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!

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Community Shared Agriculture: Come Join the Dance!

I am told that the Japanese term for community shared agriculture means “food with the farmer’s face on it.” So here you have it, the long overdue update to our farm family photo (with thanks to Annette for taking the shot and Johnny for editing it).

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Frightening as we both may find the image of our members staring into my face each time they pull a potato from the cupboard, I like the concept. At the time that community shared agriculture developed in Japan, women were becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the toxic substances their families were ingesting on their food. They did not feel they could trust the quality of commercial food. So they formed direct relationships with farmers, gaining the comfort of knowing exactly where their food was coming from.

Our situation is not so different. Though the food industry has responded to concerns about prevalent food allergies by conscientiously labelling their products, the same cannot be said for pesticides or genetic modification. And what about other ecological concerns around food production? Do we know how many fossil fuels were used to produce commercial foods? Or how much water was drained from shrinking rivers? How much do we really know about the foods we consume?

Community shared agriculture provides the assurance that you do indeed know where your food is coming from and how it is produced. Here at Largo Farm, we encourage all our members to come out to the farm several times a year so they can see how their food is grown, harvested, and stored, and can also participate in it. They have a relationship with both food and farmers. They know that we do not use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides, that we very seldom irrigate, that the primary energy going into our food is solar or metabolic (human or horse-power), and that we rely primarily on Mother Nature to provide our cold storage. The more curious among them know that most of our seed is home-saved and that we start our own bedding plants in a shared wood-heated greenhouse. And they all know (I hope!) that they are free to ask any other questions they might have.

They also know that by being a part of the Largo Farm Community Shared Agriculture community, they are helping us to keep this farmland clean and undeveloped and to live a cherished lifestyle. Our way of living is not perfect, nor is it for everyone, but we find it immensely satisfying. We live off-grid with wood heat, limited solar power, water hauled from the lake, and significant daily interaction with the community of life that sustains us. Being able to earn some cash through community shared agriculture enables us to live our lives in place to a greater extent than would be possible if we had to seek that income off-farm, and provides us with a stimulating social network.

Sound ideal? We think so, and we hope others will as well. Getting vegetables from the farm is less straightforward than picking them up at the grocery store, but we and our members believe it is worth the effort. Community shared agriculture offers a very special relationship which joins farmers, eaters, and the natural world in a twirling dance of reciprocity.

And this is the time of year when we invite new partners into the dance. Vegetable shares for the 2019 growing season are now available at our lowest price of the year, and we are seeking new members in both our Saskatoon and our Battlefords groups. You can find full details on the community shared agriculture tab of this blog. Please join us, and help spread the word to anyone who might be interested!

For our current members, the February vegetables shares go out this week loaded with those winter roots: potatoes, carrots, beets, and onions. This month’s onions are particularly colourful, as we have a mix of purple onions, yellow cooking onions, and multipliers. And the carrots continue as delicious as always, and are keeping fabulously this year. Hooray!

I don’t know about you, but we are always happy to find a new way to enjoy potatoes. Over the past month we have been learning about a new country each week and we recently covered Uganda. I found this scrumptious recipe for Ugandan potatoes, a simple way to spice up the humble spud:

1 kg potatoes, peeled and parboiled

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp coriander

1 tsp tomato puree

1 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp oil

Heat the oil and saute the onions until golden, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add all the ground spices and stir fry for about 1 minute, then add tomato puree, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Cut the parboiled potatoes into 1/2” pieces and add to the rest of the ingredients. Stir well. Add 3/4 cup water and cook for about 10 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and the sauce reduced. Add extra water if needed. Bon appetit!

Snowing and Blowing

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The reports came in while we were enjoying our final day of holidays with Shawn’s parents in Yorkton: there was snow at home. Lots of it. I like snow. I like skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing. The more snow, the merrier I am. It was not until we were loading the car the next morning that it hit me: we might not make it home. We didn’t see even a flake of fresh snow between Yorkton and Saskatoon, but the reports of deep snow at home haunted our thoughts. Our communication with neighbours was of little assistance. Nobody had been out yet; nobody knew what condition our road was in. Eventually we got word that a friend had been through, so we decided to forego our afternoon movie plans and head straight home before the forecasted high winds buried our road in sculpted snow banks.

It proved to be a wise decision. Two CSA members braved the roads in large vehicles on Sunday, only to find themselves in the ditch on their way out. Fortunately, nobody was there long. Upon word of the second slide, we cancelled the final pick-up of the day and hunkered down into our toasty warm homes. We were snowed in until Tuesday afternoon, when the RM snowplough made its way through. Wednesday saw more blowing snow and the road plugged up again! We were very grateful the Battlefords pick-up had been successfully executed during the window of opportunity Tuesday evening.

One of the things I appreciate about our life on the farm is the way in which we are intimately connected with the natural world. My days begin and end with a trip to the outhouse. When the sun shines and the days are long, we have lots of electricity; when we have a long stretch of cloudy winter days, we have to decide how to prioritize our use of power. When the summer rains descend in a flood, we cancel any gardening plans for a day or two. And when a winter storm blows in, our vegetable pick-up schedule has to be altered.

It’s not always easy to be flexible. I like planning and organization (at least) as much as the next person. I tend to start each day with a list of what I hope to accomplish and start to stress when the incomplete items get carried over too many days. I am not yet fully accustomed to relinquishing control to the elements. But what I find even more challenging is when the weather impacts our Community Shared Agriculture members. I know that when we have to postpone a vegetable pick-up, the chaos of the skies is unleashed onto multiple other families.

And that’s where I really come to appreciate the dedication of our members. When you signed up for the CSA, they may have realized that your eating patterns would be affected by weather conditions but you may not have anticipated how much scheduling flexibility might sometimes be required. Both the Battlefords and the Saskatoon members whose plans were affected by last weekend’s snow also had their summer pick-up times postponed due to unfavourable weather! There are certainly times when I am conscious of how much we are asking of people.

On the flip side, I suppose we are also offering the opportunity to be more deeply connected to the natural world around us, both in ways that are readily embraced – such as fresh food grown without chemicals on an off-grid farm – and in ways that can be more frustrating – such as postponed deliveries. We certainly hope the positive outweighs the negative!

We also hope that you are still finding ways to enjoy the vegetables of the season. We are getting down to the nitty gritty: potatoes and carrots with a side of beets. (There are some onions yet to come as well, but they too are snowed in! We have them stored at Judy’s sister’s place and have not been able to get a vehicle through to pick them up.)

My family enjoys carrots (and often potatoes too) in nearly every soup we make. Carrot sticks are also a common feature of our meals – though there often aren’t any left on the table by the time the meal actually begins. As we seek ways to reduce the amount of off-farm food we eat, I have tended to replace most pasta (though we do sometimes make or buy it) and rice with potatoes. If a recipe suggests serving over pasta or rice, I serve it over boiled or mashed potatoes. It doesn’t always work, but I am surprised how often it does — and how many root vegetables we consume over the course of the winter!

This week, we tried a new beet salad recipe from Simply in Season which, amazingly, received a thumb’s up from at least one of the kids.

Shredded Beet Salad

2 cups red beets, cooked, peeled, and shredded (I used white beets, cooked and julienned)

1/2 cup fresh parsley (omitted due to the season!)

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp onion, chopped

1 Tbsp sugar (I used 1/2 Tbsp honey)

1/2 tsp salt

pepper to taste

Mix together and chill. To serve, place the red beet mixture in the middle of a dish.

1 cup carrots, shredded

1 hard-cooked eggs, sliced

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

green olives, optional

Arrange around the beets. (I only used the carrots and julienned them rather than shredding because some of my family doesn’t like shredded vegetables. I feared the texture of cooked beets with raw carrots might be odd when they weren’t shredded, but it seemed to work ok. I will certainly make the dish again.)

Bon appetit!

Solstice greetings!

How has it come about so quickly that the sun has hit its lowest point on the horizon and will soon begin ascending the sky and gracing us with longer days? The early part of this winter has been full of bean cleaning and butchering, along with our regular daily chores, winter homeschooling in our household, and a bit more time than usual for rest and reading.

Two weeks from now, the winter vegetable season will hit its mid-point and already, I am afraid to say, it has begun its decline (at least in terms of variety). We will continue to have potatoes, carrots, and beets in abundance, as well as some onions (predominantly red onions and the smaller multipliers from here on in, as unfortunately our bumper crop of cooking onions did not cure properly and has nearly all been eaten either by humans (us and our members) or, in the case of those too far gone for human consumption, by our chickens. We are sorry that we humans were not able to get all the benefits from the abundance of onions, but we are benefitting indirectly through enhanced egg production. Though there has been some degree of winter slowdown with the hens, we continue to be impressed by the number of eggs we are able to bring in every day. The cellar is filling up nicely in anticipation of our January orders going out.

Your December vegetables also included what will be your only rutabagas of the season. They were small this year due to late seeding, and while the quality turned out to be quite good, the quantity left something to be desired. Next year!

Those of you who are particularly fond of parsnips will have one more opportunity to enjoy them this winter – they will be available by request with January orders. After that we will have to wait until spring, and see if the weather cooperates with a spring digging for one final taste of those sweet roots before next year.

I have been learning a bit about our microbiome lately (all the multitudes of other organisms that make their homes inside of us and contribute to the proper functioning, or lack thereof, of our bodily systems). Fascinating stuff! One of the shows I watched highlighted the importance of root vegetables to proper gut health – so enjoy those potatoes, carrots, and beets!

For recipes this month, I’m going to share a couple targeted towards those of you who still have pumpkins and parsnips waiting to be used. Christa D. shared a recipe for a classic comfort-food pumpkin soup:

Cut a 2.4 lb pumpkin into 3” slices. Cut the skin off, scrape the seeds out, and cut into chunks. Place in a pot with 1 sliced onion, 2 whole peeled garlic cloves, 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, uncovered, then reduce heat and let simmer rapidly until pumpkin is tender.

Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in 1/2 to 3/4 cup cream or milk.

I have also come across the following Spicy Parsnip Soup recipe that I am looking forward to trying. (It is in The Three Sisters Quick and Easy Indian Cookbook and the other recipes I have tried have been fantastic!)

Melt 1 1/2 Tbsp oil and 1 Tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 onion, chopped, and fry for about 5 minutes. Add 1 inch fresh ginger, grated; 3 garlic cloves, crushed; 1/2 tsp turmeric; a pinch of chili, and a pinch of cumin. Stir for 1 minute, then add 1 lb. parsnips, peeled and grated, and 800 mL vegetable stock. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until parsnips are tender. Blend until smooth, then reheat with 100 mL milk and 50 mL cream. Season with salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, and either coriander or parsley leaves (or a pinch of roasted and ground cumin seeds).

Or if you’d like a recipe that includes both pumpkin and parsnip, I highly recommend the Tunisian Pumpkin Soup recipe I shared on this blog in November 2017. Bon appetit!

 

Settling into Winter

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It is that time of year, when the earth’s orbit around the sun and its tilt on its axis combine forces to lead us swiftly into the dark part of the year. We think back with gratitude on the warmer days of late October, which allowed us to finish the harvest, spread manure, and thrash beans in the fresh air. Now, both the soil and the lake are freezing, and much of our attention turns indoors to preserving the last of the harvest; cleaning seeds and dried beans; and enjoying the quieter days of winter homeschooling, rest, and reading. Of course, outdoor life continues too, with gathering and splitting wood, hauling water, tending to the animals — including a brand new calf (pictured above) who was born Monday evening! — , and, starting tomorrow, winter butchering.

This is the season when I have more leisure to cook, though ironically, it is also the season when I have fewer options of what to cook. Perhaps that is fitting, as the always changing fresh vegetables of the summer require little effort on my part to please the palate, whereas winter roots can get tiresome without a little innovation. Still, we have our standby favourites which we look forward to year after year, including roasted root vegetables, whose recipe I share below. If you are looking for more ideas for serving your winter roots, have a look at the Recipes page of this blog, as well as at winter posts from years gone by. One of my hopes for this winter (and the last two, so don’t get your hopes up too high!) is to learn how to tag blog posts so the recipes are easier to search.

The vegetable bags we sent out on Sunday were heavily loaded with the roots of the season – potatoes, carrots, beets, and parsnips, as well as onions, Hot Hungarian wax peppers, and the last greens (or purples – as Johnny pointed out) of the year. We may have some rutabagas for you next month as well, but we have not yet adequately tested them to make sure they are worth sending. The last thing we want is to fill your bags with unpalatable vegetables destined for the compost heap!

On that note, please do keep watch over your onions. Between the hail damage that convinced them it was time to start growing anew in late July and our unseasonably cold and wet September, the onions did not manage to cure properly. They are not keeping very well. Your best bet is to spread them out in a dry place and check regularly (at least weekly) for any signs of spoilage (soft spots, especially around the stem). Use those ones first and continue to monitor the rest. Judy and Tom have begun drying onions in an attempt to keep up with the culls. You may wish to do the same if you find they are spoiling faster than you can eat them. I am told they also freeze well if you chop and fry them first.

And remember – your squash, pumpkins, and vegetable spaghetti also need regular (but less frequent than the onions, probably every couple of weeks would be fine) checking to avoid the possibility of discovering an unpleasant mess!

Roasted Winter Vegetables

6-8 cups winter vegetables: potatoes, squash, carrots, parsnip, rutabagas, beets, onions etc., peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces

2 Tbsp oil

1 Tbsp dried herbs (summer savory, basil, oregano, etc)

Toss ingredients together (though onions should be kept separate and added 10 minutes into the baking time, and you may want to season and roast beets separately if you don’t want their colour to bleed). Spread in a single layer on greased baking pans. Roast at 425 F until tender (about 1 hour). Season with salt and pepper, and serve with roasted garlic sauce (optional, but scrumptious).

To make the roasted garlic sauce, remove the loose paper layers from a head of garlic but do not peel. Slice off the top of the bulb and wrap in aluminum foil (with oil, salt, and pepper, if desired). Bake alongside the vegetables. When tender, squeeze the soft cloves into a bowl, mash with a fork, and mix in 3/4 cup plain yogurt.

 

 

Harvest Time

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In my last post, I likened the hail we had received to the robber striking in Settlers of Catan. In the intervening weeks, another board game has dominated my thoughts. Harvest Time is a co-operative game in which (young) players race to harvest their gardens (and help their neighbours harvest theirs) before winter falls. Each roll of the die determines whether you are able to harvest a vegetable or whether you have to turn the scene one tile closer to winter.

I am not yet fearing frost (though it did get down to 5 degrees last night!) but we have most definitely observed the change from summer to autumn. Pea vines are turning brown and drying up, the garlic has been dug, and the first seeds for next year’s gardens have been harvested. Sections of the garden are emptying out as we clear out the debris and prepare to spread manure to nourish next year’s crops. Beans, zucchini, cucumbers, corn, and tomatoes are flourishing and – as in the game – it is a bit of a struggle to keep up.

The plants have proven themselves remarkably adept at recovering from decimation by hail. In some cases, the hail damage even gave them a renewed lease on life as they sent forth new shoots and fresh flowers to replace their damaged extremities. I have been kept busy harvesting peas and beans – almost every day – and cucumbers and zucchini as well. It is sometimes difficult to remember that this bountiful harvest is the goal of our gardening work, and not just a task that keeps me too busy to pull the weeds that are also eager to bear the fruits of all the heat and moisture we have enjoyed this year!

We hope that your full bags of vegetables are helping you to celebrate the harvest without overwhelming you. This week’s orders include potatoes, beets, onions, green onions, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, kale, Swiss chard, celery, herbs (basil, purple basil, dill, parsley, arugula), mixed beans (green, purple, Dragon Tongue), broad beans, Hot Hungarian wax peppers, and the first corn of the season.

As I mentioned earlier, we have already dug the garlic which, unfortunately, was a rather sad harvest. We’re thinking it was too hot early in the spring for the plants to properly establish themselves. We will have garlic braids at fall pick-up but the heads will be much smaller than usual. The heads (if they can be called that!) that were not suited for braiding are being sent out with this week’s veggies.

You may also have been wondering about carrots, which would normally have appeared in your orders by now. Our earliest seeded carrots are flourishing, but unfortunately the ones intended for the winter (three seedings’ worth!) did not germinate well at all, so we have made the difficult decision to save the carrots for winter, when they are a much more significant part of the order, and are hoping that you don’t miss them too much now given the abundance of other veggies.

With the lull in lettuce (though there will be a bit more soon), this is a good time for other types of salad. A couple we have enjoyed lately are:

Cucumber/tomato salad: Cut an approximately equal volume of cucumbers and tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Add a generous amount of chopped basil (green and/or purple), a soft cheese (we usually use strained clabbered milk but feta is also delicious), and a bit of salt. Enjoy!

Squash and basil salad (from Simply in Season): Julienne 3-4 medium zucchini. Toss with 2-3 Tbsp fresh basil, 3-4 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, and dressing (2 cloves minced garlic, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp sugar). Mix and chill one hour before serving.

The Garden Game

I love playing board games, especially ones that involve a good combination of strategy and luck. Chess has never appealed to me. This is probably partly because I don’t like the idea of losing repeatedly until I get the hang of it. It is also because I enjoy talking and laughing while playing games, and chess tends to be played more intensely. But I suspect that the biggest reason is that there is little to no luck involved in chess. Success hangs entirely upon the strength of your thinking. This is too much pressure for me.

This weekend we were reminded that gardening is much more like a good game of Settlers of Catan than a game of chess. We planned our strategy well. We seeded everything multiple times. We push-cultivated and weeded as frequently as the rains would allow. Our gardens were lush and beautiful – the best I’ve seen in my six years here. And then it hailed. Overnight the gardens were transformed from a work of art into a devastated mass of wind-deformed plants and tattered leaves. Luck was not with us.

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And yet, just like in the aftermath of that dreadful roll of the dice that has the ill-timed robber causing you to return half your resources in Catan, the game is not over. We have the opportunity to rebuild. And in this case, the effort is not even primarily ours. The plants are showing themselves to have a remarkable ability to heal themselves. On Sunday afternoon, I attempted to right a row of windblown kale. No can do. The stems were firmly set in their new position. But by Monday morning, they had begun to straighten themselves, reorienting their leaves to face the sun. Wow.

Of course, there are still adjustments to be made. We don’t have as many edible pod peas to send as many are simply too damaged to be palatable. The shelling peas can take a bit more of a beating, as the pods are thicker and we don’t eat them anyways. The lettuce we were planning on sending this week and next is in tatters. But the next seeding is coming up nicely. The kale and Swiss chard planted in our north garden are torn and twisted. We may be best to cut them back and allow them to re-grow. But the greens in the south garden were barely touched. Same goes for the beets.

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There are also mental adjustments to be made. I have to admit that I’m finding my motivation zapped by the current state of the gardens. I don’t quite know where to focus my energies. What would have been finishing touches on a beautiful garden – pulling the few stray weeds out of the carrot patch, removing some damaged leaves from the kale, thinning the onions – feel rather futile. I know they will still be beneficial, but they just don’t feel as significant as they did a few days ago.

Maybe that is a good thing because a great deal of my time goes to harvesting vegetables, and there are still plenty of vegetables to harvest. Some may be easier to harvest (such as the growing cucumbers whose protective leaves have been pulverized) and others more difficult (such as the snap peas which now require sorting by level of damage, as well as by maturity). And the reality is that even as I mourn what has been lost, we still have more than enough delicious garden-fresh vegetables to fill our bellies and those of our members. And to top it off, some say that produce from stressed plants gains extra nutrition from the plant’s efforts to restore itself to health.

So this week’s vegetables include shelling peas and a reduced number of edible pod peas, along with a pail of mixed beans (wax, green, and purple). There are zucchini, beets (amazingly, with the greens still on), celery, and various types of onions. The broad beans need a little more time to mature, but they will be back next week. For herbs, you have parsley, summer savory, basil, purple basil (the delicate basil plants were protected by the cherry trees and emerged virtually untouched!), and mint. The dill and coriander are on hiatus as we await the growth of the next seeding. Greens this week include mustard greens, kale, perpetual spinach, Swiss chard, and the last of the Bloomsdale spinach. We will have to wait awhile for lettuce … and if we’re lucky may even have some spinach again for the fall. The bags are somewhat less full than the past couple of weeks, but that may be for the best as we are finding that families with a full share to themselves (which is who we aim to size the full shares for) have been somewhat overwhelmed of late. Always a balancing act.

I find that this season’s variety of vegetables lends itself beautifully to stir-fries and bechamel sauce. For the latter, I melt a couple Tablespoons of butter, add a couple Tablespoons of flour, whisk until bubbly, then gradually whisk in 2 cups of milk. I heat until boiling and thickened, then add a mixture of vegetables and serve over potatoes, pasta, or, yesterday, my “spiralized” zucchini attempted without a spiralizer. Yum! (Though if anyone has a sprializer they would recommend — or lend me for a week so that I could try it out, that would be wonderful.)

Let the game go on.

The Emperor and Us

I have been reading an interesting book called The Well-Filled Cupboard: A collection of seasonal recipes, gardening hints, country lore and domestic pleasures by Mary Alice Downie and Barbara Robertson. In it I learned that after Roman Emperor Diocletian abdicated in 305 CE, his co-emperor urged him to reconsider. He is said to have responded, “If you saw what beautiful lettuces I am raising, you would not urge me to take up that burden again.” A man after our own hearts (in this way, at least!).

We no longer have a surplus of lettuce, but with a few seedings maturing at various rates, we should have lovely lettuce for at least a few more weeks, with more to come after that, perhaps with a brief gap in between. This has been the best spinach year within memory, and we are delighted to be able to send generous quantities (of Bloomsdale and Lorelei) again this week. Enjoy it now, though, as the plants are bolting. We most likely only have one week left.

Our more durable greens are just coming into their own, and this week you received a mixture of kale, perpetual spinach, Swiss chard, and mustard greens. The perpetual spinach and Swiss chard look very similar, but the spinach has a milder flavour and green stems, whereas we only planted rainbow chard this year, so it has the colourful stems.

As for herbs, the arugula and cress are starting to bolt, but still delicious. We could have sent more, but feared overwhelming you. Our first seeded coriander/cilantro is at the peak of perfection, as is the second round of volunteer dill. The basil (both purple and green) is gaining strength and the volunteer summer savory is lovely (good thing, since the plants we started in the greenhouse did not fare well at all). Parsley is coming in thick and bushy, and the mint is still hanging in there. If you’re unsure of what to do with the herbs, our favourite way is to chop them all up finely (except maybe the mint, that goes in tea) and toss them into a salad.

This year’s onions are the finest crop we have ever had, so we hope you are enjoying them too. This week included more multipliers (with the stems docked, as they are no longer nice and tender, but the bulbs are the first cooking onions of the season), as well as some onion thinnings.

But I expect the highlight of the week’s order is the peas. There are six different varieties of peas included in your orders: Knight and Homesteader shelling peas (included in a bag with broad beans and leafy greens), Sugar Ann and Cascadia sugar snap peas (in the bottom of your cloth bag), Oregon Giant (somewhere in between sugar snap and snow peas, found mixed with the sugar snaps), and Chinese Giant snow peas (in with your lettuce). All except the Chinese Giant taste great raw or lightly cooked. The Chinese Giant are best cooked, either in a soup or a stir fry. There will be more to come next week, most likely along with some other early summer treats of beets, summer turnips, and maybe even zucchini and beans.

In the meantime, enjoy those early summer veggies. Last night I tried this recipe from The Well-Filled Cupboard:

Peas with Lettuce

1/4 cup butter

5 green onoins, cut in 2 inch pieces

8 oz shelled peas

salt and pepper

1/4 head lettuce

1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1/2 tsp chervil

Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the green onions. Cook 2 minutes. Add the peas and cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lettuce, parsley, and chervil and cook an additional 5 minutes.

I forgot the parsley and don’t have chervil, but it was an interesting dish. Better than we would have imagined cooked lettuce to be!

A link for another recipe (that I hope to try tomorrow) came from Jessica in Saskatoon.

https://hispanickitchen.com/recipes/chaufa/

Sounds delicious!

 

 

Peas Please!

This is that moment many of us have been waiting for. The day when our most popular vegetable is first ready to be picked. Pea season is here!

Did you know that the oldest peas discovered date back to about 9750 BCE and were found in a cave on the border between Myanmar and Thailand? In Roman and Greek times, peas were used to soak up the extra salt in preserved meet. They came to Britain with the Normans in 1066 and were commonly eaten on sea voyages. This is how they made their way to North America. All of these were eaten as dried peas.

Eating fresh peas became highly fashionable in seventeenth-century France, but was looked down upon by the British, who thought that fresh peas were only fit for the poor — a far cry from today’s enthusiasm for fresh garden peas.

Unfortunately, the dry weather early this spring took its toll on our earliest pea seedings and they did not come up as well as we could have hoped. They are, nevertheless, producing, and you received your first taste of peas yesterday. We are very pleased that we already have five varieties of peas ready to pick: Knight (shelling peas), Sugar Ann (sugar snap), Cascadia (sugar snap), Oregon Giant (snow pea), and Chinese Giant (snow pea). Because quantities are still very low, we opted to send each member only one variety of pea, but by next week you should be receiving more than a taste of each.

Our leafy greens are also coming on strong. We have retired the orach for the year, feeding most of the plants to the pigs but leaving a patch to self-seed for next year. Meanwhile, the spring-seeded greens are taking front stage. Our third seeding of spinach is hitting its stride. It is called Lorelei, which is supposed to be a  more bolt-resistant variety, and there should be more to come for at least another week. Our multiple seedings of lettuce are also serving their intended effect. We pretty much cleared out the second seeding yesterday, but the third should be good to go by next week. Other greens (sent in the herb bag) include more cress and arugula, as well as some thinnings of kale and mustard greens.

The herbs are also coming into their own. We pulled and stripped most of the first patch of volunteer dill yesterday, and are hoping that the second (that came up after our June rain) will be ready for next week. Our first patch of volunteer coriander has also been reduced to a small area to set seed for next year, and we have begun sending the larger plants from the second. Our basil, which was looking feeble until last week’s rain, was ready to be pinched back, so this is what you received in this week’s order. Parsley is doing nicely, as is the volunteer summer savory. These are both in your herb bags as well, along with a few sprigs of mint.

And of course, rounding out the orders are onions. We continue to send young multiplier onions, which now have larger bulbs that can be used in cooking while the green tops are kept out for fresh use. But the bulk of this week’s onions are green onions, the result of thinning our crop of Yellow Globe Danvers (winter onions). Our thinning efforts resulted in five large boxes of green onions, so we appreciate the enthusiasm of those who can use extras of this tasty treat! I have dried some for winter use, and we also enjoyed our first batch of Green Onion Pancakes this season:

Green Onion Pancakes

Place 2 cups flour in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in 3/4 cup hot water. Mix into a soft dough, adding more water if necessary. Knead into a smooth ball and let sit 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine 2 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

and chop 2-3 green onions.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each one into a thin rectangle, brush with the oil mixture, and sprinkle on 1/4 of the green onions. Roll it like a jelly roll, pinch to seal the edge, then coil it up like a cinnamon bun. Pinch the end, then roll it into a 1/4 inch pancake. Fry for about 3 minutes, either in hot oil or simply a seasoned cast iron pan, then flip until the second side is flipped. Repeat for the other 3 pieces. Cut each pancake into wedges to serve.

Celebrating Summer

Saturday’s summer party was a celebration that exceeded all expectations. It encapsulated much of what Judy and Tom have long dreamed this farm could be, and left me so excited I had a difficult time getting to sleep afterwards. I am sorry not to have any photos to share; I guess we were too busy enjoying the moment to record it.

Thank you to all who were able to join us. Your enthusiasm for this special place is a strong reminder of the treasure we have here, a treasure that was never meant to be hoarded but to be shared. We try to live out this sharing every week with our vegetable pick-ups, and again with the fall pick-up and harvest party, but with the summer party we are able to keep the focus on the beauty of the farm, the lake, and our relationships with one another.

The farm was flooded with kids, spread amongst the beach, the trampoline, the “sports field” (baseball and croquet were the faves), and, of course, the barnyard. I am one of those many people who did not grow up with farm animals (or 4-legged pets), so I can understand the novelty and excitement the kids feel to gather eggs or to help Judy feed the chickens, pigs, and sheep. Having city kids make themselves at home and delight in the pleasures of the farm is truly heartwarming. We were especially pleased that several families invited other children to join them in the adventure.

Nobody realized just quite how many children were here until we gathered in the hall for supper. As somebody quipped, “every table was a kids’ table.” As usual, the potluck was a veritable feast. And although we were longing for rain for the gardens, we were pleased that the sun stayed out to allow us to set up overflow tables and chairs outside the hall. Once the children had eaten, the adults were able to join together at fewer tables, and delightful visiting ensued. We could not have asked for a lovelier gathering.

Not to forget the heart of the farm, Sunday followed with two vegetable pick-ups. With our enthusiastic members (including more crews of enthusiastic children), we harvested bags of orach, lettuce, turnip greens, cress, dill, coriander, summer savory, parsley, mint, green onions, and rhubarb to send back to members from the Battlefords, Saskatoon, and Jackfish Lake. Saskatoon members also received spinach and arugula, since they didn’t get any last week, but we forgot their mint. Sorry, we’ll double you up next week!

If you are wondering which of the little greens are which, the cress is tightly curled, and is often used in potato salad.

IMG_3409The arugula has lobed leaves and packs a bit of bite. We love to add a few finely chopped leaves to a lettuce salad.

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The turnip greens are slightly fuzzy. They can be eaten raw, but if you’d prefer them less fuzzy, you’re best to cook them lightly. Stir frying works well.

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The crew from Saskatoon got to sample our first pea harvest (about a dozen peas all together!) but we are hoping the bit of rain we finally got last night and a few days of cooler weather will help the plants along. And now, with the sun back out and the breeze drying things out, I am off to pull a few more weeds!