 small avocado, 1/2 " dice

1)Slice 2 tomatillos and combine in processor with salt, oregano, parsley and black pepper. Chop fine.Add oil and blend. Cut remaining tomatillos in 1/2 " dice.

2) Combine diced tomatillos, onion, cucumber and red pepper in a serving dish; toss with dressing. Add avocado and toss gently. Cover and chill for about 1 hour before serving.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Pretty October Vegetable Garden

 I love the fall. My favourite season by a mile.

Especially when the days are warm and sunny like today.

There's still lots to see (and eat) in the October garden.

And do!

Digging muddy French Fingerling potatoes today

Lacinato Kale

Sunflowers haven't given up!

Still yum-Chocolate Pear tomatoes

Pumpkin covered in noodles

My Organic Gardening test  gaillardia 

Watermelon Radishes

Oh! I love it-Summer Snowflake Marigold

Turkish Orange Eggplant