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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