Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gratitude- Year 2012 in a nutshell

Winter on the farm
 As the Christmas holidays approach, we've started to do a lot more reminiscing about this past year for us. As many of you know, this was only our second year doing poultry, our first year with turkeys. It is also our very first year on our own farm. In a few words: amazing, but tough. Being very honest and upfront, we will openly admit we probably took on too much in our first full-on farming year. We did the very, very best that we possibly could in an effort to farm responsibly and raise you the best quality birds that we could, alongside our grain and herb production.

The grain is a lot lower stress than the poultry for a variety of reasons. It was also immensely successful this year!! It's our third year doing the grain, so we feel a lot more comfortable with it. Day to day its much less work than the poultry. It helps that we had just a stellar crop of grain this year. We might not have said that enough or made it clear enough, but wow, creamer crop!! We're giving about 1.5 kg's to every shareholder every other week. It feels really good to know we did so well in one aspect of the farm, despite the losses we saw in our turkeys. (Really goes to show why diversification is so critical!) 
Daniel swathing Red Fife

John Mills and Daniel unplugging the combine!
Ducks enjoying the grass
We do everything we can to provide the best lives for all living creatures, be it  the bees and bugs or the poultry and other creatures on the farm. Compared to growing grains or vegetables,  when something effects their well-being it is a truly emotional experience.  It's also not as emotional- the wheat can lodge or we can have a lot of weeds, but that's nothing compared to facing death and disease in an animal.The birds were looking really good, except that we still lost too many turkeys, even after our high hopes after thanksgiving. And based on the advice of a local poultry vet, we were forced to decide not to butcher any of our own turkeys this year for sale because of the disease problems we had this year mixing the turkeys and chickens. Then the night of December 8th a large owl got in our barn. The donkeys, trouble makers that they sometimes can be, have learned that if you just push hard enough, the hook will come loose on one of the doors and they let the owl in while they helped themselves to some grain. It killed many chickens until Daniel chased it out of the barn through a door the next morning. On the other hand, ducks have been our saviors this year as we have lost almost none all year long and their growth rate was fantastic. We are loving our ducks!!

Mike Kozlowski and Daniel mixing some concrete foundations
As we reflect on this year, a major theme is coming to our minds. Gratitude. We have seen so many generous people come forward, making it possible for us to do what we do. You hear old-timers talking about how farming communities are all about support- coming together, helping the neighbor who's barn burnt down by combining his crop for him. You hear all kinds of stories of friends, families and neighbors supporting each other in times of need. We have seen that this year in our own lives. And we cannot thank these people enough!! It is encouraging, and it keeps us going in those rare moments when we feel like quitting. These people also literally make it possible for us to be here- literally! So, we want to thank-you all from the bottom of our hearts for being the amazing people that you are. From family that helps us repair water leaks in the house and install electrical friends and shareholders that come out on a Saturday to help us weed or build John Mills, whose partnership keeps us afloat, and provides resources that we could not have done without and his friendship and belief in us....thank-you John!!...our neighbors that made sure our dog came home safely when he ran away and that bartered with us and went out of their way to help cultivate our friends who barter with us and show the support they do....we could go on and on.
Kyle Lawrence helping us build our first hoophouse!

Rik helping with the horseradish sortng
 And last but not least, our shareholders.We thank you so much for your support this year. We know we would not be here without you! We understand that as shareholders you put a tremendous amount of faith in us, putting money into our hands so early in the year and that God-willing the season goes well and we provide you with food at the end of the season. For this year we did our absolute best, and as we have said before, we have learned so much this year!! We had a lot of success, and many challenges as well. It can only get better from here on in.

We have many plans to for the 2013 season, and are constantly planning and plotting on what we can do differently, better. What new things we can introduce, what things we should scale back on. Ultimately, we hope to put a little bit more flexibility into our poultry CSA system, in addition to scaling back from what we did this year to give us a chance to fine tune the system with less stress.

In regards to things we're adding...We've also decided to offer a vegetable share for the 2013 summer season to Red Deer, which we're very excited about. More details to come on that in the new year!

On that note I will bring this blog post to a close. I started to feel like this blog toast was sounding like those over-the-top wedding toasts. But we really wanted to take a minute (or so) to express the overwhelming sense of gratitude for all the support we've received from all our friends and family this past year. Like we said, in two words, this year has been tough and amazing. Which is probably what we can expect from the farming life in general. And really, we wouldn't want it any other way. At the end of the day, the hard work makes everything that much more rewarding!

Desiree wishes you happy holidays as well!

So, thanks so much to everyone. We love you and thank-you!!!We wish you lots of peace and joy in the upcoming holidays. We hope you can in turn find a sense of gratitude for your friends and family that make your life what it is.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Crusty Seeded French Bread Recipe

This is a really nice bread, studded with lots of seeds for flavour and nutrition! This recipe will yield fairly dense loaves, but feel free to play with the fife wheat to white flour ratio. If you are new to baking with whole grain flour, I would suggest doing half/half fife wheat and white flour.

A note on white flour! I like my bread on the denser side, just like the way it used to be. Many people are not used to this though, so it might be best to slowly transition yourself into using less and less white flour until you become used to heavier bread. That being said, my favorite option for white flour is something called Soft White Wheat. It is a type of grain that when ground produces a white flour. The beautiful thing is that it is ground from the whole grain, so it has all the nutritional benefits of whole grain flour but is a very light flour. Actually, you know that all-purpose flour you buy at the grocery store? Back in the day it actually literally used to be a blend of soft white and hard red  flour (for example, the Red Fife is a hard red wheat). If you can't get soft white flour, try to get organic, unbleached all-purpose flour. Unfortunately, even though this kind of flour will be organic and great in that sense, it will most likely not be heritage. As you know, our Red Fife grain is heritage, meaning its more easily digestible because the genes have not been altered unlike modern wheat's. So, if you are eating Red Fife for health reasons, you might just need to stay away from most other wheat flours.

Crusty Seeded French Bread. The 2 on the left were baked free-form, the one on the right in a bread pan

Crusty Seeded French Bread
(originally from Simply in Season cookbook- altered by Anna Chappell)

5 cups Red Fife
1 cup organic soft white or all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp active dry yeast
2 Tbsp organic cane sugar, or honey 
1 tsp sea salt
4 Tbsp of any combination of fennel, pumpkin, sunflour, ground flax, poppy seeds
Mix together in a large bowl, or in kitchen aid-mixer if you have one

2 1/2 cups hot water 
1 Tbsp organic olive oil
Gradually add. Mix well. If needed add more flour to make a soft dough...knead at least 10 minutes. I leave mine in the kitchen aid bowl and let it knead for up to 20 minutes. You want the dough to have a soft texture and stretch nicely (take a piece and pull on either side of it with your fingers. If it just breaks, it needs more kneading. If it slowly pulls/stretches apart its ready!)

Place a greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth, let rise an hour or until doubled in size. (Draft-free, warm location is ideal). Punch down and let rest for 20 minutes. Divide into 3 equal parts and shape or place in a greased bread pan. Make 4-5 diagonal slices on top of each loaf with a serrated blade.

1 egg
1-2 Tbsp of any combination of seeds
 Beat egg and brush on loaves. Sprinkle seeds on each loaf. Let rise until double. Beake in pre-heated oven at 400F/200C for 20 minutes. (To check done-ness knock on bottom of loaf. A hollow sound means its done!)

Take a picture and share with us via email or our facebook page! And Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to Cook Heritage Poultry

Slow and Low is key!!!

The way we raise our birds (free-ranging naturally slow-grow growing heritage birds) means they are leaner, with more muscle. The meat will also be darker than that found in a superstore chicken. 

"Studies have shown that Heritage Poultry contains less fat and more protein than the traditional supermarket birds. Let us be clear, we are not against animal fat!  We are not offering a "low fat" bird, per say. The difference is the fat content in our chickens has the correct OMEGA 3 to 6 and lipid ratios, compared to the supermarket alternative whose OMEGA 6 values far exceed the OMEGA 3 content. You can see evidence of this difference in the deep yellow color of the Heritage chicken fat that is representative of mineral and vitamin content"
  ( )
Our birds are much more flavourful, and you'll find that as long as you follow our cooking recommendations (slower for longer) that the bird will be moist and incredibly tender and flavourful. The way it should be!
This is our personal favorite way of preparing a duck, chicken or turkey.

Use a heavy cast iron dutch oven (with the lid on- no vents). In a pinch you can use a roaster, if you don't have a lid, with aluminum foil placed over top and then tightly pinched all around.  This ensures a moist and tender bird.

Rub the chicken/duck all over with a bit of oil, S+P and any seasoning you desire (garlic, paprika, sage, thyme, rosemary...) and then place it in the dutch oven, breast side up

We often put brown rice in the bottom with the normal ratio of fluid (stock is best), and you can throw in chopped root veggies, whole onions and garlic too. 

There is no exact science to the kinds of herbs and seasonings you should use on your bird. We believe in using what you enjoy and not being afraid to experiment with different combinations. 

Place in pre-heated oven and cook SLOW AND LOW at about 300 F for 1 ½ + hours depending on size (after 1 1/2 hours check every 15-20 minutes with a thermometer- when the internal temperature reads 160 F, it's ready).

If desired, remove the lid and broil it for a few minutes to brown the skin on top. Everything comes out moist, tender and smelling wonderfully of herbs! Delicious!

What do with left overs: 

Day 2:

 Use remainder of the meat and flavourful broth/gravy to make enchiladas,shepherd’s pie, soup. 

Meanwhile, cover the carcass and other bone scraps with water, some onions and seas salt in a large stock pot.(Can also throw in scrap vegetables- celery etc) Simmer for two to three hours and you have a beautiful, nutritious broth. Just strain it in a colander to de-bone.

Day 3: Either freeze the broth, or use right away to make soup, cook rice, etc

Three delicious meals from one bird!

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Edible Flowers: Adding beauty to your meals

It's summer, and the gardens are starting to burst with colour! Did you know many colorful blooms are edible? Yes, there are edible flowers!
Just a handful of flowers from our garden that are edible: Calendula, Johny-jump-ups, Bachelor Buttons, and Nasturtiums

  And not only are they beautiful, they come in a range of flavours, from refreshinlgy cucumber-like flavours, to sweet and licoriceey to spicey and peppery. This range of flavours means a range of uses.

A gorgeous Calendula bloom: to use remove the petals and only use the petals for eating (unless making a medicinal salve)

 Flowers as a garnish: 
 Here are some ways of using edible flowers to enhance your meals. Nowadays its all about getting food cheap, making food fast, and then gulping it down without much thought. I think there should be more reverence in our daily meals. Slowing down your hectic schedule in life, in small ways, goes a long way for your quality of life. Like putting flowers on your salad as a garnish. Such an unnecessary thing. And yet, the value is priceless. Beautiful. Tasty. Taking the time to enjoy a beautiful salad, garnished and tossed with extra flavor and prettiness.  And really, it's so easy (wait till you take a salad garnished with flowers to a potluck- sure to be a crowd wowser!)

Ever made pesto? Nasturtiums spicy, peppery flavour makes for a flavourful and colourful pesto.
 Nasturtium pesto on a snadwhich, garnished with borage flowers

Here is the Nasturtium Pesto Recipe: 

Chop the blossoms ( it takes a lot!) then added olive oil, some yogurt, minced garlic, Parmesan cheese, a dash of salt and pepper and some chopped pine nuts.

Stir into cooked noodes, or spread in a sandwhich. Infinite uses!

Flower Butter is another interesting way to incorporate flowers into your meals:
 Chop a handful of flowers and stir into softened butter. Can add salt or onion, garlic powder. Place in a small dish and chill. 
Tip: Use savoury flowers like Nasturtium, basil, oregano flowers. 
This flower butter looks like it has confetti in it. Looks beautiful spread on toast. Place a spoonful on steamed vegetables or a baked fish. Lovely!!

*Warning*: Not all flowers are edible- some can make you sick.  If you are harvesting your own flowers do your homework to make sure you are only harvesting edible ones. Do not use flowers if they have been, or if you even think they might have been, sprayed with pesticides, or herbicides.

Here are some links about which flowers are edible:
Edible Prairie Flowers Only a small list at the bottom of the web page, includes other info on other edible prairie plants

Visit our farmers market booth in the summer! We will be selling our edible flowers that have been grown all-naturally and harvested that day for freshness. For the summer of 2012, we will be at the following markets (subject to change in the future- please check our website or email us for more info) :

Monday, July 30, 2012

It's ugly but tasty! What to do with that horseradish root...

Fresh horseradish root may be unfamiliar to some people. If you ended up with some of this gnarly, white, slightly beige coloured root, and are not sure what to do with it, here are some ideas.

For those of you who love that white, spicy paste that you get at the grocery store called horseradish, you are in luck. It's made out of this root and its twice as spicy if you make it yourself! here's how:

1. Clean root if necessary, peel it
2. Grate root or put it on a food processor and blend till smooth (can use a couple spoonfuls of water to get it going)
** please note that horseradish while processing has a stronger effect on your eyes than
chopping onions!! Work in a well ventilated kitchen or even outside if possible**
3. If you like things hot, wait up to 3 minutes then blend in some white vinegar until you have a desirable consistency. If you prefer things mild, add in vinegar just after pureeing ( or if you simply grated the root, pour vinegar over it in a jar)
4. Put in clean jar, close lid tightly and store in fridge. Should keep 3-4 weeks like this. If you want to be extra awesome, tape some not see through paper around the jar because this will prevent light from degrading the heat.

Some other great ways to use horseradish:
1. Grate raw and eat on sandwiches
2. Scramble grated root in eggs for an extra kick in the pants in the morning
3. Add zip to stews and soups
4. Add to Bloody Mary's
5. Grate and add to roasted vegetables

Don't grate or chop root until you plan to use it because cutting or damaging the root diminishes the flavour

Enjoy! Id love for you to share your own ideas of how you used your horseradish in the comments section of the blog!

Don't forget, we'll have our all naturally grown horseradish available at our farmers market booth for much of the summer.