Friday, March 25, 2016

Homemade Easter Egg Dyes

Today is Good Friday and here at the farm were enjoying a rather wet day. It is just sneaking up over the freezing mark and is supposed to stay warmer but a bit drizzly for the next day or so but we are going to make the best use of having Steve home for an extra day to get the greenhouse totally finished. Behind me in the lean-to greenhouse the chickens are cackling away like mad. It sounds like they've just laid us a few new eggs. Perfect, I have a craft to do with the girls this afternoon if it stays wet.
Without going into a complex chemical discussion of mordants and dyes, I thought I'd share a neat video for a craft you can do with your kids. It's in the link below. 
Onion skins have been used for years as a dye, I remember reading about Jewish prisoners in WW 2 who tried to brighten up the barracks they lived in by dyeing the curtains with onion skins. It's a very simple process of boiling the skins in water and soaking the fabric, or in this case an Easter egg, and allowing it to cool. It's time consuming but that's about it. The process is the same for other kitchen ingredients like red cabbage and turmeric as well. Is it suitable for kids? Yes, with some adult supervision for the boiling part. You will be sacrificing a pair of stockings/pantyhose, some eggs (white work best but use what you've got) and some flowers and leaves for decoration but it's a fun and interesting craft. I don't recommend using beets for the boiling method. Their intense colour will bleed past any decorations you use so they really don't work for this application but keep reading because I have a suggestion below. You can use a tsp of salt and vinegar in with your onion skins to help set the dye but it's not necessary. You're not looking to have these eggs last forever, they're still boiled eggs at the end of the day and won't last more than a few days as decorations. 
There are lots of other vegetable dyes you can research and experiment with once you've tried this. Using different mordants such as lye, salt petre, ammonia, vinegar etc can change colours quite dramatically and it's fun to wonder how our ancestors figured these things out. You might want to try melting a little wax and painting designs on your eggs with the wax too. Once the wax is cooled you could dip your egg into some puréed or boiled and cooled beet or other fruit juice and see your designs magically appear.
 Have fun with this craft and a very happy Easter from all of us at Humblebee Farm. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ugly Veggies -How to appreciate your knobbly produce

Despite all our skill, best intentions and hard work we always get a few chuckles each year when we're pulling root crops. We've had the usual carrots shaped like people, parts of the male anatomy, even a perfect pacman potato, but these oddities are still nutritious and delicious veggies that deserve a place of honour in the kitchen. Some are very tricky to wash and peel for regular use so the soup pot is a great destination. For the slightly imperfect fruits and vegetables that are now available at many grocery stores. For the most part these are a very cost effective way to get more veggies in your diet and once peeled and chopped you can't really tell the difference between them and more high quality veggies. But if it's nutritional density you're looking for, try growing veggies in your own garden. Even a small raised bed that's 4'x8' can grow a lot of veggies if you use methods such as square foot gardening, vertical gardening or planting fast growing crops such as lettuce, radishes, turnips and beans. Asian greens are also fast and easy to grow, often taking only 30-45 days from the time you plant them until they are ready to harvest and eat. And they're perfect for kids or beginners. If you really want a treat them get some grow bags or large pots and grow your own tomatoes and herbs too.  You can pick the fruits and veggies at their peak ripeness and eat them right away. Yum! So what are your plans for this year? Are you growing anything interesting? 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Our Children As Farmers

It's really important to our family that we pass along what skills and knowledge we have to not only our own children, but to others who are wanting to learn. This type of community based learning and building up of local skills and the forgotten arts of things like basketry and hedge laying help to add to self reliance and food security. Having classes to learn how to grow and cook local foods as well as glean as much from your kitchen and garden as you can (I'm thinking about using your knobbly veggies and leftover chicken carcass to make soup) means more self-determination, less waste, and better use of our resources. If everyone made a meal a week using leftovers you might save your budget $5-10. But if everyone in your neighbourhood did, or every Canadian, can you imagine how much we'd save? Hundreds of millions of dollars every week! And that's just leftovers. So I challenge you to go through your fridge and spice cupboard and boil up a nice pot of soup this week. Don't forget to let us know how it goes 😊
And if you're interested in learning about market gardening or WWOOFing with us in 2016 please drop us a line. We love our woofers and can't wait to meet new friends this year! 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Wild Flower Bombs for Easter - Helping the bees

Do you ever wonder why planting wild flowers is important? Or why our bottom field by the river is always full of goldenrod and poppies? Because we plant for diversity to increase the food nd habitat for our pollinators. Our success as farmers is largely dependent on having our flowers pollinated and then harvesting the resulting fruits and veggies. As a planet, we can't afford to lose a third of our food production if bees and other wild pollinators fail to thrive. So each year we take a few hours and make wild seed bombs and spread them over the wild spaces on our property. We use native flowers, weeds to many people, and we also plant domestic flowers for their beauty too. It's a beautiful way to brighten up your yard too. 

Seed Bomb Recipe:
3 packages of wild flower seeds
10 litres topsoil (potting soil is too fluffy)
2 litres of well aged manure 

Add enough water to the soil and manure to make a sticky mix that will keep its shape if rolled into egg sized balls. Mix in the seeds. Roll into golf ball or egg sized balls and you're ready to go. Keep the balls covered so they don't dry out completely and use within two days. 

I've recently seen a video where coloured paper was ripped up into pieces, soaked in water for 15 minutes then put through a food processor until smooth. They squeezed out the excess water (it sort of looks like putty) put it into a shaped mold, sprinkled in seeds and then more paper mush on top. This made cute shaped seed bombs. Due to the seeds getting wet you'd still have to use within a couple of days but might make a good Easter craft. 

To use the seed bombs just plan to throw them out into your open spaces before a few days of wet weather. The soil and manure (or paper) will help to retain moisture as the seeds germinate and provide some nutrients. If you choose varieties that will self seed then you'll be starting a wild flower garden that will last for many years to come.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Trained Chickens

It's a bit of a nutsy weekend. The CSA shares are selling which is keeping me busy. Tomorrow is the Live The Smart Way Expo in Halifax and so we're gearing up for that while enjoying a last blast of Winter weather. Beckie's not feeling so hot and I'm busy organizing, advertising and planning. But it's going to be great! We will be at the FarmWorks booth from 1-4 and we'd love you to drop by. It's at the convention centre. Parking at Scotia Square. 

Steve is working on the greenhouse frame again today. It's nearing completion which is fabulous. I have big plans for next week. 

Even the chickens are being helpful. We have a chicken who regularly lays her egg on our front step. Yes, right on the step. I found the first couple by stepping on them. Even with this horrible wind and blowing snow she laid her egg there. How weird is that? In fact she's taught a friend to do it too! Lol. That's a little cat house beside the eggs. The kitten uses it as a shelter when he's waiting for us to come home. I'll have to re-paint it this year. It's looking a bit grim. 

Ok well off to buy a pump for Steve to play with. He's inventing a greens washer for us to use on all our leafy greens and salad mixes. A root veggie washer is next he says. Have a lovely weekend. Hope to see some of you tomorrow afternoon in Halifax! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why buy your veggies from us?

Our CSA is now taking new customers who want to share in the harvest of our vegetables and fruits. And I suspect that if you are met us at the Live The Smart Way expo in Halifax or just around town, you'll want to know more about us and what we do. This blog will show you some of the things we've been upto over the past couple of years, both the fun and the strange, lol. And it'll give you an idea of the kind of people we are too. I'm not sure if that's a good thing but you might as well get to know us as we really are 🙂
So why choose Annapolis Valley Growers for your CSA support? Well, frankly because we need customers like you to make the CSA and the farmers market work. And we know we offer delicious food in exchange for your hard earned dollars. We aren't a supermarket who produces perfect looking bland food, although I'll admit their tomatoes have gotten better over the years. But they still can't beat the flavour of your own homegrown or our fully vine ripened tomatoes and cucumbers. Mmmm now I'm craving a tomato sandwich, lol. Ours may not always be perfectly round but they are perfectly delicious. And we really welcome your feedback to let us know what flavours you enjoy most. We grow about a dozen different varieties for the CSA and more as plants to sell in our nursery, and we'd love knowing what works best for you. 
The clocks have changed this morning and it's surprisingly dark. The snow is largely melted again and since it's a new moon there was mostly just starlight to illuminate things outside. But the roosters are crowing and I can see the sky is starting to lighten a bit over the hill. Morning is coming and with it another day of spring farm work. Today that means planting another batch of wheatgrass and some cucumbers. I'm still waiting for the bulk of my seeds to arrive this week but I want to get some peas in the ground if I can. It's still too cold to plant things like beans but spinach and peas will be okay under cover as well as some of our Asian greens. But we don't want to get ahead of ourselves. It's now 2 months until our first vegetable deliveries and the market start up. Time to get planting. So much work! But the greenhouse is shaping up nicely so that's a plus. It'll be so nice to have the extra space and if I can kick the chickens out of my lean to greenhouse then I'll have another place I can use for plants. We're at that time of year where Mother Nature teases gardeners with warm days and cold nights. But my little lean to is great for hardy seedlings and then tomatoes and peppers as the year goes on and the nights are warmer.

Just a reminder if you are interested in investing in FarmWorks, that their current share offer is closing on Tuesday so give them a call today. 

In the meantime enjoy the warmer weather and if you're a gardener take some time to prune and clean up the yard. Compost and manure can be spread now too. Spring will be here before you know it.