Monday, September 30, 2013

Almost Moved into our temporary digs

Will write an update soon :) In the meantime we leave you with some 'pause' humour while you wait...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Apples in the Annapolis Valley

The heart of Apple growing country in the Maritimes of Canada is right here in our own backyard. The Annapolis Valley, particularly the area around Berwick, is absolutely chock full of orchards on both sides of the valley. The soil, sun and moisture here all combine to grow good crops of tree fruits and indeed the first settlers brought with them trees from Europe for their homesteads. Evidence of the long history can be seen in abandoned orchards of ancient trees and the amazing array of 'apples gone wild' that adorn many roadsides and hedgerows, including those at our farm. The apples have all returned to crab form but that's ok because they're still useful and the blossoms in the Spring are wonderful for man and bee alike.

The history of Apples in the Annapolis Valley (one of our sons thinks it's ironic that we grow apples in 'an apple-less valley') was firmly established by the 1700's and by the early 1900's the Berwick area was growing and shipping apples to Europe in enormous quantities. With the outbreak of war in the 1940's and the destroying of so many cargo ships they branched out into other manufacturing and storage ideas including sending Britain barrels of dried apples that took up less space and weight when being shipped.

Today the orchards send their apples to be stored for sale locally and you'll also find a good chunk of our inventory sold across eastern Canada for fresh sale or for processing into everything from juice to fruit leather. But for a lucky few of us, we can spend a lovely fall day in the orchard picking our own apples. Many farms offer U-Pick and the easiest way to find them is to drive around and look for signs. Of the maybe 12 listed farms in NS on the tourism website I know that there are maybe 4 times that many actual U-Picks and they're open for picking from Late August to the end of October depending on variety.

Yesterday Christopher loaned me his truck to go get apples for the pigs. A 700+lb bin of drop apples (found on the ground, too small to sell or bruised) for $50 is a good deal for me as a farmer, gets rid of something that's commercially unsellable for the orchard, and the pigs ADORE apples. I think that yesterday between the pigs, sheep, turkeys, chickens and ducks they probably scoffed down the better part of 200 lbs in one day. It was amazing to behold and quite fun to watch them all crunching away. One of our ewes named Freckles got a sour apple at one point and you could just see the surprised look on her face and the saliva well in her mouth, lol. It didn't stop her from finishing the apple and getting a dozen more.  But fattening pigs and lambs on apples is a really nice way to produce great meat. We'll have lamb available next week and free range chicken too. And ours really are free range.

If you're looking to pick your own apples here in the Annapolis Valley you can visit a U-Pick or adopt a tree. This entails choosing your tree, having a sign with your family name on it placed below the tree, and then when the apples are ripe you can come along and pick. We adopted a couple of Cortland apple trees from Johnson's Stonehenge Farm just above Greenwood/Aylesford. It's $50 to adopt a tree and you usually get around 200 lbs of apples. It's so much fun to reconnect with nature in the fall as you pick your apples and take them home to be made into pies, crisp, sauce, dried and eaten fresh. Cortlands are good for that also because they are picked around Thanksgiving here in Canada so it's a fun family activity on the long weekend and will keep the kids busy while Mum is in the kitchen roasting up the turkey. The short drive (it's less than 10 mins from Greenwood) is worth it for the view alone because as you drive along Harmony Road you get a gorgeous view of the valley.

Another local farm is going to allow us to pick Spy and Ida Red apples at the end of October for our storage (both varieties are good keepers) for $50 per bin which is a fantastic deal. I'm very happy! Hopefully we will be settled in our new place by then and we can get a lot of drying and canning done. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime I'm off to drop kids off at the bus stop then helping a family from Church to move

Monday, September 9, 2013

Busy As A Bee This Weekend

We had a nice break in the weather on Saturday and so the shingling of the barn roof was begun in earnest. Despite having a roof jack give out and leave Jordan on the ground and Steve hanging from the ridge, it went well and the roof is now shingled except for the ridge cap. I'll get the shingles cut this week and then it's an easy job to nail them on. It does make me feel better now that the roof is water tight. We also got some siding on the outside of the barn, it's going to be a lot nicer in there this winter without so many drafts blowing through. And the siding is a project I can work on during the week without Steve being home. In addition to this we also got more painting done and so now it's looking like a home with actual furniture. It's going to look very different in a week once the kitchen is done and we got a great idea for kitchen counters from our friends Carl and Tina. I'll upload some pics once it's done.

The pumpkins are starting to colour up so the field is going to look awesome once the leaves have died down in a few weeks. As is usual for this time of year, we've had some cooler evenings recently but it's going to warm up significantly on Tuesday. It will be nice to not have to light the fire just yet. Besides, we haven't installed a chimney yet and then the cookstove needs to be put on a heat proof floor. So much work to do, so little time. And the electrical really has to be a priority right now, we're running out of time. Oh I'm SO GLAD that this will be our last move for a while, at least I hope so.

I should really get to bed. We had a great visit with my parents and our friend Russ tonight and now I'm ready for some sleep. It's a busy week ahead.

But before I go, I have a question for you. Who is better at pollinating, humans or bees? The reasons I pose this question is because there's a very interesting movie that just came out called More Than Honey. If you are an apiarist or just interested in beekeeping then it's worth a viewing.

"If the bees ever die out mankind will follow 4 years later" is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein. And it's something that I hope we never have to find out. All of mankind may not perish but the strain it would put on global food supplies cannot be understated. I'd imagine that at best we'd see a decrease in human population of 4 billion people as food prices rise beyond the reach of the poorest and most vulnerable countries due to a decrease in production of 30%. Yes, those people in the rich west would likely last longer but lack of food would affect almost everyone.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pasture Raised Meat and Produce For Sale

It's getting to that time of year when we offer sides of pork, chicken and lamb to our customers so that we can all get into winter with the freezer full. So just a thought...what can we get for YOU?

Delivery to Sackville can be arranged for $10. Local delivery free. Book now for late fall delivery.

We will be offering the following:

Eggs, available by chance. $ 3 dozen.

Pumpkins for fall decorating, pies and Halloween. Medium sized upto 10 lbs are $2 each. Large pumpkins upto 25 lbs are $ 4 each. Jumbo's will be $10. They are just starting to colour up in the fields but with the cooler temperatures coming I know that we'll soon be awash in a sea of orange happiness. I LOVE pumpkin pie!

Lamb, cut wrapped and frozen. $6 lb if you take a half or whole. $8lb for specific cuts. All lamb is anti-biotic and drug free. Free range pasture raised.

Pork, cut wrapped and frozen. $5 lb by the side  $7 lb for smoked meats like bacon and ham. Sausage may yet be an option we'll offer this year so keep checking back. Our pigs are pasture raised heritage breeds (Tamworth x Berkshire) and have had a happy outdoor life with their own little barn. Because of their mixed diet of pasture, grain and apples and carrots, our meat is lean and full of flavour. Definitely worth a try if you've never eaten heritage pork before.

Chicken, whole. $ 4 lb. Averages between 5-8 lb. Our unusual breed of chicken from France (the SASSO) is specifically bred to be able to live their lives outside and forage for a good deal of their own food. Our birds have absolutely free range (and they do) of 5 acres of pasture and they have a great time scratching around in the grass for treats or in the orchard devouring drop apples. These slow growing and super healthy birds have been a pleasure to raise and we'll be doing so on a much larger scale next year. Quantities are limited this year so order fast.

Turkey, whole. $ 4lb Our heritage turkeys exceptional flavour will ruin all store bought turkeys for you. Seriously, they are so delicious compared to the ones at Sobeys that it's hard to go back, lol. Raised naturally on pasture with barn housing for inclement weather, our friendly guys enjoy a great life exploring the farm and coming to see what we're doing. Turkeys are naturally curious and make a great addition to a farmyard. We're keeping back half our flock for breeding next year so quantities of Christmas turkey are limited for 2013. Please contact us to reserve yours.

We can be reached via our Facebook Page, Humblebee Farm or at

Here's a great recipe for Krispy Fried Chicken

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
3 beaten eggs
4 tablespoons oil

For the coating

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons paprika (don't skip this one, it adds nice flavour and colour)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper (black or white)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (doesn't matter the brand)
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon tarragon
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
1/2 teaspoon celery salt


1. Sift together all the coating ingredients and place in a clean plastic bag. Coat each chicken piece first with the beaten egg, then with the flour mixture in the bag. Make sure you coat each piece completely with the flour to seal in the juices when cooking.
2. Heat the oil in a skillet. Brown the chicken in the oil slowly, uncovered. Once browned, cover the skillet and keeping frying on a very gentle heat until the chicken is fully cooked. Place a single layer on paper towels to drain out the excess oil.

3. If you don't want to fry your chicken you can dry roast in the oven but I like to spray on a little oil first or brush some oil onto the top of the chicken with a brush. This usually depends if I can find the oil spray bottle or not :)  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I Am Blessed

It's a lovely cool Sunday morning. My husband is already at meetings at Church so I am just sitting here snuggled up in the sheets listening to my family around the house getting ready for the day and thinking about how blessed I am. I may not have everything I'd like in life. A few dollars in the bank would be nice and a septic system would also be helpful. But my children are healthy, my husband loves me and I live in a peaceful country where I can worship God as I choose. I can grow my own vegetables and raise chickens to feed my family. I can travel to the city and have fun with my children exploring the history of Halifax. I can visit with my parents and watch as they spend time with their grand children. Life is full of so many stresses for all of us that it's important to take a minute each day and be grateful for all the good things in our lives. Today I'm grateful for families and Temples.