Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June Work Schedule

You can tell by my lack of blog entries that we have been keeping really busy in May. June is here, and finally some warmer Spring weather. Frost earlier this month is now hopefully the end of icy weather and according to the biodynamic calendar, it's time for warm weather crops to get planted in the garden. Beans, squashes, flowers, those are on my list for today. Melons will wait another week to go outside but we have them in the greenhouse. Plus tomatoes and peppers. Early potatoes are already in the ground for mid summer new potatoes and timed to be ready along with carrots and peas for hodge podge, a local delicacy soup made with fresh potatoes, carrots, peas and cream.

We were hoping to start work on the ponds this weekend but unfortunately the excavator we rented is broken so those projects are on hold. I guess that gives us more gardening time so it's ok. Goodness knows with a late spring we're a bit behind. 

We have lots of plants in the nursery and for sale at the farmers markets. The Mid Valley Market officially starts for the season today. Our new location is at the New Beginnings Church beside DQ on Bridge Street in Greenwood, NS. We will be open from 3-6pm each Friday.

Thunder and lightning last night were perfect for clearing the air and cooling things off. But apart from soaking my car seats (because I left the windows down) it gave the garden a good watering and will go a long way to helping all my newly planted stuff a chance to get going. Watering with a sprinkler just isn't the same as a good steady rain. I did a bunch of laundry that's now ready for the line so Mother Nature is helping me with my chores today and let me sleep in an hour that I didn't need to be fooling around with hoses. I still need to get watering and planting in the greenhouses but not water an acre of garden. So I'm happy.

Anyways, it's 7am. Time to get to work. In the greenhouses until 9 or 10 and then finishing a few planting rows and finish the rabbit hutch. Sounds like a good mornings work.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Mothers Day Gift Idea


Here's a pretty simple and yet lasting gift idea you can you make for your mother. A raised garden bed. 

Think how terrific it will be each time your mum harvests veggies, or strawberries, or flowers and thinks of you. 

The video is by Charles Dowding. He's big into compost making and gardening with no till methods. But this is a simple, well-explained project for making a 4'x4' bed. It can be placed anywhere convenient (I recommend somewhere that you'll see it regularly and close to a water supply). 

So, you have a week to get your supplies together. Start looking around for lumber you can repurpose or get for free. Many municipalities give away compost in May, so you may be able to do this project for minimal cost. 

Good Luck! And happy Mother's Day to all of you. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Tomato & Pepper Plants For Sale + Veggie Boxes

Looking For A Veggie Box?

Available here each week beginning June 1st. Pay by the week or month. Ask us how you can get your locally grown no spray fruits, veggies and herbs. Delivery available.

Today I've been working on signs for our Nursery and Farmers Markets. Tell me what you think. I'm trying to make it easy & flexible to order veggie boxes this year. We are also taking pre-orders for tomato and pepper plants because so many of the popular varieties sold out quickly last year in the nursery. This year we're growing fewer varieties but more of each. Oh and speaking of the nursery, we will soon be open! We just need a dry and calm day to put the plastic back on and then a day or two to stock it. The greenhouse at the farm here is absolutely loaded with plants all waiting to be transplanted into their nice big red and white pots so they can grow nice healthy roots and be perfect for you to plant once the weather has improved. We're not past our frost free date yet so while its ok for many things to get going, the warmer weather plants need about another month yet for the nights to be consistently warm. Not +3C and raining as it is tonight. 

Veggie boxes will be available beginning in June again. This year instead of paying all upfront (which is too expensive for many people) we are doing pay-by-the-week or month options. You can pick up from us at the Farmers Markets in Greenwood on Thursday or Friday, or we will deliver too. As usual, it will be grown to our exacting organic and permaculture based growing standards. And you're welcome to come help us in the garden and see how we grow and care for your food. That way you know for yourself it's organic, locally grown, and fresh!

Your Plants Today

No Deposit Needed. Get excellent varieties for our climate, delicious flavours, and healthy plants. Locally grown, many organic varieties.
Your plants will come in individual pots ready for planting June 1st to 3rd.

Tomato & Pepper Plant Order Form 2017

Beefsteak -Vine. 80 Days. This bushy vine does best when pruned, you'll get lager fruit and better ripening. Excellent balanced flavour, dark red. Large sized tomatoes are good for one slice sandwiches and burgers. For best flavour harvest when fully ripe.

Brandywine - Vine. 78 Days. The standard for heirloom tomato flavour. Well known for its size and exotic, sweet, tomato flavour. Compact vining habit produces large fruit with a pinkish red flesh.

Early Cascade - Vine. 55 Days. These vines produce heavy yields all season long. Good for canning and eating fresh, these are open pollinated. They are thin skinned and don't keep very long but are well worth growing and eating fresh. Bred for cooler climates like ours.

Gold Nugget -Bush. 56 Days. Gold Nugget cherry tomato seeds produce compact plants 24″ tall. Gold Nugget’s compact size makes it an ideal choice for containers and small garden spaces. The fruit set easily even in bad weather and produce ping pong ball sized golden tomatoes that are mostly seedless until the end of the season. Winner of the RHS Award.

Money Maker - Vine. 75 Days. These 6' tall plants are an old English variety that produce heavy yields over a long time. Deep red clusters of smooth skinned fruit are medium sized and have a classic sweet flavour. They benefit from pruning and staking.

Old German -Vine. 80 Days. If you give this 8-10' plant lots of sturdy support and water, you'll be rewarded with a modest yield of gorgeous yellow and red fruit that are fragrant & nearly seedless. Potato leaf variety from a Mennonite in community in Virginia, circa 1800.

San Marzano -Vine. 80 Days. This is a truly outstanding tomato for making sauce and its delicious! Forget Roma tomatoes, San Marzano Lampadina 2 are the worlds gold standard in sauce tomatoes. All the way from Italy, they are long, blocky and firm with thick skins. Fruit keeps for ages as it has a lower water content and the plants are disease resistant. One of our favourite tomatoes.

Scotia - Bush. 60 Days. Very popular maritime variety that's used for wating fresh and famous for green tomato relish. Early maturity and reliability. Open pollinated. Dwarf plant habit and medium sized globe shaped fruit.

Sweet Million -Vine. 60 Days. Bright red cherry tomatoes. Early maturing clusters of tiny fruit are well rounded, deep red in colour with a delicious sweet flavour. Long harvest time, vines need support and do well in greenhouses. Tolerance to cracking and good holding qualities.

Tiny Tim - Bush. 55 Days. Miniature cherry tomatoes. Dwarf plants are literally loaded with small, firm red fruit about 1 inch in diameter. These do well in pots.

Tumbler - Bush. 55 Days. These are hanging basket tomatoes that produce beautiful red tomatoes. Best grown in partial shade out of the rain, fertilize monthly. Mix a few flowers in for a beautiful basket at eye height. 2-3 plants per basket. Limited quantities.

Plants are available for delivery June 1-3rd. They will be in individual pots, hardened off and ready for planting. We grow varieties that are delicious and also do well in our climate. Regular watering and keeping the leaves dry will promote healthy plants and fruits that don't crack. Add a little calcium to the soil to prevent blossom end rot and prune out the suckers of vining types. For best flavour pick fruits fully ripe and don't refrigerate.


California Wonder -The standard for Sweet Bell peppers. These peppers start green and with enough heat and time will turn a beautiful red. The compact bushy plants do equally well in a garden, large pot, or greenhouse with a somewhat concentrated harvest period over several weeks. You'll get sweeter peppers if you let them ripen to red.

Ghost Chili -Ghost peppers also known as Bhut Jalokia, are one of the worlds hottest peppers and really pack a whollop at over 1 million Scoville heat units (SHU). That's 3x hotter than our red Habaneros. We're serious, treat the plants, fruit and especially seeds with caution. We use gloves and are careful to not touch eyes nose etc. Limited quantities available in 2017. They fruit at the end of the season. If you can bring them indoors as a houseplant over the winter you'll be rewarded with a much bigger harvest the second year.

Red Habanero -Another hot one! These ripen from green, to yellow, to red, getting hotter and hotter all the time. Ranging from 100,000 to 350,000 SHU, you've been warned. Like many other peppers you can grow it as a houseplant over winter then back outside the next summer for greater yields.

Jalapeno M -Compared to our other hot peppers, these thick walled and juicy little green peppers seem mild to heat lovers. At a modest 5000 SHU they add a nice warmth to chili, tacos and other foods. They're especially good stuffed and pickle nicely. The small bushes are good in pots on the patio. Deer resistant after the first bite.

Large Thick Cayenne- These are strong upright plants with thick wrinkly fruit up to 6” long. At 30- 40,000 SHU they definitely have a kick, though not as much as their slim cousins. They ripen from green to red and peppers ripen almost all at once so its easy to harvest them for drying. 70-80 days to maturity.

Orange Sun - These sweet bell peppers ripen to a stunning bright orange. The blocky peppers have 3-4 lobes and are juicy with thick flesh. The interior is good for stuffing. Plants reach 24” tall and do well in large containers with good fertile soil. 90 days to maturity, worth the wait. Keep evenly watered in free draining soil.

Paprik -Grow your own paprika! These pepper plants are vigorous little bushes and produce lots of 4” peppers with a small seed cavity. Dry the seed pods at the end of the season then grind finely. We also recommend you try slicing and smoking some before drying and grinding, the flavour is outstanding.

Purple Beauty - Beautiful blocky purple peppers are sweet and good for eating raw or stirfry. Open pollinated, we recommend saving your own seeds from these chunky peppers who ripen from green to purple. Matures in 75 days.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


This has been a lovely week in the greenhouse. The sunshine and above freezing nights mean things are treacly growing now. It's time for tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini to be potted into larger pots for sale in the nursery. The tomatoes in the soil blocks are easy to pull apart and are going into 2.5" pots before going to their red pots in a few weeks. By keeping them from getting root bound they grow stronger and make far better plants for the gardeners who buy them. They're also easier to harden off, ready for planting in June. Yes, June. It's still too early to think about planting them outside, the nighttime temperature is too cold. We start ours in smaller pots so that we can fit more into a small area that we can heat. It's the best way we know to get locally adapted plants for the Annapolis Valley, as well as choosing very good quality seed. You'll find there's a lot less transplant shock and the yields are good with our plants, especially if you've got some compost and a little calcium added to your soil and you keep the plants evenly watered. 

A list of available varieties will be with us at the Greenwood Mall Farmers Market next week and you can pre-order the plants you'd like. I'm also bringing a few dozen Honeoye strawberries with me as well as breads. The nursery will be open in 2 weeks, maybe sooner! (I need the room). I'm off to pot more strawberries into hanging baskets. Have a lovely week!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Veggie Boxes 2017

Veggie boxes are available to be pre-ordered and a really good deal. Just sign up and then decide how long you want to commit for. But why choose our farm CSA (community supported agriculture) over the other local ones? There are some really great growers in the valley who work hard to provide good veggies to their customers, there's a couple within 2 miles of our farm, but at the same time I know of one other in a different community where they buy discounted veggies from other local commercial farms all season long and pass it off as their own. It's important that you get to know your grower if you can, so that you're getting what you pay for. Otherwise you may as well just shop at Sobeys. I'm not saying I've never bought anything to help fill a veggie box, last spring our partners had serious water issues and despite their best intentions they didn't get a lot growing so I bought local veggies, carrots, green onions and lettuce etc. to help fill my boxes for a few weeks while I got a bunch more seeds planted and I got garlic scapes from a lady in Aylesford before being entirely self sufficient. But we've been doing a veggie box program for quite a few years both in BC and NS and have the experience to know what to plant when (and computer programs to keep us organized). Since this year we're not relying on anyone else to provide half the veggies, we can just plan for and rely on our selves again. And you are certainly welcome to take a drive by after the end of May and check out the field garden to see what's growing. You may be able to see the plants through the greenhouses too. Cucumbers, melons, eggplant, tomatoes and wasabi are all in there during the summer.  I guess when it comes down to it, the proof that we grow our own produce is right there in the field. The farm stand will be open in June so pop by and see us. 

We're changing things up from our usual CSA where you pay for all 4 months in advance. Instead, 
you'll order and pay by the week or pay for a month and get a discount. This means you still get your box of healthy and delicious vegetables each week, but now it's easier to fit into your budget. It also means that if you're a new customer, you can try us out without a huge commitment. Try it for a month and see what you think. You'll try some new veggies, get recipes, and become part of the Humblebee family.


Do you deliver? How do I get my box?  You can pick up from us at Greenwood Mall farmers market, Mid Valley Farmers Market, farm stand or get delivery. It's your choice. Delivery is an additional $5 per week up to 50km. There's a spot on the order sheet to let us know your preferred location and we take orders by email. If there is enough interest, we will have our regular pick up location in Lower Sackville again this year. 

Going on vacation? Just stop delivery while you're gone or donate to the food bank or a friend. 

Can I cancel? Yes, you are only committing to the weeks you pay for. This is what makes us different from the other CSA's out there. You don't risk losing hundreds of dollars if you don't like it. If you pay for a month and then decide it's not for you because you're moving, or circumstances have changed, that's okay. Just let us know. You'll only get the weeks you've paid for. We will be sad to lose you but our produce is delicious and I'm sure you'll be back to see us at the farmers market if you can. 

Can I substitute the things in my box? Generally no because it can get very confusing to keep a bunch of boxes separate that are all slightly different. But we can try to work something out, you can trade with a friend, or you can share with someone who loves what you hate. 

What's actually in a box? This questions a bit tricky because each week is different. The seasonal veggies go from lots of greens in spring to peas, beans, and summer veggies to the root crops of fall. We will only have apples available late September once they're ready, lettuce and tomatoes almost every week, potatoes go from new potatoes to main crop from July to September etc. And of course cool weather crops like peas and lettuce aren't very tasty when it's hot in August so you'll be getting melons and cucumbers then. This year I'm going to take a lot more photos of our boxes so I have a better record. 

Are you organic? We are not certified organic due to the cost and politics. We are 'no spray' and certify as Naturally Grown instead. We absolutely believe in using organic, permaculture, and pollinator friendly methods of growing. Our chickens and ducks do lots of bug control, we weed by hand and use a small tiller, truly organic growing is very labour intensive. There are lots of chemicals out there that are supposedly safe for organic growers but we prefer to use natural inputs like garlic spray, compost and fish fertilizers whenever we can.  Healthy plants = happy people. 

Is it just veggies? No, your box will also include herbs, berries occasionally and fruit such as melons and apples. Plus a newsletter. We give all sorts of things a try! Plus you can add free range eggs, breads and treats, preserves and flowers. We bake fresh to order. 

Do you hire outside help? We are a very small, family run farm and don't pay anyone to work here. But we do have help. We teach organic gardening and homesteading skills to young people from all over the world through a program called WWOOF. They help us for a few hours each day in exchange for room and board and we probably host an average of 20 people per year. It's a great program and we've made some lifelong friends. We also have our children, affectionately known as the 'slave labour crew'. 

Do you have veggies all year round? No, we offer a seasonal veggie box. We will have extra fruits and fall crops and we will keep everyone informed as to what's available in October and November. We had fresh peas last Christmas! But you never know with the Nova Scotia weather. 

How do I sign up? You can email us at humblebeecanada@gmail.com and let us know how many, what size, and then we will add you to our newsletter list and arrange your pickup location. 

How much? How do I pay? It's your choice to pay by the week, month (4 weeks) or season (16 weeks). After mid September everyone will be charged by the week because weather conditions may make bi-weekly harvests more practical. Costs are:

Large box $25 per week.  $90 per month.  $340 for 16 week season.
Small box $15 per week.  $50 per month.  $180 for 16 week season. 

Eggs are $4 per dozen.

Bread $4 loaf or 2/$7

Preserves - $4 jar

Flowers $5 bunch

We accept Visa & MasterCard, etransfer, cash or cheque. Sign up first, then we'll arrange payment method. There are a limited number of boxes available for pre-order. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Frog Song

We've had a few warm days so lots of the ponds and rivers are ice free and for the first time this year the frogs can be heard. I'm not sure it will last with cooler weather on the way but it's a sign that winter has released her icy grip and Spring is well and truly on its way. Hooray! 

Monday, April 10, 2017

The season begins

Wednesday - The weather forecasts all said it would be below or near freezing last night and every night this week, and here we are waking to a decidedly frosty morning and -8 C (18 f) and -2 C for tonight. This fluctuation of temperature between warm days then cool ones is what makes spring growing so difficult. One frost can wipe out weeks of work. My greenhouse helps with that and the incubator and newly built covered boxes give me somewhere I can keep a small heater to warm it by a few degrees if necessary. The remote thermometer says it's currently 4 C in there so frost free and once the sun is shining it'll quickly warm up. We might only need the heater a few more nights but it makes a big difference at either end of the season. We have a few sub zero nights forecast this week and a little snow, but Springs definitely here. Despite the sub zero nights the forecast. I just have to be optimistic that it's all up from here. 

Thursday - Awoke to snow. Just a half inch so far but the world is white. At least it'll settle some of the pollen in the air. Covered boxes in the greenhouse are reading 7 degrees C. 

The first market of the year was this past Saturday of Easter weekend. It was great to try out the new location and see all our customers again plus new ones. The next market day is Saturday of Mother's Day weekend and then regular market days begin June 2. So you'll be able to get all your farmers market goodies from us on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Contact us for more info at humblebeecanada at gmail.com or look for the next blog post. I'm off to plant more strawberries. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom : The Importance of Temperature

Happy Wednesday! I'm currently sitting inside the greenhouse debating if it's better to go buy more cold medication or just wait out the tail end of this sinus cold. I'm not running a fever so I think I'll save myself the drive. The seed starter incubator is working well, it's maintaining the temperature nicely at night which is good because it's still getting down well below freezing at night. In fact it was snowing an hour ago but not settling because it's now plus 2. Inside the greenhouse is +15 even though it's cloudy and windy outside. It's nice.

Our seed starter is a bakery rack that's been framed out and covered with 6mil poly. Inside there's a small portable fan type electric heater set to 400w, a thermostat that controls the heater, a hydrometer and a remote sensing thermometer that lets me monitor the temperature from my bedroom. There is some temperature variation due to air stratification which is why we use a fan heater and put our heat loving seeds such as peppers at the top and cooler veggies at the bottom. 

Here's a selection of the peppers we seeded yesterday. Strawberries in the red pots behind are starting to break dormancy. 

That leads me to your Wednesday Wisdom: Know your Temperatures.

Some seeds like a cooler soil to sprout but several varieties will either rot or sprout and wilt because they're too cool. Here's a list of some of the seeds we grow that require lots of warmth to sprout:

Sweet peppers
Hot peppers
Bush and pole beans
Corn, especially the super sweet and sugar enhanced varieties

These can be started indoors or outside once the soil temperature is over 21 degrees. I recommend planting them at the beginning of a warm spell in June or July here in the north. 

Another thing to know is storage temperatures of produce. I know you may be thinking that I'm talking about root cellars but I mean everyday fruits and veggies you probably have right now.

Keep at room temperature:

Keep cooler but not in fridge:

Cut fruit and veggies

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Laughs & Sniffles

Well I definitely have a sinus cold or flu or something. Ugh. Tired one minute and hot & unable to sleep the next. It's ok. Today was productive. Lots of planting done. And I found a hilarious video to share with you. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Frosty April Monday

It's hard to believe that it's April and were still waking up to -3 today and snow yesterday. Crazy. But what can you do? It will delay the opening of he greenhouse partly because of the cold weather, but also because we need several weeks of drying weather to warm the soil and get things all ready for spring planting again. So it's looking like a May 1st opening day. Hopefully sooner. 

The bugs that over wintered in the damp compost are hatching and hopefully freezing at night. A swarm of mosquitos all dancing together in the afternoon sun may have been great for them, I wasn't as thrilled. But the seeds are sprouting inside our little heated chamber so that's good. Lots of peppers, tomatoes, petunias and herbs going in there today. I'm a bit under the weather so I'm watching the giraffe cam at aprilthegiraffe.com and waiting for the greenhouse to warm up. It's sunny this morning so it won't take long. The seed incubator has a separate heater inside plus a thermostat so it stays around10 overnight. Cool crops are started now and warmer weather ones today. There's a mix of conventional pots and soil blocks. The plastic covered bakery cart we made is great for seed starting. There is a remote read thermometer out there so I can keep an eye on it from the comfort of my room. And a hi/low so I can track the daily minimum and maximum temperatures. 

Well, I should get going for the day. Cold medication and a glass of juice and I'm set. Hope you all have a great week. 


Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Contest

The Spring Contest is finally here. Like us on Facebook for your chance to Win! 

Thanks to PrairieWind Creations for these two lovely pieces we get to give away. They look so beautiful in person. PrairieWind ship World Wide so you can enter the contest from anywhere and still win! If you're not local for using the gift certificate I will donate it to the food bank. 

They look awesome in person, I'd love to have either in my Windows. You will too. They'd also make a wonderful Mothers Day gift. Check out PrairieWind for more unique pieces. https://m.facebook.com/prairiewindcreations/

Happy Almost Spring

It's Spring. You'd never know it if you were looking at the weather here in Nova Scotia though. It's warming up for sure, -2 at 7am and schools are closed for a snow day. At least it's not the -11 we are going to get a few nights this week. It snowed 2-3 inches overnight again plus freezing rain so the roads and sidewalks are really slick which is why it's a snow day. Most of the kids are bussed to school and this isn't a good morning for driving. However the ducks are out like idiots sliding down the piles of snow that slid off the greenhouse roof like 6 year olds with no fear. They're whooping and hollering in their ducky voices and generally having a good time as they slide down and clamber back up again. The roosters however, have stayed indoors so far. 

Spring marks the beginning of warmer and happier days after the dark chill of Winter. It does for me anyways. More outside work, fresh air and exercise. Plus just feeling the sun on your skin is something most of us northerners can relate to. Life seems to just have a more hopeful outlook.

Tomorrow, being the first full day of spring, means a new contest. I'll post it here before it goes up on Facebook and Twitter. Prizes include a veggie strip maker from Pampered Chef, an original Stained Glass piece from Prairie Wind Creations, and one month of veggie box delivery. Let's celebrate he beginning of another growing season by celebrating Spring 2017!

It's a busy week for us so I should go. Have a wonderful week no matter where you are and keep your loved ones close. 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Vegetable Noodles

Driving ice and snow against my windows has me very grateful for my wood stove and good local food. A warm meal on a yucky night is one of lifes comforts and pleasures. We're pretty frugal as you know but every now and then we treat ourselves to a new tool. Our mantis tiller, our soil blockers (read more tomorrow) and our veggie spiralizer. Tonight's menu, stir fry with sweet potato noodles. Yum! The spiralizer turns veggies into fettuccini, spaghetti, or broad noodle-like slices. It's a good way to include more veggies in your diet and something fun for kids. They also make very even slices for making pie or soup. Tonight we are making sweet potato noodles and a pineapple lemon pork stir fry. Mmmmm. Cooking sweet potato noodles is easy. Toss with a couple tbsp of olive oil, add 1tsp kosher salt, sauté for 5-10 mins, tossing every few mins to prevent sticking or burning. Tongs make this easier as does dividing the noodles into batches. The only hard thing about making sweet potato noodles is not eating them all before you serve them. So delicious and simple! And great local sweet potatoes from Keddy's. 

In spite of this winter weather, plans continue for a great 2017. The wood is purchased for the bunny hutch. I'm hoping to work on it tomorrow with the girls as a Spring Break project. And we will start painting our signs too. Having the covered space of the greenhouse to work in is wonderful. Given the weather, I think it's a good night to go to bed early. Let the wind howl and the storm rage, Spring is coming and I'll keep looking forward. Goodnight my friends. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom Week 4 - Hay Box Cooking

Hay boxes are a marvellous way to slow cook food and save 75% of your fuel. They've been around for a long time and are just one way people have used insulation from earth or other sources to slow cook food. Simply put, you boil your ingredients using whatever heating method you have and then you cover your dish or pot and place it in an insulated box and leave it go continue cooking using the stored heat. My method is pretty simple. I sauté the meat for a few minutes and then turn off the heat and add the onions. They cook slightly as the pan cools. I then chop the rest of my veggies and add them to the pot or dish along with either stock or water and seasonings and I turn the heat on again. Once it's come to a full rolling boil for 5-10 minutes I turn off the heat, put on a lid, and place the pot inside my hay box which is on a level surface. A recent addition to my kitchen was a Pampered Chef Rock Crock. Its a pot that feels like stone but is safe to use on the grill, stovetop, oven and microwave. When using the Rock Crock I bring it slowly to a boil over medium heat so that the Crock has a chance to heat up. I'll leave it to simmer for 5-10 mins before I tuck it away in the hay box. The box can go anywhere that's not in your way. I cover it and then just leave it for hours sitting on the floor or counter.  The heat of the pot and food stays trapped and slowly finishes cooking resulting in veggies that keep their shape and meat that turns soft and delicious, all with no need to keep using power or fuel to cook it. Because there's no outside source of heat you don't need to worry about keeping it away from things that will melt like you do with a traditional slow cooker and it doesn't need to be by an electrical outlet. There's no reason why you couldn't have a good tightly fitting lid on your box then pack the whole thing into the car, go for a hike and return to a hot cooked meal trail side. 

My small hay box is simply a wooden crate lined with straw and covered in a pillowcase also filled with straw. I like straw because it's hollow stalks are good insulators and it saves hay to be fed to animals. I have an old pillowcase that's filled with straw and closed with a couple of clothes pins. You can use hay, straw, ground corn husks or whatever you've got.

Ok so my pot is now in the hay box. I must admit that I couldn't resist lifting the pillowcase after a few minutes and the Crock is still simmering away. Perfect! Cooking with no added heat. 

Update: Dinner was delicious. I'd use a little less water next time because there's no loss like there is from regular cooking methods so it doesn't cook down. Giving the meat time to soften and mellow was a great idea on the cheap blade roast I cut up the second time I used this method. It works to cook stew best rather than a whole potroast, but the money saved by buying cheaper cuts and slow cooking is worth it. Also the slow blending of flavours was wonderful. I think it's why stew tastes even better the second day, the blending of flavours. This time I also added bouillon cubes, tomato juice, pepper and Italian seasoning and it was so delicious we all sopped up our bowls with fresh crusty bread. Sigh. Yum. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom Week 2. Fence Posts

In our area there are to different types of post available, treated and untreated. I think that's common for most of the world. The treated posts typically are using the same chemical preservatives as pressure treated lumber and unlike their very noxious predecessors the modern day pwood preservatives at a lot less harmful to the environment. Natural posts are made from local wood, typically low value softwood such as pine cut to 6 or 7 for lengths and sharpened on one end with a chainsaw. 

Here are some of the pros and cons for posts.

                             Treated.                                     Untreated.  

Price.            $5-7 depending on size.                 $1.50-2 or make your own. 

Life span.      5 years+ depends on moisture.      2-5 years. Will rot faster in moist soil. 

Pollution.       Some chemical leaching                Little to no leaching

Ease.             Easy to use.                                   Some variation in size, may split. 
                      Harder to hammer nails.                 Easy to hammer nails when fresh, harden with age.

One of the main things to remember is that your fence wire will outlast the posts do you'll be doing repairs. The same amount of initial labour goes into both types of fence, it's just a question of spend more money now for treated posts and only do repairs once every 8 years or save money and repair every 2 years. 

Making your own posts does allow you to save money, use rot resistant species, or treat your posts by charring them. Charring forms a natural rot resistant layer that can easily double the life of a post and is worth looking into if you have the room. Some people also dip their posts in used oil or tar, but I'm not sure that's a method I want to try in my veggie garden. 

Whatever you decide, I hope this little bit of wisdom has been helpful. Happy Wednesday! 


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom week 3 - Repair or Replace?

Frugality was considered a virtue during the Depression of the 1930's and WW2, yet today it's seen as an absurd waste of time and effort because we live in a time of plenty. But the idea that recycling, upcycling and reusing things is passé is frankly one of the many things wrong with society. Long gone are the days of darning socks, putting new heels and soles on shoes, or turning flour sacks into clothing. Most of us just wouldn't even consider it today. It's so easy to pop down to walmart and buy the things we want in the latest colours. In less than a century we've forgotten or dismissed thrifty ways of living as being old fashioned and miserly. But as a homesteader I'd like you to consider how much you could save in time, dollars and fuel if you fix up a few things at home instead of driving to town every time you need something. 

DIY Supplies A well stocked tool box or cupboard with hand tools, washers, screws and nails in various sizes, repair tape, oil, clamps and wire will save you time looking for hardware and trips to the store. Keep track of the things you use commonly and make sure to have a small supply on hand. Include household repair items too, glasses repair kit if you wear glasses and a sewing kit. We keep extra matches and a few tea light candles in ours plus a bar of hard sunlight soap. A pencil and measuring tape can also be very useful. 

Buttons How many times have you tossed away a shirt because the cuffs frayed or you lost a button? If you look inside the lower side seam you'll often find two shirt buttons sewn to the label for replacing buttons you lose. If you're not lucky enough to have them, and there are no exact matches in your button jar, then the best thing to do is put all the matching buttons at the top of the shirt and sew a same sized but non matching one to the bottom button or buttons. It'll be tucked in and nobody will see it. If your long sleeved shirt has a good collar but frayed wrists you can make it into a short sleeved shirt. Once both the neck and wrists are both worn it can be remade into an apron, painting shirt for children, dusting rags or cleaning rags. Don't forget to remove and keep the buttons in a jar once it's beyond use. 

Handles Brooms, garden tools, snow shovels, they all have handles and sticks that can break. Sometimes a repair is as simple as placing a screw in to keep pieces together or putting a jubilee clip over. Oh, there's my British-ness coming out again. Wikipedia says this "Jubilee Clip is a circular metal band or strip combined with a worm gear fixed to one end. It is designed to hold a soft, pliable hose onto a rigid circular pipe, or sometimes a solid spigot, of smaller diameter.

Jubilee Clips are generally made of stainless steel or galvanised or electro-plated steel. Rotating the screw has the effect of changing the diameter of the circle formed by the band. Jubilee Clips are available in a range of sizes (diameters). Larger-diameter Jubilee Clips tend to have wider bands.

In many countries, Jubilee Clips tend to be known almost exclusively by their brand name, but elsewhere (where the brand is not so well known for example), they are known by generic names such as worm drive hose clip or hose clamp or hose clip

Thank you Wikipedia.

I love these adjustable clips, they work well repairing hoses and all sorts of things. They're very handy to have around in a variety of sizes. 

Having replacement wooden handles that fit the shafts of your tools is also a good idea if your tools are of mid to high quality. They're generally forged and meant to last many years with occasional replacement of handles, regular sharpening, and oiling of the metal parts. Spending more on tools initially or buying good quality used tools will save you money in the long run. 

Sewing and Darning Learning the fine art of darning with a needle and yarn will extend the life of your good wool socks. Darning isn't simply sewing the hole edges together, that would create a seam that can give you blisters. Darning is more like weaving to fill in the hole in the sock. You should have on hand some sock yarn (usually a wool/nylon blend) a darning needle and a darning mushroom. If you don't have one, a hard ball or old lightbulb will work in a pinch to work over. I used an orange once but that's another story. There's lots of info on how to do this on the internet including videos. 

Sewing and patching knees and elbows can extend the life of your outer clothes, even of it means your favourite jeans now become work pants. If you're looking for work clothes for homesteading you can even buy used clothing that fits well and reinforce the knees and pockets to make them durable. It's not about looks when homesteading, it's about practicality and durability. The chickens don't care what you look like, they just care if you've got food for them. 

Footwear Shoes, sandals and particularly boots are crucial for homesteaders. They protect your feet from the elements and sharp objects. Sandals provide a cool environment for hot summer feet while protecting you from rocks. I also love my crocs but experience has taught me that these comfy foam shoes are fine for the house and greenhouse but lousy for regular farm use because it's simply so easy to step on something sharp and have it pass right through into your foot. Yes, this is the voice of experience. Pulling a bail out of your foot and sandal at the same time is much harder than you'd think, especially if it's essentially nailed the shoe tightly to your foot. Can we say OUCH?!? Podiatrists, trainers and many doctors will emphasize the importance of foot health. Investing in long lasting quality shoes and rubber boots will help prevent fatigue, plantar fasciitis, and keep you more comfortable. I would recommend buying good footwear on sale at the end of the season or during promotions. Get yourself properly fitted if you can too. 

Buckets Pails, scoops and buckets are used every day at our farm. From carrying water to collecting eggs, we use a variety of shapes and sizes to complete our daily tasks. Our buckets include store bought livestock pails in colourful plastic and some flexible rubber, to recycled 2, 3 and 5 gallon pails. We can get those at local restaurants for cheap or free and although they are broken more easily than livestock pails, the price is right. Livestock pails are often made of more UV resistant plastic than food pails which spend most of their time indoors. Buckets can often have the handles replaced by a piece of stiff wire if they break. If the handle bracket itself breaks you can drill 2 holes through the more rigid upper part of the bucket and put a rope handle through, leaving some slack and securely tying off the ends.  Holes and cracks can be patched with a fibre reinforced tape such as duct tape inside and out. Broken buckets get used for planters, dog water, compost pails if they don't leak, buckets with leaks can still hold rocks and dry goods or large veggies from the garden, it really depends. Buckets with a broken top can be cut down to make feed dishes. Use your imagination! At the end of their life we put them out for recycling. 

Food During WW2 rationing was essential to feed the troops and the home population. Wasting food simply would not be tolerated, or wise. Peelings were thin slivers, scraps were fed to pigs, and people realized that everyone was going to have to work together to get through from farmers to consumers. The top two ways were not wasting food in the first place and growing their own gardens to supplement what they could buy. Food isn't something homesteaders worry about all the time. We get into habits of preserving and growing food, but if you had to support yourself for 40 days without a trip to the store could you do it? What would you miss? What would you run short of? Careful menu planning and not wasting food could save the planet millions of tonnes of agricultural waste and pollution each year as well as feeding more hungry people. Something to think about isn't it?

So there you have it. Frugality. Bred into me from my Scottish ancestors and adapted for 2017. That's my Wednesday Wisdom for this week. Happy homesteading!

Pancake Day and Giving up Clutter

Although we're not Catholic we still celebrate the English tradition of Pancake Day by making crepes for breakfast served with lemon juice and sugar. It's a fun tradition carried over from my childhood that originally marked the beginning of the 40 days of Lent. This was a time for giving up rich foods like meat, sugar and eggs so a Pancake Day feast effectively used up your supplies before the austere Lenten period began. But there's a new idea I'm trying out this year. 

40 Bags

Many Catholics give something up for lent, perhaps alcohol or chocolate, generally something that's considered indulgent or bad for you. If you follow me on Twitter you'll have noticed my #40Bags post from yesterday and maybe wondered what I'm up to now. The plan is that everyday I'll do some de-cluttering and donate or give away a bag of things we no longer use or need. One bag, regardless of size, each day for 40 days. After I'm done my 40 bags I'm going to do the Spring cleaning. 

I think it's a great idea, and I really need the kick start so today is day one for us. One huge bag to give away I hope.  I think the first week will be easy and it'll get progressively harder as time goes on but I'm committed and as long as it's one bag per day the size doesn't matter.  I'll probably be using a combination of donation bin, Facebook free ads and the Salvation Army store to re-home my stuff and I hope they find new homes where they can be useful. I am going to do a general de-cluttering and then go room by room, closet by closet as the end approaches. I'll keep you posted. Is this something you'd consider doing with me? 

But first breakfast, then to the Dr because I've got a sore tooth that needs some antibiotics. 

Have a great day and good luck with your decluttering. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Homestead Wisdom Wednesday

A new feature of my blog as we enter the busier time of year is going to be Homestead Wisdom Wednesday. I want to share ways to stretch your budget, do things more efficiently, be more environmentally sound and learn easy crafts to help you be more self reliant. We will also show some of Steve's inventions from time to time. It also allows me to write ahead of time so there's always something new to read on Wednesdays, in addition to regular posts. I really hope you find useful ideas and gain inspiration for your own projects. I'm open to sharing your ideas too so send me your comments.

Today's idea is a simple one. Do you own a swiffer or similar sweeper? They're great for essentially dusting hardwood and other solid floor surfaces as well as the tops of cupboards and ceiling fans. If your floors just need a quick dusting or a spill clean up it's hardly worth breaking out the mop and bucket. The disposable cloths that are sold with sweepers are a good money making venture for the companies selling them but you don't have to buy them. You can make your own by either crocheting or knitting cotton covers, or if you have the kind with the rubber cloth holders that you just poke the cloth into, you can sew square cloths from scrap material such as old t-shirts and jeans. Cloths can all be laundered after use and are reusable many times. If you can make a dishcloth, you can make these. You can also use these cloths with a wet type sweeper too, just remember that laminate doesn't like being soaked, damp mop only. 

So the next time you see a forlorn sweeper at a garage sale, think of the possibilities. There are lots of ideas for these on Pinterest. 

To make a crochet or knitted sweeper cloth, measure the length and width of your sweeper and add 4 (or 6 inches if it's long) so you make a very long narrow cloth.  As your crocheting and knitting will vary from mine, just work to make the dimensions you need. Once your cloth is complete, fold either 2 (or 3) inches back on itself and sew along the two long sides to create a pocket. Repeat on the opposite side. Now you have a rectangle with two pockets that fits your sweeper. An alternate method is to make a pad the size of your sweeper, make two smaller rectangles for the top pieces, and sew along the 3 outside edges to create the pockets. It's entirely your preference. 

Having a half dozen or more on hand would be very useful. You could even colour code them for washing, scrubbing, dusting etc. and consider using the coarse scrubby cotton (available at craft stores) to make a pad for very dirty floors like tile entryways and mud rooms. Like all cotton cloths, clean well and store them dry. 

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Food For Everyone - Community Garden Project

Plans for the community garden and our veggie plants for the food banks are underway. Will you help? Can we help you? Let us know what you think and any ideas you have and your favourite garden recipes. We want to make 2017 our best sharing year ever. 

Here's the problem.

Many people in the local area eat a highly processed diet with few veggies. This can be due to preferences and cooking skills, lack of access, food bank use which typically means food with a good shelf life, or lack of knowledge on how to grow a garden. We believe that a diet full of fresh veggies and frozen produce in your freezer can make you not only feel better but be genuinely healthier. And we want to help. 

Here's the vision.

We rototill the community garden area and start a collection of seeds and transplants for people who either can't afford them, don't have a place to grow, or maybe they just need a hand up. Allotment growers do all planting and weeding, we will water during the week. 

People carpool, catch a ride or take the bus and walk to the community garden at the farm on a nice Saturday morning. There's a festival feel as everyone grabs tools from the tool shed and heads out into their plots to see what's grown since the last time they were here. Each allotment is different from its neighbours with peas, beet greens, lettuce and some exotic things not seen before. Each family or person tends their own little garden space, pulling weeds and thinning radishes until it's to their liking and then they lean on a shovel for a visit with their next plot neighbours. The community area is planted with lettuce that are ready for harvesting so they organize themselves into a small pick/pack crew and a wash crew. Everyone works together and splits the community produce between them with the extras being put in boxes in the cool room for the food bank. It varies each week. Some weeks it's planting, some weeks different people come, but every week it's productive and people leave feeling they've done something good. Seniors teach children how to plant, mums and dads trade recipes, and everyone learns a little. We teach approximately 20 young people from all over the world about gardening each year and they most often go on to grow food and teach others. They live with us and work in the garden then they go home and adapt what they learned to their own lives. 

Idealistic? Maybe. Idyllic? Certainly. 

We believe that by giving people plants, seeds and skills we can improve health and food security for everyone in our community but especially for families and seniors. Everyone can grow a little food. Everyone can eat a little better. Everyone can be a little healthier. 

That's our goal, a garden in every yard. And where yards aren't available, allotments. If the town and municipality could designate community garden space we feel that the potential benefits are huge in terms of health, social connectedness and community spirit, and food security. Give people a chance to lift themselves out of poverty or at least have a better and healthier life. It'll take time, it'll be hard work, but the benefits to the community and healthcare over the long term are great. 

We weren't able to get our local town interested in supporting a farmers market which is why we've been operating in a neighbouring town for the past 3 years but I'm still hopeful the support will be there for a garden/food program. Please share any feedback and advice. And happy gardening in 2017. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017


One of the things I'm making for the nursery this year are handmade baskets for my hanging flowers. I'm still waiting for the chance to cut rushes and reeds but in the meantime I thought I'd experiment with various ropes and schooner line to see what works. I made one basket that measures 8" tall and 7" across at the mouth, so it's not huge. It took 15' of 3/8 rope and 116' of 3/16 so it cost me approximately $9 in materials and just over an hour in time. It's certainly sturdy though a little rough looking and it will hold one of my potted plants nicely. For a hanging basket it will need to be wider at the bottom. But hey, it's just an experiment. I also tried a subtle pattern but it just looks a bit messy. Food for thought though 🙂.