Thursday, February 24, 2011

castle downs farmers market...a bust?

We attended the Castle Downs Farmers Market last night. I found it extremely interesting to see the differences in markets, both in the mix of vendors and the clientele. In fairness to the market, it was only their third week running and there is still no internet presence that would pop up on any search but it was not a good night for more than a few vendors. Situated in the Moose Lodge on 146th Ave. and Griesbach Road, it is a wonderful location for a farmers market. A lovely feel to the old building.

Even though there was about the same amount of customers come through the door last night as attend Alberta Avenue Market I could tell right away that I was in trouble. Almost nobody who came to the market was carrying their own grocery bags. Very quickly in my rookie season of farmers marketing, I was able to determine who my customers were by those tell-tale recycled nylon grocery bags. People sauntering in with their hands in their pockets are unlikely to purchase many groceries. 

From a customer's standpoint though, the Castle Downs Farmers Market is a boon! There was more than one of almost everything. A few bakers, a couple of vendors with extensive selections of jams and preserves, vegetables and produce, hemp, flour, meats, eggs. Pretty much everything you'd need for a weeks worth of groceries! Still, very few people who attended the market were there to purchase groceries. If you are a farmers market supporter, you will definitely want to check out the Castle Downs market. With such a diverse selection of premium food stuffs and very little competition from other customers, there was no fear of things running out!

It was a different customer base last night also. I was definitely out of my comfort zone with too many people who listen to 630 CHED too often. I missed my CBC Radio or CKUA friends! I actually had a couple walk past and as hubby was pulling her towards my table, she said "oh no, that stuff is organic". I got a little bit of a dirty look as they quickly detoured away. Those of you who live in Edmonton will understand my references to the radio stations. Let's just say that, as a generalization, there are people who are afraid to stray from the norm of the chemical age and those who embrace change and see the benefits of zero chemical inputs and healthful local food. 

Of course I understand that not everybody buys flour each week. I had a few lovely conversations with folks who just didn't need flax or flour yet. Will they purchase next week at this market?

I sure don't want to seem ungrateful for the couple of customers who did purchase our products. There were glimmers of hope from folks who "get it" and i will stick with this market for at least a couple more weeks. There is plenty of potential there. For local foodies, you do not want to miss all the selections offered in this compact market! 

Tonight though is the Alberta Avenue Farmers Market where customers purchase food...and I certainly appreciate seeing all those re-cycled shopping bags! We thank everyone who chooses to support our little farm. See you at the market tonight!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

work on the house continues

We are indeed still working on the house. Little by little we are getting things done. Cindy took some time over the past couple of weeks to work out the paint colours that she thought would work and for the past couple days we have begun our interior painting.

Now, for the duration of this blog, I have always told everyone that we would share with them the good and the bad. This picture should confirm, without a doubt, the integrity of me and my blog. Yes, this is how I look at home on a Saturday afternoon, in the dead of winter, with a paint roller in my hand.

I tried to photoshop this picture. You know...thinner, without the plaid shorts and black socks. But, then I had a change of heart and decided that perhaps some humility would trigger an outpouring of sympathy for my wife and kids. I am indeed the poster boy for nerdy Dads everywhere. I realize now that there is nothing I can do to change that...for now.
Still haven't figured out quite what to do with where the stucco wall meets up with the drywall interior walls. Any suggestions?

At some point in time this spring, when I am out in the field busy seeding or doing spring cultivation I will stage some manly sort of picture. Me posing beside the might and strength of a large diesel powered tractor with the sunset in the background and a steady breeze tussling my hair. In the meantime, this is what we all have to put up with.

Still haven't figured out quite what to do with where the stucco wall meets up with the drywall interior walls. Any suggestions?

Have a great holiday weekend everyone.

Friday, February 18, 2011

bread recipe and comment

I received the nicest email the other day from Sherri, one of our new customers. She is working on some self-sustainable projects for her family including baking and here is what she has to say about our wheat and how she uses it. Enjoy!


I have emailed this to you so that you can put it on your blog wherever you think it should go.  

I have now mastered baking amazing bread with your organic hard red wheat and I have to say that your wheat produces the best bread I have ever tasted!  I have been milling wheat and baking bread for about 3 years and nothing I have made in that time compares to what what I have made with Gold Forest Grains organic red wheat.  The texture, flavour, and "tooth"  of the bread are excellent.  The fragrance of the organic red wheat during milling is unparalleled and the rise is superb.  A gorgeous product in every way.  Thank you!

For those interested, here is the recipe that I use (from a mother of 14!) that is fast and easy, involving only one rise.  It makes 4 large loaves.

5 cups very warm water (120 degrees)
2/3 cup oil (I use canola)
2/3 cup honey or sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
2 large eggs
8 cups freshly milled organic hard red wheat from Gold Forest Grains (+ an additional 4-6 cups to add after initial mixing)
1/4 c yeast

Put ingredients into mixer in order listed including only 8 cups of the flour at first.  Mix until blended well, then slowly add enough of the remaining flour to have the dough begin to pull away from the sides of your mixer bowl.  It should look a bit sticky.  Knead for 14 minutes in mixer.  Immediately shape dough and place into greased pans.  Allow loaves to rise in a barely warm oven.  I use the oven light to just take the chill off the oven.  When loaves have doubled, turn oven on to 320 degrees.  Leave loaves in oven while oven is coming up to temp.  Set timer for approximately 40-45 minutes as soon as you turn your oven on and bake until tops are golden brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove loaves from pans and allow to cool on cooling racks.  

Thanks once again, John for producing such a fabulous product.  I love Gold Forest Grains Organic Red Wheat and will never go back to what I was using before.


Sherri's recipe is interesting from the standpoint that there are eggs included. It is basically the same recipe that we use along with the methodology minus the eggs. I think I'll try hers though just to see. We always seem to have a lot of eggs in our fridge...good chickens. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

new grind on the pastry flour

I spent some time yesterday fiddling with milling the Pastry Pasta Flour which is made from Soft White Wheat. I have received at least one comment that the milling of this flour may be better if it were a little finer in texture. Adjusting our Meadows Mill is very easy so I just got it as fine as I could without destroying the stones. It seems to have worked quite well. The new Pastry Pasta flour grind is very fine indeed. I hope that this will help with folk's baking and cooking needs. 

Of course, you can meet with us and purchase our flour products tonight at the Alberta Avenue Farmers Market

Sunday, February 13, 2011

jersey latte

As I mentioned earlier this afternoon we paid a visit to some local Jersey milkers on a small farm nearby. They gave us a parting gift of some fresh Jersey whole milk. 

We had the preconceived notion that the milk would taste different or smell different and not necessarily in a good way. In the past Cindy and I have both experienced whole raw milk that was less than pleasant in both taste and smell. So, with some hesitation, we skimmed off the thick layer of cream and shook up the milk that remained and poured a small glass for each of us. It was amazing. The brilliant white colour and the sweet smell of pure milk...not cow...just milk. Not grass or barn or anything else, just milk. The taste matched the other sensations, pure joy of milk.

Right from the time I laid hands on this jar of milk this afternoon I knew I wanted to make a latte with it. We make latte's on a regular basis. We have a really good latte machine that we have had for several years. It works without problem day after day. It is the Starbucks Barista model. For the life of me I cannot figure out why a coffee company like Starbucks would decide to start selling machines that make it so people do not have to continue being Starbucks customers??? Since we bought the machine, I have not had a store purchased latte. 

So here, in all their local glory is our after supper latte. Local Jersey whole milk, local honey, not so local espresso beans. 

great sunday!

I had what I would call a 'great day' today. The sun is shining and our little straw bale house is, as usual, at a nice and comfortable 22 degrees. That in itself is not a big deal other than the fact that we have not had a source of heat in the house for four days now other than burning one stove-load of scrap door-trim cuttings last night. It was a little chilly when we got home from visiting with friends and there was some scrap lumber trimmings laying just outside the front door. So I grabbed them and lit a fire and it burned for a little while and was just enough to take the chill out of the house for the night. The stove was cold this morning as it was only a partial load and it was small pieces of 1" wood. We woke this morning and it was comfortable enough that I didn't light a fire...we just did some cooking for breakfast and the room temperature was perfect. Throughout the day today the passive solar design did its job and right now as I type, I could not be more comfortable. 

We took a little drive earlier this afternoon to visit with some people who milk Jerseys. We have always loved the breed and wanted to see their little operation and visit with some like-minded people. We took home a gift of 1/2 litre of whole milk to try. It brought back some strong memories of Uncle Pete and Aunty Dianne's farm to see that thick layer of off-white cream floating on the surface of pristine white milk ice cold in the jar. I cannot wait for a nice jersey milk latte this evening after supper.

Which brings me to the last part of a great day...I made pasta! I borrowed Kevin Kossowan's pasta ummm press? machine? It's a thing that rolls out pasta dough and then you can also use it to cut pasta...whatever that is called. It was a wonderful little machine with a hand crank that worked magnificently. I played around with a simple pasta recipe of 1lb flour and 6 eggs. Using my Pasta and Pastry Flour I took my time kneading and got the dough to a perceived perfect state for pasta. First off though, I did sift the flour to remove most of the bran and germ. There is still enough in the flour to make it obvious, but feedback from experts and my own intuition told me to sift it. The dough rolled out through the machine looking like store-bought, but smelling so fresh and 'grainy'. It boiled up quickly to perfection and tastes well, like pasta I suppose. That is a triumph in my family when something works out to taste or look like it should. The only difference being that it is fresh and homemade and organic. It was very satisfying as I kneaded the dough to think about handling kernals of wheat last spring in the seed drill and now in February I was making pasta with the wheat from those seeds! 

I boiled up the fresh pasta 'al dente' and mixed in some tomato pasta sauce. Then I put it in a large casserole dish and I will cover it with a shredded blend of cheeses including what I choose to spare of my small block of Smoky Valley Goat Cheese's "pyraneese (ripened)" cheese. This cheese is my new favorite cheese in the world. I haven't tasted better...ever.

Anyway, this was part of my day today...a wonderful day filled with wonderful foods, wonderful weather, family and friends. I feel lucky.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

alberta avenue farmers market Feb 10

we'll be spending some time tonight getting ready for market tomorrow. I am bringing 50lbs bulk flour with me for Tim who called our farm last week. If anyone else wants flour in bulk, let us know ahead and we'll mill it up for you just prior to market day and bring it with us along with our regular packaged flour. Give us a shout with any questions.

Monday, February 07, 2011

the future

I was just thinking about the blog today and spent a little time going over past posts back to 2006 when I first started blogging. It seems so long ago to be talking about bees and pigs and pastured chickens. I miss all that. Cindy and I are still knee deep in finances and trying to get the house presentable along with the the basic issues of daily family life but we are still thinking about future plans for our little farm and furthering our self-sustainable lifestyle. 

We are a couple big steps closer to our goals of sustainability. We have a cozy little house that is ultra-efficient. We have a larger base of land that we own. And we have our little herd of Galloways. The thing we miss the most right now are our laying hens. Currently they are hanging out at Cindy's sister's place. They are producing a good amount of eggs apparently because Cindy came home with 7 or 8 dozen eggs the other day! One of the first things we will do this spring is to build our chicken coop and yard. I am playing around with some ideas in my head. I haven't quite decided what type of house to build them. I am thinking cordwood or perhaps another straw bale structure. The other alternative is to provide them with a moveable house and yard, but with so many unruly neighbour dogs about, that is a disaster waiting to happen. I wouldn't hesitate to shoot a dog harassing livestock, but would prefer to avoid that scenario at all costs. No matter the situation, a farmer shooting a neighbor's dog always becomes the farmer's problem. Keeping the hens safely in our yard, close to the house, is probably the direction we will go. Somewhere near the garden.

I love the creativity of these folk's chicken coop!

There are, of course, quite a few other things on our radar for the farm. We have to get pigs back in our lives. I miss them. For that project I am also considering a permanent yard situation as opposed to portable. Perhaps though we can combine two types of accommodations for the pigs. Maybe they can farrow in the yard and then get moved out to pig tractors when they are older?

The garden and orchards are ready to go for 2011. We seeded the garden with fall rye last autumn and it will be ready to till and plant when things dry up. 

Other projects include a root cellar of some type and a smoke house. I really want to try building a stone smoke house. The land around us is quite stony and so I won't have many problems finding suitable building materials once I till the land in the spring. 

Of course there are other farm buildings to build too. A shop. A proper milling building with hopper bottom grain bins. Landscaping. Fish pond...good grief, what have I done? Anybody looking to sell their downtown high-rise condo?  

Saturday, February 05, 2011

feb 5 blizzard

And yet another blizzard to contend with. Outside the wind is wailing. Through the window I see the snow speeding across the fields. The cows are miserable. The roads are miserable. I am miserable.

Actually, I am not entirely. The house is indeed toasty warm with a gentle fire rolling in the stove. A little glass of rum and ice is a luxury beside me on the desk as I type. Things could be worse.

I did have to experience the wind and blowing snow first hand while watering the cows and repairing fence earlier tonight. That whole process, on a night like tonight, simply reinforces my ideas about the price of isn't high enough!

Thankfully, I receive little opposition to my pricing of our farm products. I try my best to keep things fair and so far my customers are extremely educated on the subject...they get it. They get that it is a tremendous amount of work to do things right, the hard way. The small-scale way, without chemicals and poisons, and unsustainable borrowing practices. I suspect that they appreciate that work and devotion and I appreciate them.

So, with ears and nose stinging with cold, I continue to do what it takes. To haul the grain, water the cows and mill the flour in order to make our little farm work and provide good quality, locally grown, organic food to as many people as I can.

Dreaming of spring.