Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tis' the season...Butter Tarts!

I am a huge Butter Tart fan! Butter Tarts have always been a family favorite and my Nana was awesome at making them every Christmas. Christmas for me would not be the same without those syrupy, sweet treats. As I got older, that became my present from her. For as long as she could bake I received a tin of butter tarts each year. That is a very fond memory for me.

I don't think that I have her recipe anywhere...I have flipped through the family's All-Star recipe book that my Mom put together for us. But, this recipe comes close and is really easy to prepare.

I used our Soft White Wheat for the pastry. It is still an Entire-Grain flour, but you wouldn't know it. The pastry is light, tender and flaky....but, it is SO flavourful; beyond anything available at any store.

So, here is the recipe for you that I use from food.com.

http://www.food.com/recipe/award-winning-butter-tarts-14756

For the pastry I don't use a recipe. Here is my description of what I do.

1) A certain amount of Soft White Wheat flour...perhaps 4-5 cups.
2) A pinch of salt
3) A certain amount of lard. I'd say around a cup
4) Ice cold water

I use our Kitchen Aid with the whisk beater. I add the salt to the flour and stir. Then I add the cold lard that I've cut into small pieces.
I start the mixer on medium and let it blend in the lard until it is starting to break down into smaller pieces. The ideal goal with be to have "pea" size pieces of lard in the flour
I then turn the mixer to low and slowly start adding the cold water. I add very little at a time and I let it mix well. Add enough water so that the mix finally comes together into a dough consistency. It will take awhile. Ball up the dough and keep in the fridge until you need it.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Memories of Fall '13

Fall is past. Winter is most definitely here. And I am not prepared. This was such a hectic fall once again and my winter preparations were left to the last minute. With our farming properties spread out so much we are able to mitigate any damage from any one particular storm that usually occurs somewhere around us. The downside to this situation is the amount of time it takes to move equipment and get parts for repairs. We seriously need to consolidate our land holdings. The other thing that really hampered our harvest was breakdowns. There were two periods when the main combine, our Allis Chalmers L2 was down for days at a time with major repairs necessary. The end result though was that we did indeed finish our harvest. It was tough though. Many difficult days.

My daughter showed me this picture though the other day. I didn't know that she and her friend had taken some photos out in the Spelt field. They were beautiful! It made me realize that even though I had had a difficult Fall, she had enjoyed it. It brought me back to my days as a farm kid in the Fall and it made me smile.

Friday, June 21, 2013

market mob!

I am so proud of Slow Food Edmonton and the initiative of some determined members. Amanda VanSpronsen came up with a great idea...a market mob! The very first ever Slow Food Edmonton Market Mob was held last Wednesday, June 19th at the SW Edmonton Farmers Market. What a great idea and a remarkably easy way to become more involved with Slow Food here in Edmonton.

The very first Slow Food Edmonton Market Mob gang!
I would like to encourage everyone to get involved with this remarkable organization and help promote slow food across the globe!

Monday, June 17, 2013

pie!

I love pie. I love to eat pie. I don't love to make pie crust. Here is the simplest, easiest and our family's favorite pie crust recipe. It is courtesy of Allrecipes.com and I've been using it for about a year now. You can change it up by adding a little vanilla or cinnamon, or both...or you can just leave it alone and enjoy the taste of Gold Forest Grains fresh milled flour to come through in your baking.

Rhubarb Pie with a spelt crust and crumble topping on a summer's eve
This pie crust recipe lends itself especially to open top type pies...pumpkin, lemon meringue, etc. However, with a crumble topping of flour, butter and sugar it does a remarkable job of pies that need a top like apple, blueberry and the like. 

At busy times of the year when I don't have even 5 minutes to bake a pie we'll buy them from the farmers market...they're never the same and the family complains how bland they are. White, processed flour will definitely be bland.

The best part of this pie crust recipe? You don't even need to dirty a bowl. All of the ingredients are mixed in the pie plate and you're ready to go! 

Friday, May 31, 2013

CBC Radio - Alberta At Noon

This week we were invited by Holly Preston, the host of Alberta @ Noon to come in to the studio to talk about Organic Farming. It was a terrific experience and we are grateful to have had the chance to be heard across the Province!

If you want to skip ahead and hear our portion of the interview and call-in segment it starts at about 27:38 and runs the duration of the show. Let it buffer a bit before you try to skip ahead...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Certified Naturally Grown?

I am terribly interested to hear what our customers would think about this type of certification vs. organic certification? I have found lately that the paperwork and fees for certified organic status has become quite overwhelming and exhaustive. Not to mention the cost. We spend more than $1000 in fees and that doesn't count my hours of paperwork completion which could easily triple that cost if counted. 

The other issue I have with organics is the increasing leniency of the standards to accommodate large corporate farms. And let's not even get into talking about the organic farms and corporations that helped to fund the Anti GMO Labeling campaign in California last year which defeated Bill 37 which would have required products containing GMO's to be labelled on grocery shelves.  

Enter Certified Naturally Grown...

I've been watching this Certification Body for the past 5 years or so. I have wanted to see how they would grow...or if they'd grow. Certified Naturally Grown has seen a steady march of organic devoted farmers join their ranks over the years. 

There's not much for me to write about this subject. The link above is the FAQ page and pretty much sums it up. My question to my customers and readers of this blog is "what do you think about this?"

While I remain completely devoted to organic principles and have an immensely anti-gmo attitude, I am quickly becoming disillusioned about the process that takes away significant resources to prove I am doing the right thing. I will never use synthetic inputs of any kind including pesticides, herbicides or petroleum based fertilizers and at the end of the day, whether certified organic or not, my customers have to choose to believe me or not. 

My father, John Fraser, was a farmer who used chemicals on his farm and who worked at the fertilizer plant in Ft. Saskatchewan. Considering he died of cancer at the age of 23 when I was 8 months old, I hope you'll believe how organic we really are. 

Decision pending customer feedback. 

Saturday, February 02, 2013

A Family History of the Schneiders - More than a Century in Sturgeon County

I discovered this book while on a recent visit to my parents house. It is entitled "Leaves Of Yesteryear - A History of the Bon Accord District". It was written in 1967-69 by Jean Chubb and Hilda Milligan.

Here is a history of our (Schneider) family and how we ended up in Sturgeon County.

Carl Robert Schneider and Clementine Bertha Seidel sittin in a tree...

"Carl Robert Schneider (my Great Grandfather) was born on November 20, 1859, in Reichenbach, Saschen, Germany and when he reached his mid-twenties he married Clementine Bertha Seidel, who was born June 17th, 1859." - I just found out that they were married on my birthday March 7, 1886.

"It was also during the year 1890 that Mr. Schneider emigrated to the United States (alone). He settled in Wisconsin and went to work in a mill. The following year he sent for Mrs. Schneider and the three children, and they arrived in August, 1891."

"In 1892 Carl came to the Edmonton district, arriving in Edmonton by swimming the Saskatchewan River. He did not file on a homestead at this time, although the land office offered him the opportunity of filing on land which is now part of Jasper Avenue. He thought that Ft. Saskatchewan would be the main site of a city and that this land on the north side of the river was "a little far north". Instead of filing on a homestead, he returned to Wisconsin."

"Early in the spring of 1893, Mr. Schneider moved his family to the Plumas area of Manitoba where they farmed for the next 12 years." It was during this time that my Grandfather was born (November 10, 1898). "Around this time Carl became a naturalized Canadian."

"However, in 1905 Carl once more decided to return to the United States. Due to the ill health of Mrs. Schneider (Great Grandma Clementine) he thought the change of climate might help her recover (not sure what was wrong with her, it doesn't say). This time they settled on a farm in the State of Washington, near Spokane. They remained here until 1907 and then returned to Canada (again!). Once more back in Canada, they settled on a quarter section of land near Spruce Grove. After farming there for three years they moved to the Cardiff area, where they rented a half section. (So this means that we came to Sturgeon County in 1910!!) In 1915, Mr. Schneider moved to the Bon Accord area." (This is why I thought we had a few more years until 100 anniversary).

Eventually Great Grandfather Carl bought 9 quarter sections around the area where my family still owns the land, 4 miles north of Bon Accord . He passed away in November, 1924 following a stroke. So that means he was 65 when he died. Too much moving around Grandpa! That much moving in that era would've given me a stroke too.

And whatever happened to Great Grandma Clementine? Well, my dad, Ken still remembers her as "always cooking something" and that "she made the best fried potatoes"! She passed away less than a month shy of of her ninetieth birthday on May 19, 1949, also of a stroke.

So there you have it. Some documentation about our arrival in the County of Sturgeon north of Edmonton. It was fascinating to read the book and learn so many things that people had forgotten about our family.

One other interesting thing I learned was about my Grandfather Harvey McLean who settled in Sturgeon County...in 1911. Again, I thought it was later than that, but I was just guessing. Harvey MacLean (my Mom's dad) was actually a "fourth generation Canadian" farmer. That means that should my kids farm they would actually be 7th Generation Canadian Farmers! Wow. That's quite a long time to be farming in Canada on that side of the family. My mom is texting me now telling me that the MacLeans were one of the 4 founding families in PEI. Which makes sense if Grandpa MacLean was a 4th generation Canadian like it says in the book. She is going to spend some time digging up that story and our living relatives still back in PEI.

I still don't know much about the Fraser's yet. John Fraser is actually my biological father. He passed away when I was 8 months old of cancer. He was 23. I think they settled in the Gibbons area in the 30's, but again I need to do some digging to figure that story out.

A few days later...

Well, was I ever wrong about the Fraser side of my family. Reading the book "Our Treasured Roots-A History of Gibbons and Surrounding Areas" I quickly learned the facts surrounding that side of my family tree. It turns out that my Great Great Grandfather William Gibbons is whom the town of Gibbons is named after. He was a tremendous pioneer who was on the very first train to ever arrive in Edmonton from Calgary. The track wasn't even finished so they had to get off the train to help lay the last few lengths of track in order to arrive at the new station in Edmonton! He arrived in Gibbons and homesteaded on the banks of the Sturgeon River in 1892. So, as it turns out, my family has been in Sturgeon County since well,  before it was a county. 121 years to be exact. My Grandmother Betty married into another pioneer family, the Frasers, and that's where my original family name comes from. There are lots of great family stories in these two books, I am so happy that I was able to re-connect with some great family history.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

New sourdough starter for a new year

One of the new projects that I decided to start this year was a sourdough. I've done sourdough in years past, but my baking projects never really seemed to ever work out. The bread was always tough and dense...I lost interest. 

However, over the past year, I have really hit my stride when it comes to bread baking. I would like to say that I read this or that classic bread baking book, that a glowing light descended from the heavens, and I suddenly learned how to bake bread. The truth is that I just kept at it and something clicked. I now know what the dough feels like when it is ready to go in the loaf pan or on the hearth. It turns out that it really isn't that hard. If you can remember back to when you learned to ride a bike, it is sort of like that. Seemingly impossible at first and then rather quickly you just do it without thinking. That is the best analogy that I have for my bread baking experience. 

There are some basic bits of knowledge that I can pass along though. 

Don't necessarily pay attention to any recipe. The fact that you didn't use exactly the right amount of yeast has very little to do with the door stop sitting on your cooling rack. Trust me. 


What I have found to be the biggest single factor in my successes is the hydration and gluten development in the dough. This is especially true when it comes to using our Entire Grain flour. In simplistic terms, you need to knead. And you need to knead more than you think. Leaving the dough to rest between kneading is a good trick too. I use our Kitchen Aid with the dough hook for 95% of my kneading. It works well and saves me sore arms and time. I leave that dough kneading for a good 10 minutes and I keep adding flour until I have a really stiff, dry dough. This stiff dough gives me the nicest, lightest bread. Whenever my dough has been too wet and floppy the bread turns out like a brick. Trust me.

This newest incarnation of sourdough on our farm actually got its start when a friend came over for dinner before Christmas and brought us a bottle of homemade hard Apple Cider. At the bottom of the bottle is the layer of yeasty type tailings that don't taste very good. When I was building my starter I used a couple Tblsp of Apple Cider, but not the cloudy yeast tailings. You can follow any sourdough starter you like. Googling "sourdough starter" will give you more results than you know what to do with. 
Apple Cider Starter - 1 month old

I think that people like to make things fancier than they need to be so I simply use equal parts of water and flour and a little of the cider. Keep the starter out at room temperature and wait till it starts bubbling. Once this happens, every day for about a week take out about half the starter and replace it with an equal amount of the flour water mix. There should be some critical mass with your starter. I use a jar that holds about 2.5 cups of starter. Once your starter is really humming along you can put it in the fridge and repeat the feeding process once every week and a half or so.

When you want to bake some bread, simply take a cup of starter and mix it in with your dough ingredients. When baking sourdough without adding commercial yeast it is important to note that the dough will take significantly longer to rise. Patience is the key to a good sourdough. I usually have to leave my bread proof for the whole day. Adding yeast...it proofs within an hour, maybe 2.

All in all, baking bread is pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Taking things a step further and playing around with sourdough is another bit of enjoyment too. Don't be afraid to give sourdough a try.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

New Year on the farm

Another year is upon us. As I get older, the time just slips by faster and faster.

I lovingly remember, not all that long ago, Christmases as a kid on my Parent's and Grandparent's farms. A touch of sadness with fond remembrance of times past and people missed. Christmas Eve was almost always spent at Nana and Papa's with Aunt and Uncle and Cousins up from Calgary. Then we'd drive the two miles home before Santa was due. I remember watching the sky with anticipation, but perhaps more than that it was just simply beautiful. Winter skies in the country, away from the light-pollution of a million road lamps, are amazing. To this day, my favorite holiday activity is a quiet, lonely walk at night.

Mom and Dad made sure that Christmas Day was always the highlight of the year in our house. We were lucky, I realize now.

Mounds of gifts surrounded the tree in the morning and the pain of having to wait until everyone else in the house awoke was excruciating. Often, I would be up in the middle of the night and sneak down the stairs to the living room where I would turn on the tree lights and catch my breath at the sight of brightly coloured parcels and bulging stockings that weren't there when I went to bed. With my blanket on the couch I'd fall asleep again. Eventually, the house would creep to life with brother and sister first, then Mom and Dad. Punishable with death was the act of opening a present before adults were awake and coffee'd up...again an excruciating wait.

After the presents were unwrapped, Mom would almost always make waffles and bacon. For whatever reason, this was the only time she made waffles. Or at least that's what it seems in my memory. That must have been the world's oldest, most pristine waffle maker. Wondering now, if it is still in use? I'll have to check. 

Nowadays however, this time of year is a time of planning and hope.We are creating wonderful memories for our kids here on our farm. Our Son, like clockwork almost every winter night, puts on his coat and boots and heads outside. No doubt, one day in his forties, he will write an article very similar to this one.

The farm will undergo more changes in 2013. We are planning more landscaping and building improvements. More garden. More animals. More fencing and work for sure. Like a piece of artwork, our farm is slowly taking shape and is becoming what we want of it...a self-sustainable oasis of environmental stewardship, love and happiness. We're getting there.

Right now, my thoughts are with our customers and their families too. I hope that all of you know how much we appreciate your support. Without your help in spreading the word about our farm and products we would be elsewhere in our lives for sure. I smile when I think about our regulars at Strathcona Market and I am really looking forward to being there again in a couple days. Cindy and I were talking this morning of different ways that we can share our farm with more people in the near future. But in the meantime, here's hoping that all of you enjoy a wonderful 2013! 

John Schneider

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Explore Local Foods, Local Markets Event

I still miss our pigs...
Myself and Ron Erdmann of Erdmann's Gardens and Greenhouses will be headlining this event on January 16th near Barrhead. This is an event being hosted by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and should be very interesting for anyone thinking of starting a farm based, direct sales business. It could also be a great venue if you are a well established marketer to be able to share your experiences and perhaps pick up some tips from others. I know that I am looking forward to learning as much or more than I share. Here is the link to the event

I will be speaking about our experiences in starting our farm business. The information I have learned through experience about small scale farming, marketing, sales and social media. The importance of selling and more importantly what are we actually selling? The answer may surprise you.

One of our early ventures...potatoes
I will also share some of the stories of the trials in my transition back to farming after leaving the large grain operation that my Dad had going. I'll let you know about the livestock we've tried, the crops we've experimented with, the equipment we've gone through. Most of these stories are amusing I can assure you. I will also let you know where we are now and what are our plans for the future of our farm.

I am hopeful that I will be able to give everyone some good ideas on achieving sustainability for your farm and maybe provide some additional ideas for direct marketing your products. 

Here is the google map of Summerdale Hall. I hope to see many of you on January 16th!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Ruiskakut Cookies - Traditional Christmas Favorite

Ruiskakut Cookies
These cookies originated in Finland (one posting I found said they originate in the land of Karelia, which includes parts of Finland and Russia) and as far as I can tell they are a winter/Christmas treat. They are sometimes called Estonian Rye Cookies.
They are mainly made with a whole grain rye flour and are often served as appetizers with a cream cheese spread or fruit preserves. ""

The few recipes that I found were all pretty much the same. I took the simplest one and made it as "100 mile" as possible.
1 cup of softened butter
2/3 cup honey (the original recipe called for granulated sugar)
2 cups whole grain rye flour
1 cup soft wheat flour (Spelt Flour would be a great substitute)
3 tbsp water 
NOTE: I didn't add the water as my dough was still quite soft. Instead I added a touch more flour and let it firm up a bit in the fridge before rolling.

Beat the butter until smooth. Add honey and beat until fluffy. 
Add flours and mix until just combined.
Add water if needed to hold dough together OR knead in additional flour if dough is too soft to roll out. Wrap in plastic and chill if needed.
Roll dough about 1/8" thick. Use a 3" wide scalloped cutter and then a 1" round cutter to create a "wreath".
Pierce all over with a fork. Add red and green decorating sugar crystals if desired.
Bake at 350F for about 8 min. They can become over done quite quickly so check at 7 min.

They are a thin, crisp yet tender cookie with a wonderful earthy flavour from the whole grain flours and honey.
A definite worth while cookie to add to your Christmas traditions!

The above recipe was submitted to me by Deb Krause. She has a beautiful blog entitled Simple Pleasures Deb is also known as @DebTheLocavore on Twitter!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Shovel and Fork Food Craft

I sincerely believe that Edmonton has been waiting for this type of thing for many years. How far we've strayed from our heritage of foraging, hunting, trapping, canning, baking and growing. Kids grow up, never leaving the city, not knowing what part of a chicken the egg comes from.

Up until now, it has basically been a survival of the fittest to try to figure out how to brew your own fruit wine or not kill yourself on a mushroom foraging trip. Here to save the day figuratively, and possibly literally, is Kevin Kossowan and Chad Moss et al. Together with other experts in their fields, these guys are sharing their incredible expertise with others. Here you can learn all there is to learn about everything from canning to cutting game birds to drying mushrooms and fire-baking pizza. Awesome!

Here's the link to their amazing website where you can examine all the details. Shovel and Fork

generalstore@shovelandfork.com

Friday, November 02, 2012

Italian Farmers Market - Turin, Italy

We are back from a wonderful trip to Torino, Italy for Terra Madre and Salone Del Gusto. It was incredible to say the least to be able to spend time in Italy doing not much more than tasting slow food. Chefs, artisans, farmers and producers from all across the globe were there celebrating their foods and successes. Anyone interested in food and culinary arts simply has to attend this massive celebration held every two years in Italy's 4th largest city. 

Huge permanent coverings over the market square.




However, it was on our daily roaming through the city that we came across the traditional markets of Europe. Held daily, rain or shine at various places throughout the city there is no place to better sample the local foodstuffs in their most pure form. Truffles, Italian mandarin oranges, charcuterie and cheeses of every imaginable kind, fresh meats and seafood, and of course, Italian baking. The markets contain anything you would ever need to create an Italian feast every single day of the week (except Sundays of course).  


Our favorite farmer at the local market. Eggs aren't refrigerated.
We visited these markets whenever we could and bought various kinds of treats that would sustain us through the rest of the day, but it was little hollow. All I could think about was the fact that our hotel did not have a kitchen so that I could properly get into Italian food. We settled for some wonderful Trattatoria's for our evening meals and snacked on mandarins, cheese, salami and bread during our walks along the River Po in the afternoons.

Clothes at a Turin market
The markets are obviously important to Italians as they are established in permanent locations with city infrastructure covering them. In the evening these market squares are used for paid parking. 

Throughout most of Torino, people live in apartments so the population is dense, but we didn't see one single supermarket during our travels in the city. The market was the only place other than a mini-market or small specialty shop to purchase what you would need. Furthermore, the markets didn't just contain food. On one side of the street, under a huge covering was the food, nothing but food. On the other side, another huge covering; but here you would find whatever else you needed for everyday life. Sewing supplies, fabric, cleaning products, clothes, shoes, you name it. Not a single craft in sight, no re-selling prints of "crying fairies", no artwork of Elvis or the Beatles. How refreshing it was to see markets focus on what you needed to survive instead of a place to go walk the dog and have a bag of popcorn. 

Fresh seafood of every kind
Now, you're automatically going to assume that I am opposed to all these superfluous things that go along with "Fido" peeing on my table cloth while the owner is busy with his 3 foot long bag of candied popcorn...I am not. I just cannot help but think that if Edmonton farmers markets began to take the entertainment component out of farmers markets, then the producers and farmers would begin to see increased sales from people who avoid the crowds and reluctantly go to a supermarket instead. I can only imagine how frustrating it has to be for people who come with all their shopping bags to have to dodge around Starbuck wielding parents pushing double-wide strollers parked in front of the Fairie Print table just to be able to get their shopping completed. At the very minimum, it would be nice to have the food and the crafts segregated to be able to allow shoppers to be uninterrupted by the browsers.

There is nothing wrong at all with a little ambience from the talented buskers, and in fact that is the one thing that I found wanting about Italian markets. They were, perhaps, a little too business-like and stark. But, most importantly, it works for the Italian producers and customers and its been working for thousands of years.

It appears to me that markets in Edmonton are getting bigger and bigger. Record attendances are made from time to time and yet sales amongst a lot of the vendors that I speak with are down or stagnant. Year to year at Strathcona Market we are up around 400% in 2012 yet our sales were flat at City Market 104 compared to 2011. City Market had huge numbers of vendors and record attendances. At one market more than 35,000 people attended. Why then are my sales down or similar over last year?...because people don't want to buy groceries in a crowd.

One of the side streets at a Turin market
There is one train of thought out there regarding farmers markets it seems. Bring in as many people as you can so that there will be that much more exposure to your products and in turn will increase sales in the long run. That is surely a sound plan, but here's the problem. It would be like having a huge BBQ every single day that your hardware store is open. Bring in as many people as you can and hope that you sell some hammers along with the free burgers. But when I need another hammer, I am going to go to the place that is not so crowded. Where I can park and go buy my hammer without battling the crowds.

Here's my best example. At St. Albert Market our best week at market this summer was an event related to food held at City Hall. One of the worst weeks we had was the Cruising Weekend. Bring food people to the market and food sales will increase. Bring tourists to the market and food sales will decrease. These are, afterall, Farmers Markets...approved by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

Cleaning supplies at the market
There would be a lot to change about Edmonton markets and how they are run, thats for sure. But, it is interesting to think how they could possibly change. Why not try to make markets supply things that we need to live like socks and underwear and soap and laundry detergent? Why not try to get people attending markets for necessities so they aren't forced to the farm-crushing superstores as often? Why not push the envelope of what we can produce or import as small business producers and farmers? Why not try?

Amazing cheeses!
The markets of Torino, Italy really opened my eyes to what successful markets are like. Markets that have run daily week after week for centuries.

In the meantime, we are grateful to have at least a few markets that attract foodies. Strathcona Market being the best by far. And, we are mostly grateful to our customers who I know go out of their way to purchase our products. Without both a market and loyal customers, we'd be stuck in the commodity market along with the vast majority of other Alberta grain producers. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Farmers Market Questions

As you can imagine I get a lot of questions about our products during the farmers markets we attend. The number one question is always "Do you have anything that is Gluten Free?". Now, this is obviously important to many people and there is a huge amount of misinformation about it. People are passionate about diets and food ideas, as they should be, but like all things that people are passionate about, sometimes the truth is slightly different from perception.

Much in the same way that people needed to stop saying "I am going Ski-dooing" they also need to stop saying "gluten free". What they really ought to be saying is "modern wheat gluten free".

Gluten is present in almost all grass-family grains including barley, rye, oats and spelt. The difference is that these complex proteins are not typically associated with our modern Gluten phobia. People suffering from Celiac disease react violently to these proteins, but there are a growing number of people who are reacting to modern wheat proteins and not the other types of gluten. Why is this? Because the only grass-type grain that has been genetically manipulated by the modern plant breeding industry is wheat. There are also a growing number of studies on this phenomena and the most obvious one is the book Wheat Belly by Dr. Davis. If you want the interesting details of what I'm talking about, read his book. It is a great book.

So, here is the answer to the question "do we have anything gluten free?". The answer is, it depends on if you are a diagnosed Celiac or not. The vast majority of our customers with modern wheat gluten sensitivity report back to us not only on how great our products taste, but how good it makes them feel. Insoluble fibre, lacking from every other diet on earth that doesn't include grains, is absolutely necessary to whole health in human beings. We've been eating it for eons. Why do our customers with wheat sensitivity love our products? Because we only grow heirloom and ancient species of wheat. Wheat does not easily cross either...plants need to be practically touching before they will cross pollinate. So, our wheats are purely old, organically grown, and full of health and great taste. 

I hope this helps a bit with your gluten questions.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Busier than normal Fall

The past few weeks have been a blur. We are still basically setting up our business all the while operating it, and farming, and fathering. It is a Fall worth remembering for what we've accomplished, but it has been stressful and busy beyond belief.

Our milling building is nearing completion as far as being ready to accept new bagging equipment. We are also planning to renovate our mills for increased efficiency. Right now we are having to re-load the mills 40lbs at a time and I would like it if we could simply pour the amount of wheat that we need to mill and walk away. New hoppers on top of the stone mills will solve that problem. We've achieved our Food Safety grant, that was good news. Now we have a little help purchasing new bagging, mixing equipment along with some new bins and other infrastructure.

A view of the yard from our brand new grain bin
The harvest for 2012 is one I'd as soon forget. This past summer was simply too much rain, too much wind and too much hail. Yields were down as much as 80% in some fields due to flooding and then a late August hail storm. What wheat we did harvest appears to be very good quality. The protein is great and the appearance is as beautiful as ever. Looking forward to baking with it for sure. Still to harvest, after a killing frost, is the oats and the flax. We need the frost to kill the underseeded Red Clover. Once that happens, we'll have the ability to straight cut the crops with the combine and then use the grain drier before we store the crops. Again, the weather has been great, but we usually have a good frost in early to mid September. What a year we've had!
combining wheat
Looking back on mistakes made, some small successes, some advances made and hope that what we've accomplished this year will pay dividends in 2013.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Oatmeal Flax Crisps

Here is a simply wonderful dessert that is full of healthy ingredients. It is actually closer to a candy bar than anything. These are our family's favorite treat now that Cindy's made them a few times. Incredible tasting according to all who've tried! Enjoy.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups Gold Forest Rolled Oats
1/2 cup Gold Forest Golden Flax seeds
1/2 tsp. baking powder

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; stir in sugar and vanilla and cook for about 2 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in oats, flax seeds and baking powder; mix well. Press firmly into greased 12x8 baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool; cut into bars. Voila.

This is a highly addictive treat that will win you much adulation at the next church or school bake sale...guaranteed.

On a note, Cindy thought that the flax and butter made these "greasy" so she tried it with 2 cups of oats...it just turned into a granola...good, but not a bar. I didn't mind the buttery appearance at all. She wants to try it with Organic Agave syrup and then add some more oats, but to me, it works just fine as is.

Cindy got this recipe from the Canadian Living Cooking Collection recipe book titled "Muffins and Cookies". The 65 tastiest recipes for muffins, cookies, bars and squares.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Harvest Time 2012

Harvest is always a sort of year end for me. It is always a time to reflect back on the year past and take inventory of what we've accomplished and what is left to do. All of this is of course in between actual harvest activities. The busiest time of year by far. 

The farm is beginning to take shape more and more. Since I've started farming full-time (along with operating the milling business) I have had the chance to spend some time with landscaping and some construction projects, but nothing major. The back deck went from just that to basically a full fledged addition. I've got it about 1/3 finished, but my goal was to simply have a deck and a roof this year and finish the rest next year. 

All in all, the farm has gone from completely rough to marginally functional...hows that for a description? Some of the yard work, gravel and grading have been accomplished and new bins and buildings have been ordered and are on their way. 

The business itself has undergone a transformation too. Once again, there are two families who own and operate Gold Forest Grains. The Schneider's and The Bennett's. Chris and I are partners now in the farm and milling business. It is a tremendous help to have another person involved with a vested interest in the business. Chris is as passionate about organic food and farming as I am and together we are growing Gold Forest steadily and rather quickly.

The Market sales have increased for us and being in the three largest markets in Edmonton has really helped to get the word out about our fresh flour and grain products. Old Strathcona Farmers Market is still our best performing market, we simply love being involved with such a tremendous market. It is professionally managed and the customers are there to purchase food. Unlike other markets in town where entertainment is the focus, as a vendor I appreciate the focus on local food at Strathcona. Our sales at that market are more than all other markets combined weekly. 

The grain harvest is ongoing. We have purchased a new combine and it is being delivered today. It is newer and in better condition than our old L combines...it is an L2 by Allis Chalmers. Not new for sure, but in prime condition for its age and we are looking forward to less mechanics and more harvesting. 

This past summer has been trying from a weather standpoint. The fields around home are still water logged and swathing has been a nightmare. Stuck every 3 minutes. Our flax will simply have to wait until freeze up when we can go into the frozen fields with the straight cut combine. Other crops have been damaged by excessive storms, but it could have been worse. We avoided hail for the most part. Next year will be better...that is always the promise of "next year".

Sunday, July 08, 2012

chicken day today







I've been putting it off as long as I can, because I've been so busy with everything else. Today I finally had to start the new chicken tractor...our chicken population went up by a few today! When our Buff Orpington hen went broody, we quickly put her in a quiet place in the garage...in a dog crate. This way she was safe and secure and alone...exactly what a setting hen wants. Today was the 21st day of her odyssey and sure enough, hatching began. At first this morning, I could hear the muted peeps coming from within the eggs, then holes appeared, then finally some wet, soggy chicks. As I type we have two dried chicks and other eggs with holes. By tomorrow we should have 5 or 6 chicks! I have almost completed the new tractor and sometime tomorrow I will transfer mother and chicks to some fresh clover in the orchard. We can move the tractor every day or so and she will teach them to hunt for food and act like a chicken.

Well, we ended up with only 4 chicks out of the batch. This was not the greatest of successes, but we have 4 more chickens than what we had before so that is a good thing. Mother and babes are at home now in the orchard where she is teaching them to dust bath and peck clover and bugs. Later this summer, when the apples are dropping, they'll eat those up too.