0P5A9289-edit When I was a kid I thought everyone knew that the first line of defense for a toad is to pee. Toad pee was a part of my life, because I loved to catch toads. Just like I knew that you can’t eat rhubarb leaves because they’re poisonous (but toads love the moist mulch and cool shade of their leaves), and that if you had a bee sting and were out in the field, you could chew the leaf of a plantain and put the pulp on the welt to take the sting away. These are the lessons that I see my children learning on the farm, from people and from nature – the same lessons that I learned as a child here. I tried to explain to my husband recently that although I was open to talk of moving to another place, or to travel, and although we lived together in Portland, Oregon for 12 years – there would never be another place that was home because this land – the taste of the last tiny ripe strawberry, the smell of hay drying, the weight of the wind in August, the itch of peach fuzz – it has been such a tangible part of me that I can’t imagine having that relationship with any other place in the world.

For two years, I’ve been anticipating having a farm dinner – a semi formal affair, hosted on a part of the farm that’s romantic, relatively fly-free, away from the barn, slightly tarnished mostly matching vintage silver plated flatware (I feel like it’s an analogy for the farm), and extremely localized food. The kind of food, that as a chef, I think about making when I’m harvesting at 8am – it’s the most inspiring thing, to walk around a garden, thinking about what I could make with these tiny perfect leeks that you can never buy in the store because they’re usually harvested 2 months later. Or how much more elegant I could make a plate of pasta with this purple basil.

But I’m a farmer! We have a 100 member CSA, which means that we’re growing the vegetables for 100 families. They come to the farm to pick up the vegetables, and we have relationships with all of these people that are passionate enough about farm life, or fresh food, or organic vegetables, that they drive sometimes 45 minutes once a week to see us. So I have crops to plant and harvest and weed – and not a lot of time to plan a party. But I designed the CSA pick ups and schedule this year so that I would have time to have 2 dinners – one in July, and one in September (one before and one after the flies). I collected vintage silver plated flatware. I scoured the local Bibles for Missions for vintage stemware. I made a light fixture out of wild grape wines to hang in the tree above the single long table. I borrowed 3 tablecloths from my grandmother and 3 from my mother.

And I made hay and honey panna cotta – to capture for the diners that intoxicating aroma of a freshly cut field of hay. I steeped together alfalfa, clover and pineapple weed with milk, sweetened with honey (from hives beside the hay field), and served it with wild mulberries, blackcaps, raspberries and whipped cream. Because I want people to taste this place like I do.

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Beautiful Fall Flowers

Beautiful Fall Flowers

It is a sure sign that fall is progressing when the flowers in the garden take on their rich fall colours. It is hard to believe that we only have three weeks left after this until the end of our main season CSA. The last Main Season Pick-up days are Tuesday, October 4th and Saturday, October 8th.

One Selection from our Organic Potato Trial

One Selection from our Organic Potato Trial

This season we took part in a trial for trying out new crosses for organic potato production. The potatoes were dug last week and we selected the varieties that performed the best, both in terms of yield and leaf hopper resistance. We have a number of selections to keep and grow out again next year to see how they perform. At the end of the month researchers are coming for a field day and we will cook some for a taste test. Ken is looking forward to continuing to work on this project in the years to come.

Bunkhouse with Plaster Damage

Bunkhouse with Plaster Damage

As we make room for the next generation on the farm, Ken and Martha are looking to move into what has been the bunkhouse. It is a timber frame with straw bale walls. Unfortunately, the lime sand plaster layer which covers the straw bales, particularly on the east wall, developed cracks. They were patched, but re-cracked and  water got in and the lime sand outer layer separated from the clay under layer. Apparently, we should have added lime to the clay layers to help bind the lime sand layer. It would also have been better to have a larger overhang and perhaps not taken the straw bale wall so high on the east side. An added problem is that there is also some serious air leaks, making it challenging to heat in the winter months. As a result, we have decided to remove the straw bale walls and replace them with stud wall construction.

Solar Wood Drying Kiln under Construction

Solar Wood Drying Kiln under Construction

We need to dry some of our lumber to use in the renovations. Aaron and Heidi have been building a solar wood kiln to speed up the drying process.

Draft Horses Seeding No-Till Cover Crop

Draft Horses Seeding No-Till Cover Crop

Ken is continuing with is no till drill and has planted a series of cover crops and is expecting to plant fall grain later this month both for the horses and for Seth to mill and make into his delicious bread.

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Chuck harvesting the honey from the hives next to the garden. 

The bounty is upon us – this week the share includes potatoes, melons and sweet corn. As well as some of the things that you’ve been getting for a week or two (beans, broccoli, summer squash). The eggplant, tomatoes and peppers are just starting. This might be my favourite cooking season – although when there are so many delicious vegetables and fruits abound, not very many things require cooking!

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The garlic harvest

This week we harvested all the garlic that we planted last fall. It looks beautiful! It has turned into the ‘Orchard Hill Blend’ of garlic varieties – a few that we got from other farmers years ago, one smuggled from Italy by a garden member (not condoned!). Each year we save the very best heads of garlic to divide into cloves and plant in the fall. In this way, we have tailored the garlic that grows best in our particular micro region, and have produced some really lovely heads of garlic. We gather it in bundles and hang it in the eaves of the barn to dry and cure before cleaning it. When it is thoroughly dry, we can braid it or cut it off and store it for the winter. The garlic that you got in your share last week was fresh, meaning it wasn’t cured, and won’t store for months like the cured ones.

We have what might be the most beautiful watermelon harvest ever (per Martha) – they loved that hot dry weather that we had earlier in the season! You’ll notice that the watermelons that we grow are smaller than the ones you’ll typically find in the big grocery stores, but that’s purposeful because then they are the perfect size for a couple of people, rather than having a huge melon that sits in your fridge. You’ll also find that the melons are all different colours inside – yellow, pink, and orange. In the next few weeks you’ll receive a few different types of melons.

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Here’s the ‘before’ picture of the mid season brassicas – possibly the worst, weediest EVER.

Florence the orphan calf is doing well – but she’s a fence breaker! She won’t stay in the electric fence. We tried putting her in with the chickens, but she tried to escape from there too. So she’s stuck in the green round pen. Each night Bryan takes her for a walk on a rope. Last night he took her down to the other end of the farm to try and make friends with the runaway beef cow (nicknamed Houdini). Some of you may remember that Houdini escaped from the pasture at the other end of the farm on the day of the very first pick up – we thought that she would get eaten by coyotes and we searched and searched for her – but she’s still alive! She’s just a wild cow that we can’t catch – she’s bigger now, too big to tackle. She hangs out in the swamp and we see her every once and a while, and try to corral her into the pasture, but then she just jumps through the fence again! The theme of the summer is weeds and runaway cattle.

Here are a few notes and recipes for some of the vegetables that you’ve been getting!

Eggplant

What a versatile vegetable! It goes Asian, Italian, or French, it melds beautifully with almost any flavor that you can throw at it. A lot of recipes call for salting slices of eggplant (slicing it, sprinkling it with salt, letting it sit and drying it off) – this serves two purposes – 1. Drawing out excess moisture so that it won’t have as much water and 2. Helping to mitigate the ‘bitter’ flavor. In my experience, if your eggplant is fresh, not over-mature, and cooked properly, bitterness isn’t a problem. And if they’re eggplant from your share – you don’t have to worry about it. It’s also easy to cook because you can’t overcook it! It tastes most delicious (in my opinion) when it’s charred on the outside.

Simple Roasted Eggplant

1 eggplant

2 Tablespoon olive oil

½ tsp salt

White pepper (or black), ground

Preheat the oven to 400˚

Pierce the outside of a whole eggplant with a fork.

Throw it in the oven on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or an hour, until the skin is blistered and it looks shriveled and completely soft.

Take it out of the oven and let it cool 10 min. Cut it in half and scoop the soft innards out of the skin into a bowl. Add the olive oil, salt and a little pepper and mix well.

Serve on toast, toss with pasta (add some garlic and chopped tomatoes), or throw it in a burrito.

Baba ganoush variation – add a clove of crushed garlic, 1-2 Tablespoons tahini and 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice.

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Blackened Eggplant

Simple Grilled (Blackened) Eggplant

1 eggplant

2 Tablespoons olive oil

½ tsp salt

Black pepper, ground

Slice the eggplant in inch thick slices, lay out on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil on one side. Sprinkle that same side with salt and pepper.

Preheat the grill on high heat for 10 minutes.

Throw the eggplant on, oiled side down, and don’t move it or fuss with it. Cook for 10 minutes on high with the lid closed. Don’t turn it over, cook it just on one side. When it’s done, you should be able to see the top side bubbling a little bit and the bottom will be almost black. Use tongs or a metal spatula to take the eggplant off the grill. Don’t worry! It’s not burned, it’s ‘blackened’! And it’s the most delicious thing ever – the eggplant is earthy and smoky, suddenly more than just a vegetable.

Blitz it in the food processor to use for the baba ganoush (above), use in an eggplant parmesan recipe, or eat it as is!

 

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango

This recipe is from the cookbook ‘Plenty’ – it’s an incredible vegetable cookery book with tons of interesting combinations of flavours, leaning in the middle-eastern direction. There are a lot of eggplant recipes. This one sounds crazy, but it’s actually really, really good.

Serves 6

½ C rice vinegar

3 Tbsp sugar

½ tsp salt

2 garlic cloves, crushed

½ fresh chile, seeds removed, finely chopped

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

grated zest and juice of one lime

2 eggplants – cooked (follow Blackened Eggplant recipe, above) and chopped

8-9 oz buckwheat soba noodles

1 large mango, cut into ½ inch dice

1 C basil or thai basil leaves, chopped

2 C cilantro leaves, chopped

½ red onion, very thinly sliced

 

In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chile pepper and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.

Cook the soba noodles in plenty of salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 5-8 min to become tender but still al dente. Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a dish towel.

In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside for 1-2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.

 

Parsley

We have more than a row (320 ft!) of Italian flat leaf parsley this year, because I love it! I.must.always.have.parsley. It’s one of my staples – in the winter it substitutes for salad greens when all the things in the grocery store are flaccid things from California, and in summer it gets chopped up in almost every grain, bean or vegetable salad. But it seems to be languishing in the pickup room. I think flat parsley is far superior to curly parsley because it doesn’t tickle my mouth. I could come up with a few more reasons – it doesn’t hold the dirt so stubbornly, it looks more elegant when finely chopped, and I think the flavor is less bitter and more fragrant than curly parsley. All that being said, they are pretty much interchangeable in recipes.

It’s also a nutritional powerhouse! It’s packed full of all kinds of things I’ve barley heard of (volatile compounds) as well as Vitamin K, C, and A.

Parsley is best fresh or barely cooked, and will store well for a week or more, if stored loose in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

 

Parsley Pesto

1 C flat leaf parsley leaves (from one big bunch)

2 cloves garlic

1 cup olive oil

large pinch salt

6-8 turns of white pepper (or black)

Remove the leaves from the stem of the parsley – you don’t have to be too picky because it’s going to be blended up, but too many stems won’t make a nice pesto. Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Puree until it’s a texture that you like. Taste and adjust as necessary. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to a week. Shake or stir well before using.

Brush on bread before toasting for a crostini (aka bruschetta), add to any soup just before serving, use in a pasta sauce at the last minute. Also great tossed with any grilled vegetable hot off the grill (i.e. peppers, zucchini, eggplant, carrots).

 

Green Gazpacho

Another one from ‘Plenty’ – it’s a chilled soup, super fast and easy to make, fantastic on a hot day, and a great way to use up some of those cucumbers. It’s great served with croutons and a drizzle of olive oil. Serves 6

2 stalks celery (leaves too)

2 small green peppers, seeded

1 ¼ lbs cucumber (6 small or 2-3 large)

3 slices stale white bread, no crusts

1 fresh green chile (like jalapeno)

4 garlic cloves

1 tsp sugar

1 ½ C walnuts, lightly toasted

6 C baby spinach (or 4 C swiss chard)

1 C basil leaves

2 Tbsp chopped parsley

4 Tbsp sherry vinegar (red wine vin in a pinch)

1 C olive oil

3 Tbsp greek yogurt

about 2 C water

1 C ice cubes

2 tsp salt

white pepper

Roughly chop the celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, bread, chile and garlic. Place in a blender and add the sugar, walnuts, spinach, basil, parsley, vinegar, oil, yogurt, most of the water, half the ice cubes, the salt and some white pepper.  Blend the soup until smooth. Add more water if needed to get your preferred consistency. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. Lastly, add the remaining ice and pulse once or twice, just to crush it a little. Serve at once.

 

 

Heidi cultimulchingAn introductory, housekeeping item – it’s Ellen behind the keyboard here. I have taken over managing the blog, facebook page and instagram account. Martha will occasionally post something, but we thought that you might like to know who you’re reading.

One of things I love about farming and living a life that is so seasonal is that patterns start to emerge between events, plants and animals, sometimes seemingly otherwise unrelated. The other day I mentioned that Home County Music Festival was coming up to my mom and she said ‘oh, that means we need to put the electric fence up around the sweet corn’ (to keep the raccoons out), because she remembers the past few years, rushing around to get that done before going to the music festival.

2016 is shaping up to be the year of the weeds! Some combination of no-till cover crops, lack of rain, and who knows what has created the highest weed pressure of any year that my parents can remember. Upside – you get to feel like a superhero, swooping in to save the poor plants from certain doom in the pigweed jungle. Every 2 weeks. Downside – it feels like there’s no time to do anything but weed. It has such an effect that we have decided to change the location of the 2017 garden – there were so many weeds coming up in the field destined for vegetables that we have switched it up and it will now be planted to buckwheat (and a few more cover crops).

The garlic should be ready to harvest in the next week or two and it looks glorious! The heads are big and IMG_4562beautiful. The cucumbers are getting off to a slow start because Martha went to a seminar this winter and came away with recommendations for cucumber varieties, and also the idea that cucumbers shouldn’t be transplanted because it sets them back too much – best to just get them in the soil sooner (in a hoop house). Sounds great! However, only 5-10% of the expensive, special cucumber seed germinated. So we replanted and those plants are coming along and we will have lots of cucumbers in a month or so….and in other good news, tomatoes, peppers and melons love all this hot dry weather, so they should be bountiful.

0I6A2662-editFlorence the calf is doing well. She guzzles her milk each day, three times a day. Bryan takes her for a walk most evenings and she loves to suck on fingers (or hands, or baby feet!). We have brought in almost all the first cut hay now – it’s been great haying weather!

The multigenerational family farm operation is going well so far – it’s a challenge to get as much done as you think you will with small children in the mix (or it looms large from my perspective perhaps). But it’s very special to me to see the relationship develop between my parents and my children – and their relationship with my grandmother! She’s come a few times to help keep an eye on the children while we keep on top of stocking the pick up room. But it’s also interesting and heart tugging to see Della develop a relationship with the plants and animals that I spent so much time with when I was a child – making flower crowns with spring beauties, following toads, making forts for worms. Della in the blueberry bushesOr picking blueberries for everyone for dinner! Ken and Martha are starting to plan for a renovation of the bunkhouse – adding a kitchen and bathroom, and probably replacing all the walls – that’s all! They shall start their (semi) retirement in style next year.

Here are a few recipes from garden members –

Spinach Pesto & Artichoke Pasta Salad

From Vicki Coughlin (at Telegraph House in Port Stanley) –

I didn’t have the artichokes (omitted them) and used this recipe hot as a side dish for dinner, and thought it was a brilliant way to use fresh organic spinach from Orchard Hill! (farmer note – it would also be delicious with swiss chard!)

250 g fusilli

1 garlic clove

2 cups packed spinach

1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds

1/4 cup parmesan

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup 2% plain yogurt

398 -ml can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped.

 

  1. Cook pasta following package directions, but omitting salt, until tender. (Drain & rinse with cold water if making salad)
  1. Whirl garlic clove with spinach, almonds, parmesan, lemon juice and salt in a food processor until finely chopped.  Gradually whirl in oil until smooth.
  1. Combine pesto with yogurt in a large bowl.  Stir in pasta and artichokes if using.

Chia Fruit Jam

From Jackie Martens –

This is very quick and easy to make and I have made this with Mulberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, and Strawberries with Rhubarb.

1 cup fresh or frozen fruit, cut up small

3 tbsp chia seeds

2 tbsp organic maple syrup (or other sweetener like honey or agave)

4 tbsp water

(If using Rhubarb, I soften it a bit first by boiling it in the 4 tbsp of water.)

Mix together all ingredients.
Transfer the mixture into a saucepan and cook on med-low heat for 4-5 minutes until jam sets.
Transfer to a jam jar and enjoy on yogurt, toast, crackers, with salad or use as a topping for scones or other slices.
Store in the fridge for up to 7 days.

 

IMG_2710The Spring Fair was wonderful! Thanks all who came out. Here is a little something about fermentation and a few recipes to go with the demonstration today.

I lived on the West Coast for over a decade, so of course I’ve heard of the benefits of naturally fermented vegetables – it’s like a right of passage – you have your first European style cappuccino, and then a tempeh reuben with sauerkraut that was made in the sandwich guy’s basement. And I always thought that I should be fermenting vegetables, but aside from a few batches of pickles, and some fermenting at the restaurant I worked at, I didn’t do much at home. Until now! Now I’m at the farm, surrounded by all these vegetables…and it seems like every other week there’s another study out, linking our gut health with a healthy immune system, mental health or digestive prowess. Fermenting increases the availability of vitamins and aids in digestion. There’s a reason that almost every culture on the planet has some version of fermented food as a traditional food staple – think yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchee, kefir, miso…

I won’t go into much more detail – y’all can look it up on your own, or you’re like me and you already know that you should be eating more fermented foods, but they’re too expensive or they seem too daunting. But it’s so easy and fun. I love pickles, but the standard pickles are just vinegar and salt and cooked vegetables and they’re doing nothing for you. So I’ve got a recipe here for Garlicky Dill Carrots that are crunchy, salty and perfect with a sandwich. But I also think it’s really convenient to have something in the fridge that’s a little bit like a pickle and a little bit like a salad. I’ve been known to throw together the Curried Kraut with some celery, leafy greens and some tuna…et voila – hippy Nicoise! Enjoy. And bring me some of your fermented creations to try – that’s the thing, once you make a good one, you’re hooked and you can’t wait to share them.

Fermentation ‘Recipe’

I always thought that it was annoying that all these fermentation people didn’t just have a good recipe – it was always so loose-y goose-y it seemed like a joke. And now here I am, trying to write a recipe – but the thing is that it’s hard because there are sooo many things you can do, as long as you work within the basic rules. Don’t worry – there are recipes below!

The basic premise with lacto-fermentation is that you’re creating the perfect environment for only the bacteria that you’re interested in – not the mold, not the nasties, just the lactobacilli (that’s why it’s called lacto-fermentation, nothing to do with milk, just the particular family of bacteria). As the sugars in the vegetables are broken down by the bacteria into lactic acid, the taste becomes less sweet, and more tart – hence the vinegar-esque flavor. The longer the ferment, the more tart it will be – because of the increase in lactic acid. The texture of the vegetables will also be affected – if it’s too long, they will get mushy. Around 2 weeks is good for most of the vegetables that I’ve used. The flavor is more developed and the vegetables are still crisp.

Here are the rules:

  1. Keep oxygen out (anaerobic fermentation) – some may argue that this is not necessary, but it makes it a lot easier and takes the guess work out of it. So use an airlock or a crock with a water moat (google it!). Harvest Pantry – upstairs at the Western Fair Market in London – sells some lovely, simple gallon jars with an airlock that are perfect for about $16. Keep in mind that every time you open your fermentation jar, you’re allowing oxygen in. Not a big deal if you do it once at the 10 day mark, but you don’t want to open it every day.
  2. Salt – the less salt you use, the greater the chance that another bacteria is going to take up residence, and it also helps to create the pickle/kraut flavor and texture. Too much and it’s inedible. Use a nice sea salt, not factory salt. Himalayan pink salt, Real Salt, or grey salt are all great. Not Kosher salt, not shaker salt.
  3. Keep it long sleeve t-shirt temperature – most of the time, a cool room temperature is good for fermenting – around 68˚F. A little warmer makes things happen faster, a little cooler makes things take a little bit longer.
  4. Basic cleanliness – wash your hands, wash your fermenting things, keep clean cutting boards clean, don’t get any meat/dairy juices in there, etc.
  5. Use good water if you’re making a brine (i.e. not chlorinated water). At the farm we have well water, which is great. If you live in the city, use bottled water.
  6. Good vegetables! I almost forgot this one because it’s a given, right? Organic, local, fresh.
  7. Keep it in the dark(ish). It doesn’t have to be a blackout, but keeping it in a cupboard or wrapped in a towel is a good idea.
  8. Keep the vegetables submerged in your liquid. Use a plate, boiled rocks, or a clean mason jar to keep the veggies submerged. Cabbage leaves are really handy for this too – use the big ones from the outside of the head to wrap around the surface and push the veg beneath the liquid.

Some people think that a little mold on the top is no big deal, but I say no! Aim higher! Who wants mold in their food? Unless it’s cheese, of course. I don’t like mold – I feel like most of the time, you can taste it, and if you have a proper set up (air-lock, good vegetables, good salt, etc), there really is no reason that it should become moldy. Cloudiness, and a sort of a white, silty look is normal and desirable. Any mold, sliminess or discoloration is a chance to start again!

Garlicky Dill Carrots

8 cups water

4 Tablespoons sea salt

3-5 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half

2 medium hand-sized dill fronds

around 4 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into sticks

Place the dill fronds and garlic in the bottom of the fermentation jar. Layer (or toss) the carrot sticks in on top. If you get strategic at the top, you might be able to layer them so that they won’t float when you add the brine.

Dissolve the salt in the water by putting them in a bowl and stirring, or whisking. If you’re using a salt that it is tough to dissolve (large chunks, etc), throw it in the blender on low while you’re prepping the rest of the vegetables.

Pour the brine over the carrots until it covers them by 2”. You will probably have some left over brine, which can be saved in the fridge for your next fermentation project. Use a small plate, clean, boiled rocks, or a clean pint sized mason jar to weigh down the carrots in the brine.

Put on the lid, and put the jar in a dark corner (a cupboard, behind a book shelf, etc). Wrap it in a towel and make a note to check it in a week. After a week, don’t open it, but check that the vegetables are submerged and that it there isn’t any mold or weirdness. Taste it at the 2 week mark (or 10 days if you’re antsy).

Harvest your ferment by moving it into smaller, labelled jars to put in the fridge. Use long tongs and a wide mouth funnel to move the vegetables into mason jars. Remove the dill and garlic as you come across them.

 

Curried Kraut

4 cups water (non-chlorinated, room temperature)

2 Tablespoons sea salt

1-2 small shallots, sliced thinly (or 3 cloves garlic)

3 small thumb sized pieces of ginger, peeled

3 Tablespoons mild curry powder

1 jalepeno or serrano pepper, de-seeded & minced (optional)

12 cups shredded vegetables:

2-3 medium golden beets, peeled and grated

8 medium carrots, peeled and grated

½ cabbage, shredded

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets (use the stalk too!)

other ideas:

1-2 small green or red meat radish

2 small kohlrabi (or, like an 1/8 of the giant storage kohlrabi)

1 rutabaga

5 small hakurei turnip

  • A note on the vegetables – it doesn’t really matter what vegetables you use (see note below in the FAQs section), but using a range of different colours is nice, and the more cruciferous vegetables (kohlrabi, cabbage, cauliflower), the more stinky it will be – stinky in a good way ;).

If you’re using a cabbage – save 4-5 outer leaves for wrapping before cutting it up. Grate or cut up the vegetables – on a box grater, with a mandolin, or with the grating attachment of a food processor. I usually use a combination – I generally hand slice the cabbage, shallot and cauliflower, and use the food processor to grate all the root vegetables. In a large bowl, toss together the vegetables to mix them well and sprinkle on the curry powder.

Dissolve the salt in the water by putting them in a bowl and stirring, or whisking. If you’re using a salt that it is tough to dissolve (large chunks, etc), throw it in the blender on low while you’re prepping the rest of the vegetables.

Pack the vegetables into your fermentation jar. Press on it to compress it. Use some of the large cabbage leaves to layer on the top of the grated vegetables to help keep them submerged below the surface of the brine. Pour the brine over until it comes 2“ above the surface of the veg.

Use a small plate, clean boiled rocks, or a clean pint sized mason jar to weigh down the vegetables in the brine.

Put on the lid, and put the jar in a dark corner (a cupboard, behind a book shelf, etc). Wrap it in a towel and make a note to check it in a week. After a week, don’t open it, but check that the vegetables are submerged and that it there isn’t any mold or weirdness. Taste it at the 2 week mark (or 10 days if you’re antsy).

Harvest your ferment by moving it into smaller, labelled jars to put in the fridge. Use long tongs and a wide mouth funnel to move the vegetables into mason jars. Remove the big chunks of ginger as you find them. Or don’t worry about it and watch your friends find them as they chew them!

 

Beet Kraut with Lime and Ginger

½ tsp lime zest

4 – 1 inch chunks of ginger, peeled

10 Cups beets, peeled and shredded (around 6 medium)

1 ½ Tablespoons sea salt

1 Cup brine (same brine as above – or 1 Cup water to 1 ½ tsp salt)

Toss the grated beets with the zest, ginger and salt. Pack it into your fermentation jar, and top with brine to bring the brine 2” above the beets. Use boiled, clean rocks to weigh down the grated beets. A few will float to the top, skim off some if there are a lot, but if you’re using an airlock, it will probably be ok. Taste it after a week (the ferment we tasted today at the demonstration was a week old), but keep it going for a little longer if you’d like.

FAQs

What vegetables are good for fermenting?

Most of them. Texture is the only hiccup. If you’re going to ferment leafy greens or eggplant, you’d have to have a pretty high tolerance for soft, mushy savory things! But carrot, cabbage, any kind of radish, turnip, snap peas, asparagus, green beans, kohlrabi, celery root, beets, onions, garlic, shallot…all delicious.

How long is it good for?

Once you taste the ferment and decide it’s where you’d like it, throw it in the fridge and munch away til it’s gone. After a couple of months, the texture might start to degrade a bit. But if it’s a good one, I’ll bet you eat it before it’s gone. It’s a great way to use up some of those extra vegetables in your fridge and keep them around for another month or two.

Can I ferment a smaller quantity? Why are your recipes so big?

The path to success is paved with gallon jars. The bigger the jar, the more consistent the results. Sure, you could go to the trouble of making a quart of something. But then you sit it in your cupboard for 2 weeks, and it could be gone in a week. Make a little bit more and give it away to your friends!

Mosquito in the greenhouse

Mosquito in the greenhouse

The cats – Mosquito and Courgette – love greenhouse season because they get to lounge around on warm stones and pretend they’re indoor cats. They like to place themselves conveniently at petting level…but then they get kicked out for laying on top of the onions!

What looked like an early spring had us all excited to work the garden and plant…and now we’re back to a week of winter. But there’s still work to be done while it’s cold – last week two of the season’s three interns arrived – Bryan and Heidi. They had an introduction to working with the horses – although Bryan has quite a bit of experience, because last year he worked with draft horses at Meeting Place Farm, another organic vegetable & livestock farm near Lucknow. We have been planting in the greenhouse, and transplanted some pok choi into one of the hoophouses – protected with row cover too, but still – the poor pok choi!

We still have some shares available for the 2016 season, and we have lots of eggs in the cooler – the hens think it’s spring, even if it’s snowing.

Heidi driving during intern  draft horse workshop.

Heidi driving during intern draft horse workshop.

This week we will be pruning the fruit trees and grapes, putting up a swing for Della (she picked out pink rope at the store with her dad), mulching the rhubarb – which is just starting to come up, and planting a bunch of seeds in the greenhouse. As well as stoking the fire to keep the little plants warm in this below freezing weather, and setting up the rest of the hoop houses for planting and transplanting.

Garlic just beginning to grow....this was planted just a few weeks ago, into a hoophouse, under row cover.

Garlic just beginning to grow….this was planted just a few weeks ago, into a hoophouse, under row cover.

Firewood Ready for Splitting

Firewood Ready for Splitting

We are experiencing an early spring this year! However, we still need to wait for the land to dry out and there is rain in the forecast for next week. Ken has been itching to get starting on spring planting. He is trying to reduce the amount of ploughing and is more convinced than ever that cover crops and no-till are the way to go. Hauling out firewood and logs for sawing with the horses helps to get them into shape for spring work. This year Aaron helped with the logging and firewood hauling and began working with the draft horses at the same time. Our next winter firewood is ready for splitting and we have an increasing pile of lumber to mill. Hopefully we will be able to fit those jobs in around our spring work.

The greenhouse wood stove lit and little plants are springing up. It was fun to have four generations of my family seeding together when my mother showed up one afternoon for a visit. Having Della and Frances here certainly adds another dimension to activities around the farm.

Della Jane and Great-grandmother Jane Planting Sage

Della Jane and Great-grandmother Jane Planting Sage

Della Sifting Potting Soil

Della Sifting Potting Soil

Pac Choi Coming Up

Pac Choi Coming Up

Aaron Pulling out a Bunch of Fire Logs photo credit Jim Conrad

Aaron Pulling out a Bunch of Fire Logs photo credit Jim Conrad

Aaron Driving New Sleigh with Suffolk Punch Horses

Aaron Driving New Sleigh with Suffolk Punch Horses photo credit Jim Conrad

Aaron logging with Buttons and New Queen

Aaron logging with Buttons and New Queen photo credit Jim Conrad

Gwen pulling out a Log

Gwen pulling out a Log photo credit Jim Conrad

Gwen moving into position to pull Log; photo credit Jim Conrad

Gwen moving into position to pull Log; photo credit Jim Conrad

Snow Drops Announcing the End of Winter!

Snow Drops Announcing the End of Winter!

Greenhouse View February 2016

Greenhouse View February 2016

Greenhouse with Snow and Ice Receding February 2015

Greenhouse View February 2015

Snow Drops are starting to bloom – a sure sign that spring is on the way! We are ready to start up the greenhouse next week. What a difference from last year at this time when we still had many feet of snow. I love the surge of energy that I feel with the coming of spring and the longer day lengths. I am excited to start the new plants, always with the challenge of improving on the last season. Greenhouse work is such a joy, when we can get a jump on the season and feel the energy of the sun as it warms up the space. I look forward to working with my daughter, Ellen, again this year. We have come a long way from our first CSA season in 1997 when she and I started the CSA to make money for her to attend Trent University. I expect her three year old daughter, Della will be helping this year too. What fun that is for me!

Free Range Laying Hens

Free Range Laying Hens

The free range laying hens are truly free range in the winter because we take down their pasture fence to keep it from being damaged by a snow load. The hens are certainly enjoying the lack of snow this week and are scratching up everything they can looking for tasty morsels. I will have to restrict them soon or they will scratch too many roots on my blueberry plants.

Seth and Ken Heading out to Cut Firewood

Seth and Ken Heading out to Cut Firewood

Ken, Aaron and Seth have been starting the annual firewood work for heating the house, greenhouse and wood fired oven. Aaron has been learning to drive the Suffolk Punch Horses as he skids logs out of the woods.

Caesar is Eagerly Awaiting the Start of the CSA Season

Caesar is Eagerly Awaiting the Start of the CSA Season

Ken, Aaron and Frances having a Farm Discussion

Ken, Aaron and Frances having a Farm Discussion

Ken's Farm Manufactured Wheelhoe

Ken’s Farm Manufactured Wheelhoe

We are off to a good start on the new year ahead. Our Daughter, Ellen, and her husband, Aaron, and two girls, Della – 3 1/2 years and Frances – 2 months are going to stay and work on the farm for the season. This is exciting for us as we plan ahead for the future. Ellen and Martha are busy mapping the CSA garden for next year and ordering seeds. Ken has had a lot of speaking engagements this year at various conferences and has given a variety of workshops on cover crops, no-till and soil health. Now he is getting ready for the Guelph Organic Conference where he will be selling his farm manufactured wheel hoes. He is also giving an Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario  – Soils Workshop on the Friday of the weekend. We will also be having a booth on the lower level of the Conference to sell our wheelhoes and advertise our farm internships as well as our son, Grayden’s, One Day Draft Horse Workshops. Grayden is on a panel for a workshop on Saturday of the Conference – Reflections of Growing up on an Organic Farm. Aaron and Ellen will be attending workshops as well.

Replacing the House Windows

Replacing the House Windows

One of the jobs we were able to do this winter with the help of CSA member, Jim Conrad, was to replace the last six windows in our house. With the use of scaffolding the job went well and it is good to have that one off the list. The inside trim still needs to be installed and we are debating when that will actually happen with all the other demands that are starting to fill up our days…

Introducing Sadie our new Suffolk Punch Filly

Introducing Sadie our new Suffolk Punch Filly

In December a new Suffolk horse arrived. Sadie was born in May and will be a partner for, Flynn, our 2015 foal. She is a calm natured filly and hopefully they will become a good team in the future.