Posts Tagged ‘local food’

We don’t have that many hens.  I haven’t counted lately, but I would guess around 35.  Some of these hens are three years old, now; they should probably go in a stew pot, but we decided to free-range them for bug control, and if the fox happens to get them…well, that’s too bad, but not the end of the world.  The three year olds are pretty savvy anyhow, as they are the ones who survived the foxes in the first place.


So, now that the days are longer and the weather warmer (this weekend’s dump of snow notwithstanding), out of our 35 (ish) hens, we’re suddenly getting 12 or 16 eggs, depending on the day.


A dozen eggs a day.   Or a dozen and a half.


It doesn’t sound like a whole lot of eggs.  It really doesn’t.


bucket of eggs


Until you have to figure out what to *do* with them!


It’s actually not a bad problem to have, and I’m lucky to work in a large office, so we haven’t had too much trouble selling off the surplus.  We eat some, of course, and feed the ones that are too dirty to bother washing to the dogs in their porridge.  There’s also a local food charity we support with occasional donations of the extras that build up.


I’m not sure what we’re going to do when I go on maternity leave, though…


Read Full Post »

One of the very few successes in our garden this year was the soup beans.  Hubby weeded them thoroughly early-on, and the plants were well-established by the time we gave up on the garden and abandoned it to the thistles.  We planted seven rows, approximately 40 feet long (each), which, if i recall correctly, took a couple pounds of seed beans, altogether.  We planted three rows of Jacob’s Cattle heirloom beans, and two rows each of Light Red Kidney and Black Turtle.


black turtle beans


The Jacob’s Cattle and Red Kidney beans are listed with a fairly short growing season – 90 days, I think, while the Black Turtle beans indicated they needed 110 days.  It really showed.  When we harvested, the day after the first frost, the Black Turtle pods were still green and pliable; the other types had brittle, dried-up pods. 


I pulled the pods from the plants, and laid them out on a sheet on top of one of the freezers to dry, but apparently they were too bunched up, or had poor air flow, or something, as many of the pods got moldy. 


moldy black turtle bean pods

They should have been nice and pale gold, like the others…


nice black turtle bean pods


Now, I am shelling the beans, and I am finding the Black Turtle beans smaller than I expected, and many of the pods are poorly filled.  While there were lots of pods per plant, they just didn’t have time to fill out properly, so the yield is low.  It’s still worth shelling them out, but I don’t think I will plant them here again; that garden real estate could be better used by something that is appropriate to our growing season and climate.  I just had to try, though!


shelling the black turtle beans

Read Full Post »

We picked two big mixing bowls of strawberries, today.   The berries were huge huge and sweet and still warm from the sun.


acreage strawberries


I chopped seven cups for the freezer.  Martha Stewart would freeze them nicely on cookie sheets, then package them up once they were frozen, so they didn’t stick together.  I am not Martha Stewart.  I pre-measure the packages to the sizes my recipes call for, throw them in vacuum-sealer baggies, and go to town.  We just break them up and throw them in the blender for smoothies, anyways, or thaw them for baking and such.


acreage strawberries


This is way beyond the hundred mile diet.  This is a zero mile diet.  Those berries came from literally just out my front door!



Standing on my front step; the little round strawberry patch is to the east of my door

Standing on my front step; the little round strawberry patch is to the east of my door



Standing on my front step; this little round strawberry patch is to the west of my door

Standing on my front step; this little round strawberry patch is to the west of my door


We planted about 100 plants in four little patches, in 2011.  We got fifty of an everbearing variety, and fifty of a June bearing variety.  For whatever reason, all of the plants are going nuts right now.  Last week, we put seven cups in the freezer, plus I took strawberries to work for lunches.  This week was much the same; seven cups for the freezer, plus plenty to eat!


eating strawberries

The taste is incomparable.

Read Full Post »

Mom was cleaning out cupboards some time ago, and asked me if I’d like her old Donvier crank ice cream maker.  It’s the kind that has a metal piece that goes in the freezer to pre-chill, and then you pour in the liquid mix and crank…and crank…and crank…


I know the technology is better now, and there’s even electric ice cream makers, but it wasn’t something that was even on my radar, until we had this Baby M’s dairy allergy to contend with.  I wasn’t even too concerned about it until the last couple of days, when the temperature finally went from ‘cold wet spring’ to ‘definitely summer’.  It was over thirty degrees today!  Suddenly, ice cream was in order.


Luckily, the goat kids are old enough that I can ‘steal’ some milk from the does without any issue.  Last night, we separated the kids from the does, and this morning, I milked.  Happily, Skye, who has never been milked before, was very good on the stand, at least until she ate all her grain.  Saffron, of course, was her usual bomb-proof self.  I got a decent-sized bucket of milk for my efforts…enough for a quart of ice cream, with some left over, even!


I didn’t realize ice cream called for eggs, as well.  Fortunately, we have plenty of those, too. I used the green-shelled eggs from Blue-Legs, our Americauna hen, since she ranges the most, and has the yellow-est yolks.


Blue Legs eggs


In fact, of the four ingredients on the list, the milk and eggs were produced completely on-farm, and the vanilla was something I also made, from beans I ordered from Uganda.  The sugar was the only thing I did not have a hand in in one way or another.  When you think about raising and milking the goat for your milk, raising the chicken that laid the eggs, and soaking the beans for six months to make the vanilla, this ice cream is really, really slow food!  It certainly makes me want to eat less and savor more, which, really, may be a solution to the wide-spread over-consumption we seem to have in North America.  When you make something from scratch-scratch, by producing even the ingredients, you suddenly realize how under-priced food is at the store…but that is a rant for another day.


Like so many good things, the recipe is very simple – only four ingredients!  You definitely want to use the freshest milk and nicest vanilla (no imitation extract!) for this, as the flavor is so dependent on the ingredients you use!


farm eggs and milk


French Vanilla Goat Milk Ice Cream


4 cups goat milk

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 to 2 tsp vanilla


Beat the eggs into half the milk, until everything is very well-mixed.  Add the sugar and the rest of the milk, and heat on low, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens a bit and sheets off the back of the spoon – about 15-20 minutes.   Cool the mixture (I put the pot directly in the fridge for a few hours), then add the vanilla (I like strong flavors, and used 1 1/2 tsp, but my vanilla is at least double strength.  You can taste the mixture to see if you want more vanilla in it).  At that point, put the mixture in your ice-cream maker, and chill or crank according to your machine’s instructions.


ice cream maker

I would have included a picture of my ice cream with strawberries, but it was melting too fast in the heat, so I was forced to eat it quickly!




Read Full Post »

We did not have much of a garden in 2012 – everything kind of conspired against us.  Me being hugely pregnant, Baby M’s birth being so traumatic, his allergies (and constant screaming), and that big storm in late June that knocked over an awful lot of our little plants.


However, we did manage to harvest a significant amount of carrots (maybe forty or fifty pounds) about the same of potatoes, and a lot of onions (we planted 500 sets).  In the autumn, we bought some cabbages, beets, and turnips in bulk, and also we picked up some pumpkins and spaghetti squash from the farmer’s market to round out our winter vegetable supply.


In 2011 / 2012, the root-cellared carrots were done by mid-February.  This year, however, we’re still eating them from our root cellar.  Some have rotted, and the texture is not as crisp as when they were harvested, for sure, and there is some fuzz on some of them – we peel them now, instead of just scrubbing them – but we ate some in our soup tonight, and they are still entirely edible.  The potatoes are also fine, and the cabbages as well, though you have to peel off several layers of dessicated leaves to get to the good stuff.  The beets, like the carrots, are softer, but still edible.  The squash is fine.  Squash lasts forever.   Some of the onions are starting to sprout, but the rest are still as good as the day they were harvested.


The difference between this year and last year, for the carrots at least, is that we managed the humidity better.  Last year, some of the carrots got dried out quite early in the year, and got too dried out and bitter to eat much earlier than they should have.  Others of our storage carrots last year were too damp, and rotted early, as well.  This year, we kept the carrots in a plastic Rubbermaid tub, with a plastic bag draped over top, which we adjust when we’re down there – pull it off a bit if things seem too humid, or pull it more closed if things look like they might be drying out.  It appears to be working quite well, considering we’re still eating last September’s carrot harvest, on May first.  While the root cellaring books I have read suggested storing them in damp sand or sawdust, we haven’t found a good supply of either of those things, and are happy that our rigged system appears to suffice.  I am quite delighted to be eating our own local produce, eight months later!

Read Full Post »

Since our post about slaughtering the chicken, and in conversation with friends, I’ve been asked a few times if we will go vegetarian in order to avoid future gory encounters.


The short answer is no.


The long answer is much more complicated.


I want to preface this post by stating that I have spent a fair portion of my adult life eating mostly or completely vegetarian.  I have a number of friends and family who are vegetarian, and that’s a choice people make for their own reasons, which are, by and large, no business of mine.   I completely respect that.


Having said all that, we’ve decided, after the last eight months of keeping livestock, gardening, and observing our local environment, that, for us, vegetarianism would be completely hypocritical.


You see, to be vegan in northern Saskatchewan, with any hope at all of being healthy, we would have to import a lot of food.  A big lot.  From a very, very long ways away.  There are not too many vegetables that are in season in Saskatchewan in January – pretty much whatever stores in the root cellar this long, which, in our current experience, amounts to potatoes, carrots, onions, beets, squash, and maybe cabbage.   We might be able to keep apples that long, if we found the right variety, which we haven’t, so there would be no fresh fruit at all.  The rest of a local vegan diet would consist of wheat and beans, basically.  You would, at the bare minimum, need a supplement to address deficiencies in vitamin D and probably at least some of the B vitamins, and likely also calcium, as the most calcium-rich veggies, such as spinach and broccoli, are not locally available in the winter.  So, your options are either processed/chemical supplements of unknown origin (the ingredients might have traveled a million miles; there is no way to know), and/or 2,400 mile meals.  That’s pretty hard to justify.


Okay, so, why not eat eggs and dairy? We’ve already got the goats and chickens, and that would do a long ways to solving the vitamin deficiencies.


That’s where the hypocrisy, for us, comes in.


I really only realized this after we started keeping chickens.  You see, in order to get 25 hens to lay our eggs, we ordered 50 straight run chickens.  Roughly half of our chicks were hens, and the other half were, of course, roosters.   Now, we could have ordered only girl chicks, but the same number of roosters would still have been hatched, overall.  What do you do with those roosters?  Keep them as pets?  Let them fight amongst themselves until they maimed or killed each other (and they will, we’ve discovered)?  If we were vegetarian, those roosters become, in essence, useless.


Further, hens only really reliably lay well for a few years, then need to be replaced.  Again, though, 50% of the new hatchlings will still be roosters, plus you’ve still got your old roosters, and, now, your old hens.  The population would just grow and grow, and it wouldn’t take long before you were feeding a couple hundred chickens to get a few eggs.  Environmentally, that has a lot of potential for disaster, too – it would not take long to exceed the carrying capacity of our land, especially when you factor in the goats.


You see, in order for a goat (or cow, for that matter) to give milk, she has to be bred.  Meaning, she has babies.  Goats typically have twins, and, statistically, half will be boys.  So, suddenly, you are more than doubling your goat population every year, just to keep getting milk.  And half of that population can’t give milk.  Sure, you can sell some off, but people want girl goats a lot more than boy goats…they want milk, too.  So again, you have a problem with excess useless boys.


So, even if you are eating free-range, pastured, grass fed, humanely raised eggs and dairy, you’re still an accessory to the killing of all those extra boys that were necessary in order to produce your food.  For us, we’d rather tackle the issue head on, and ensure our meat is humanely raised and humanely killed, and deal with our own emotional ramifications, than being involved in exactly the same thing, but without really thinking about it or addressing the issue.


Now, I must have known this on some level – I mean, it’s basic biology, right?  However, it really did not hit home until we were deciding whether or not to order more hens this spring, a conversation which necessarily included a discussion on how many roosters we could really eat in a year.  Then I suddenly realized that we really can’t have eggs without also eating chicken.   So, although we had kept the vegetarian option in reserve, just in case we really couldn’t stomach killing our own livestock, it is clear to us now that it’s not really a viable option for us.   So, omnivores we shall remain, if occasionally guilty ones.



Read Full Post »

So, the garden is finally winding down.  We made a ton of mistakes, but we’ve still got a pantry and a root cellar that are full to bursting, so, overall, I’d call the garden a success.  Having said that, I don’t know if we can even really take credit, since we had near-perfect weather for growing – lots of rain (for our area, at least) and good heat.

Our corn was planted too late, and did not mature before first frost.  We got a few cobs, but most of it was pulled from the roots and fed to the goats.  They really loved the treat, though!

The peas never really had a flush of pods that was big enough for serious processing.  In all, we ate peas with almost every meal for a couple of weeks, and put a few cups in the freezer, but that was all.  I was disappointed that we did not get more for the freezer, but we sure enjoyed them fresh.


We got one lonely cucumber:



The peppers were hardly worth planting, and we only got a few immature peppers out of several dozen plants.

The beans were a smashing success, with over 40 cups blanched and frozen, plus tons for shelling over the winter.

The tomatoes bore lots – in all we picked 8 two-gallon buckets, though the majority were green and will need to be ripened inside.  They sure make nice salsa, though!



Squash was pretty good overall, with the butternuts we planted having withered and disappeared, but the pumpkins and spaghetti squash more than making up for it, and giving us over 50 full-size squashes, plus a bunch of smaller ones.  I like picking the squash – it’s like an over-sized Easter egg hunt!  Here is the first wheelbarrow full:



The real winners, though, were the root veggies.  We got over 30 pounds of beets, and around 80 pounds of onions.  I don’t quite know what we’ll do with over a hundred pounds of carrots, though I’m sure we’ll share with the goats.  Turnips and rutabagas yielded very well, but were more than 50 percent wormy, so we got around 60 pounds of useable roots for our cellar.  The rest will likely be fed to the chickens and goats over time.  A local market gardener told us that, with all the canola around, there were too many pests for turnips or rutabagas to do well, and not to feel too bad if we managed to get any edible crop at all!



We will have lots and lots of potatoes, as well.

We seriously over-planted, expecting to lose a lot of the garden to pests or drought, but then nature turned around and handed us a great year for growing.  I’m just glad we’ve got a big root cellar…now to figure out how to eat all this stuff…

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »