Looking back at the 2020 year

The 2019-2020 CSA year has been one of many changes for us.
Covid-19 challenged many of our ways of hospitality.
We could no longer invite you to share a meal, a potluck, or larger gatherings.
We miss that, but the smaller fall-pickup/work bees worked well.
We got a lot of work done and I actually got to visit with more of you.
When life returns to “normal” we hope to incorporate what we’ve learned from this lock-down.

Covid-19 also terminated tom and my retirement travels.
All the energy for dancing went into the garden.
I love field scale gardening.

The second big change was that Janice and Shawn decided to return to saskatoon after seven years on the farm.
I enjoyed gardening with Janice (we had complementary styles of working) and was sad to lose her as a garden partner.
However like with Covid-19 there is a positive side.
johnny has taken over the administration (I think he is having fun.) Tom is happy to be my new “garden partner” (he is pushing me to take stock of seeds, something I always procrastinate about).
I am enjoying a closeness with my family which compensates for the loss.

The third change is the end of my ten years of seed growing for Prairie Garden seeds.
This frees us more space, time, energy, and creativity for our CSA.
Johnny did a cabbage family cage prototype last summer.
Maybe we can grow enough cauliflower, cabbage, and brocoll to share with you!?

WE look forward to the 2021 garden season.
Tom did lots of manuring of the gardens last fall (with a new-to-us horse drawn manure spreader).
Johnny and tom worked all the garderns (after the garden harvest and clean up that most of you helped with. Thank-you for your help and good company.)
Thus we are ready to garden when the spring comes.

Judy Ternier

A New Season

It’s been quite the year, lots of change in the world and on the farm. As you may know, the Sanford Beck family is moving off the farm for other opportunities. It’s a big change for the farm and so it will take a while to see what it means for the work and life here. I’m taking over the blog from Janice and am hoping to start adding content on a regular basis again. ~Johnny Burns

Largo Farm Fall 2020.
photo credit Sacha Roy

Natural Hazards

storm

Well, it has happened again. Almost one year to the day after last year’s devastating hail, even larger stones came pelting down upon our gardens yesterday evening. We saw the clouds rushing in from the west, felt the winds whipping across our faces, headed for shelter, and then, just as we sat down to eat, heard the hailstones descend.

hail

Some of the effects will not materialize for some time. Last year, we found that the onions began to regrow after the hail and therefore did not cure properly. Our tomato yield was drastically reduced and many of the squash were pock-marked. That said, having lived through this experience last year, I am feeling less devastated now than I did then. I know that the garden grows on, and that our plants were particularly strong and healthy going into this assault.

Still, I am eminently grateful that the storm came after we had harvested this week’s wedding flowers. It was our first wedding, and the blooms were glorious (in spite of having been rained on then too). Fortunately, the plants should have plenty of time to recover before the next wedding (and even before the next market, where the bouquets have begun to sell).

wedding flowers

Taller plants have been particularly hard hit by the storm. The sweet pea blossoms and sunflower stems strewn across the garden soil are plain to see. But overall, it will take some time to determine the true impact of the storm. At the moment, some plants look virtually unscathed, while others are severely battered. We have had to postpone today’s pick-up (more because of the mud and wind than the hail), and when you do get your vegetables this week, they will not be as beautiful as they have been, nor will they keep as well due to the bruising caused by hail impact.

Still, your bags will be bursting with the flavours of the season. We have one final week of shelling peas, along with the first abundant harvests of green, wax, and purple beans. We still have broad beans, and the zucchini are hitting their stride. Salad and cooking greens are a little tattered, but still present, as are a wide array of herbs (parsley, basil, dill, cilantro, summer savory, mint, and the tail end of the arugula and cress). The cucumbers have begun to produce — slicers for the orders and pickling cukes available for ordering. The beets will likely be sent leafless (though some leaves in the centres of the rows may be intact enough to be worth sending), and carrots and potatoes will continue through the rest of the season provided it is dry enough to dig them. Even with last night’s unwelcome icy visitors, the vegetable bags will be an array almost as colourful as the flowers above.

Endings and New Beginnings

sweet peas

It seems like the summer has only just begun, but already several vegetables have passed out of season. It began with the asparagus, followed by the orach, sorrel, and spinach. Now the edible pod peas are taking their exit. The Chinese Giant have finished already, and this will probably be the last week for Cascadia. The plants are still producing, but the peas are getting to be so speckled we figure it is best to move on.

But they have certainly not left a vacuum. With each passing week, several new vegetables are coming into production. We started with some carrots last week, and have added potatoes, zucchini, and broad beans today. Next week will be green beans and possibly summer turnips, and the cucumbers and cherry tomatoes are not far behind. Such bounty!

There are also some new beginnings of another nature taking place in our community. Judy and Tom’s newest grandchild, Catherine, entered the world last week. Many congratulations to Josephine, Brody, and big sister Maria.

And we have two weddings coming up in our Saskatoon member circle, the first of which will take place next weekend. This is not only a new beginning in the happy couples’ lives, but also for our farm, as they have asked us to grow flowers for the weddings. With some trepidation, we have been enjoying the beauty of the blossoms as we prepare for the big day (the day when we cut and ship the flowers, of course!). I have been experimenting with cutting and arranging the flowers, and never would have guessed how much I would enjoy having a home filled with bouquets. We hope the wedding guests get as much pleasure out of them as we have, and invite anyone else interested in brightening their home with flowers to let us know.

bouquet

This week’s vegetable orders include new potatoes, carrots, beets, zucchini, and onion thinnings at the bottom of your bags, along with shelling peas and broad beans. For those unfamiliar with the latter, they need to be shelled and then boiled or steamed. Some people then peel each individual bean, though this is too much work for my liking! Broad beans are often used in Middle Eastern cooking and go well with lemon juice, parsley, garlic and onion. I will include a favourite recipe from Middle Eastern Cooking on a Saskatchewan Homestead below.

In a separate bag are your bulky greens – Swiss chard, kale, and lettuce. We are back to small lettuce heads, as the first two seedings are now finished and the third and fourth are ready for thinning. The kale you have received so far is also thinnings; soon we will be on to larger leaves. Unfortunately, our perpetual spinach did not come up this year, but we will start sending some extra chard soon to compensate.

Finally, you have a bag with edible pod peas (a mixture of Oregon Giant and Cascadia sugar snap) and a growing collection of herbs: arugula, cress, dill, parsley (flat leaved and curly), basil, purple basil, mint, and summer savory. Bon appetit!

Broad Bean Salad (Salatat Fool)

1 lb. Shelled broad beans, cooked

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

4 Tbsp chopped green onions

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbsp lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients well, then place on a platter and serve.

 

Peas, peas, and more peas

edible pod peas

Peas are the name of the game this week; we picked five different varieties for today’s order! Here’s how to keep them straight: the shelling peas (Knight) are in the bottom of your main cloth vegetable bag. The sugar snaps (a combination of Cascadia and Sugar Ann — shown above to the right) are mixed with the Oregon Giants (shown above to the left) at the bottom of your herb bag. These all taste great either raw or lightly cooked. Finally, the Chinese Giants are tucked in with your lettuce. These look similar to the Oregon Giants, but are less palatable raw. They are best stir-fried or added to soup just before serving. We hope you enjoy both the variety and the abundance!

The other new items this week are a tease of Swiss chard and baby kale (included in your herb bags, alongside the above-mentioned peas, arugula, cress, dill, parsley, mint, and basil) and the first of the season’s beets. Rounding out the orders are rhubarb, multiplier onions, and a generous portion of our Prizehead lettuce. Bon appetit!

Precocious Peas

We are absolutely delighted (and still somewhat astounded) to have had peas ready for picking prior to the first of July! And not only are they ready, they are also abundant. Our earliest varieties are Sugar Ann (sugar snap peas) and Knight (shelling peas). We get them into the ground as early as we can, but often germination is not great. We tend to limp along, harvesting from the broken rows until the next varieties are ready.

Not this year! Rather than strolling through solitary plants, we actually had to untangle pea vines to harvest those succulent pods. We sold out of Sugar Anns at market on Friday and were able to send a remarkable half gallon to each full share on Monday. Please keep in mind that these are edible pod peas; we wouldn’t want you to be composting all those sweet pods for nothing!

We will be starting to harvest the shelling peas (Knights) tomorrow, and should have some for the coming week’s vegetable shares, and maybe even a few for market. The Cascadia (sugar snap) and Oregon Giant (sugar snap/snow pea) are not far behind. We have been harvesting a few for ourselves, and should be able to begin a larger harvest later this week. What a gift!

The other new items in this week’s CSA shares are cress and arugula. These are both in your herb bags, along with the peas, dill, parsley, coriander, basil, mint, and purple basil.

Cress has tightly curled leaves and is popular in potato salads.

Cress

Arugula is great on pizza, minced into green salads (in relatively small quantities), or as a salad green paired with a strong cheese dressing.

Arugula

Both cress and arugula have a bit of a bite, so if they are new to you, I recommend using them in small quantities at first, diluted with other greens or strong flavours.

This week’s order also features rhubarb, young multiplier onions, an abundance of lettuce, and, sadly, the last of the spinach and asparagus. We hope you are enjoying the flavours of spring as much as we are!

 

Rain, Sweet Rain!

June 16

After a week of unsettled weather and disappointingly brief showers, the clouds have at long last released their much-needed moisture upon our farm. We took advantage of the dry spell to get all our transplants out of the greenhouse and into the garden, conduct regular cutworm patrols (who knew that cutworms in the beet patch ooze blood-like liquid when squeezed, whereas those in the onions smell oniony?!), pull the larger weeds that did not look like promising cutworm bait, push cultivate, and set out new seeds in hopes of enough moisture to germinate them. We kept dry long enough to participate in our first farmer’s market in North Battleford on Friday – just long enough, in fact, to put away all our gear on Saturday morning. And then the rain (and hail!) began.

Fortunately, the hail did not last long, and did not do much damage. And the rain? Well, we wait in anticipation of the world of good it will do for our already thriving plants and all the new seedlings we hope it will bring into being.

Even prior to the rain, we have been thrilled with the success of our early garden. The asparagus is abundant, the garlic and onions are looking great (though we did purchase more onion sets this week to compensate for those munched by the cutworms), the early peas are in bloom (!) as are the broad beans, our interns have been introduced to the wonders of magic lettuce (the more you thin now the more you get next week), and our second seeding of spinach is coming along fine. (The first did not germinate, but Saskatoon members will be receiving some of our volunteer spinach this week and Battlefords folks will get theirs next week once the second seeding is fully mature.)

lettuce

Fortunately, the rain was moderate enough to allow us to go ahead with this morning’s pick-ups. We were able to harvest through the drizzle in areas that had been well mulched and therefore should not suffer too much from our footsteps. We weren’t able to get at as much dill as we might have hoped (as the larger patches were in less protected areas), but you can look forward to enjoying more in weeks to come.

This week’s orders are abundant with spring greens. You have lots of orach (if it’s too much for you to eat at once, we recommend blanching and freezing it for a taste of spring next winter), lettuce for salads, sorrel, dill, cilantro, and mint as well as your spring staples of asparagus and rhubarb.

If you are looking for ideas for how to use your mint, tea is always a good option. We tend to make a pot each morning (by placing a couple of sprigs in our teapot and filling with boiling water) and refresh ourselves with it throughout the day. Another favourite in our family is a minted potatoes recipe from Arab Cooking on a Saskatchewan Homestead:

2 lbs potatoes

6 Tbsp olive oil (we use lard, and probably a bit less!)

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint

4 Tbsp vinegar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Peel (I don’t bother) and dice potatoes into 1/2” cubes. Heat oil in a frying pan, then saute potato cubes over medium/low heat until they turn light brown, stirring a few times. Sprinkle with remaining ingredients, then thoroughly combine and serve. Delicious!

The Summer Season Begins

Today marks the beginning of the summer vegetable season, and we are pleased to be sending out a lovely ensemble of perennial and volunteer vegetables. Late to get started this year, our asparagus patch has been loving the heat of this past week, giving us a full two pounds to send with each full share. Rhubarb is also coming along, and by pulling the multiple flower stalks that have formed, we should be able to keep up the harvest for another month or so.

Dutch chives

The Dutch chives are starting to peak, so we figured it was worth sending them as well. We are thinking the best way of presenting them to you is to send them whole before the tops die back, so that you can enjoy both the green tops and the bulbs, and they hold together better in your bags than cuttings.

sorrel

Sorrel is another early-producing perennial, and one that is relatively new to us here at Largo. We have been enjoying its leaves in salads, stir fries, and teas this spring. Judy has found that the acidity of the sorrel nicely balances out the orach to make a very pleasant salad, and has been combining them in roughly equal quantities. I have also been experimenting with teas, and have found that rhubarb and sorrel make a lovely combination. On Wednesday, I chopped up a few cups of rhubarb and a medium bunch of sorrel and placed them in a gallon jar along with boiled water, a touch of mint, and a dollop of honey. I placed the jar in the sun for the afternoon, left it out overnight to chill, then transferred it to the cellar and strained it. Refreshing!

orach

The bulk of today’s order is our star spring volunteer: orach. This domesticated version of lamb’s quarters is rather challenging to start from seed, but once a patch is established, it produces abundantly for as long as you allow it to go to seed (and probably then some!). We have to mercilessly thin our spring volunteers to prevent them from crowding themselves out, but we are now getting some delightfully large (and quick to harvest!) leaves. Use these however you best enjoy eating spinach: raw in salads, steamed, stir-fried, in casseroles etc. If you do not expect to be able to use all your orach this week, you can also blanch and freeze it to enjoy next winter.

dill

As we made our way from the sorrel to the chives this morning, we stumbled across a beautiful patch of volunteer dill along the garden’s edge. Since the edge needs cultivating, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to send some early dill. Enjoy!

 

New Beginnings

Just as some people make a distinction between autumn and fall, this year I am particularly conscious that there are two (or more!) phases of spring. Several weeks ago, around the time of North Battleford’s Seedy Saturday, spring was definitely in the air. The days were growing longer, the meltwater creek was flowing past our driveway, we were no longer needing to light as many fires to keep warm, and we had to get creative to find enough places to store all the eggs our hens were laying. Spring had sprung.

But this week, the gardening phase of spring has launched. Judy has been out push cultivating the garden, preparing the soil for early seeding. This afternoon, she and Tom spread manure, which we will be planting garlic into early next week. I got my hands dirty digging and pulling the kale we had left in the garden for late fall eating, pruning back last year’s sorrel stems, and uncovering our strawberries. Chives, sorrel, and orach are all providing glimpses of green, and the first rhubarb buds are up.

Greenhouse season has also begun. Several days ago, a crew put new plastic on Betty’s greenhouse. I transplanted the celery and rudbeckias Betty had started for us and sowed basil, parsley, summer savory, bell peppers, Hot Hungarian Wax peppers, and a multitude of flowers.

The flowers are one of the new beginnings this season brings for us. I have grown a few flowers over the past few years, mostly for sheer pleasure. But this year, two of our community shared agriculture members are getting married and asked if we would grow flowers for their weddings. We are honoured to be able to do so. I have consulted with more experienced flower growers (both in person and through their writing) and have started our first batch of greenhouse seeds – rudbeckia, snapdragons, marigolds, and cosmos. Next week we should be able to get sweet peas and bachelor’s buttons into the ground, with more flowers to follow. We are hoping to have enough not only for the weddings, but also to brighten our homes and to sell some bouquets to interested CSA members and to the Battlefords public at a farmer’s market.

The market is another new initiative this year. It was motivated by a disappointment: after being fully subscribed with CSA shares last year, this year our membership has dropped by nearly half. There are a variety of reasons why people have discontinued (for the time being, anyways), and I am learning that this is part of a regular cycle. Since I have been here, we have been fully subscribed three times, and each time the number of members has dropped considerably the following year, risen higher in the second year, and been back to full on the third. Still, it is scary when the drop happens and it gets us thinking about what we can do to keep the farm viable if the numbers don’t rebound. So we have decided to try our hand at a market.

Starting these new projects while Judy is working at retiring might not seem like the wisest of plans, but fortunately, this spring has brought another new beginning: we have a couple of interns who will be joining us for the summer! We are so pleased that Serena and Matthew are making Largo Farm part of their learning and discerning process as they explore their future in agriculture, and are hoping that our members will have the opportunity to meet them at our spring organizational meetings.

Meanwhile, the cellar continues to empty of last season’s vegetables. CSA shares this month included potatoes, carrots (somewhat less than the past months, but considering the crop failure we experienced last year, we are very pleased with how many we have been able to send!), beets, and onions. There aren’t many beets left for next month, but we are hoping to have some garlic leftover from our seeding that can help get you through the next few months.

Potatoes are definitely the mainstay of our late winter meals, so I was delighted to discover two new potato recipes last week. Our family has been touring the world with Dave Ternier (Judy’s nephew)’s Country of the Week program, and we recently “visited” Lituania. I always try to make some recipes from the countries we visit, and, fortunately for us, potatoes feature prominently in the Lithuanian diet. We first tried potato pancakes filled with meat:

7 Belgian potatoes

1 egg

3 Tbsp flour

1/2 tsp salt

Boil and peel the potatoes, then mince (I think I will try just mashing next time – less work) and add egg, flour, and salt.

Fry 300g minced meat (I used leftover roast beef) with 1 small onion, chopped. Season with salt and pepper.

Place a flattened ball of mashed potato in the palm of your hand, fill with meat mixture, then close the ball around the meat and fry until golden brown on both sides.

These are normally served with a sour cream sauce, but we enjoyed them just as they are!

We also tried a potato kugelis:

1/2 lb. chopped bacon

1 large onion, minced

5 large eggs, beaten

1 1/4 cups milk

7 oz. evaporated milk

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup flour

5 lbs potatoes, peeled and grated

Saute bacon and onion until lightly browned and caramelized. Do not drain the fat. Set the pan aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combing eggs, milk, evaporated milk, salt, and flour. Add the bacon-onion mixture and drippings. Stir until well combined. Add the grated and squeezed potatoes. Mix well.

Pour into a greased 9 x 13” pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 350, until the top is quite brown and the interior is solid but still moist. Let sit 5 minutes before cutting into squares.

Perhaps your families will also enjoy some new potato recipes while we await the spring greens!