Friday, April 29, 2011

market update

I just thought I would post a bit of an update here on the blog. We have been tweeting and facebooking a bit more lately and the blog has been suffering a bit of neglect I am afraid. 

Tomorrow is the first day for us at The Old Strathcona Farmers Market! For those who don't know, this market is huge in Edmonton and is our only large, year-round market. St. Albert and City Market are perhaps bigger in the summer months. So, now we are marketing our flour products at Old Strathcona and City Market on 104th on Saturdays. This should keep us busy milling and packaging flour for a day or two during the week on top of our other customers' orders. 

Currently at market we are carrying: Hard Red Spring Wheat flour, Soft White Wheat Flour, Golden Flax, Rye flour, Wheat/Rye Pancake Mix and Wheat Berries.

At any rate, we really appreciate feedback from our customers. Please log in and comment with your recipes and comments if you have had the chance to purchase flour from us or if you have any questions about our farm or our flour! 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

girls! girls! girls!

Meet the girls. My favorite bovine girls...Missy and Miley. These are our two purebred Galloway cows. Actually, Miley is a heifer...a girl cow who hasn't had a calf yet. She will this year though. Miley is on the left.

Missy has had three calves now. She always throws docile calves that gain well and are healthy. Miley is Missy's second calf. Her calf last year is a steer that we will process this coming fall.

As you can see, Galloways are quite hairy. This sure helps in our climate where the extra insulation allows them to eat far less and still gain weight. Cindy came across some publication just the other night that she read out loud to me. It said that in coat density, the Galloway finished second only to Bison. Galloway are an ancient breed that originated in the highlands of Great Britain/Scotland. There are references to the sweetness of the meat from the 1500's.

They are so gentle and friendly. Always welcoming a neck scratch from their favorite local farmer.

Miley flashing us her 'good side'. What a cutie.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

farmer cable tv

I built myself a digital antenna recently. Actually, I built it right around Christmas. I found the recipe on Youtube and built it in an afternoon with wire coat hangers and a piece of lumber. I just wanted to see if it would work at picking up HDtv from the stations in Edmonton that broadcast digitally in HD. It worked! At first we could only get CityTV in HD, but it was amazing. For those who get to watch tv in HD you will know how amazing the picture quality truly is striking to watch HD programming.

You can see in the picture how easy it is to build.

Now these type of antennas work with line-of-sight broadcast signals so it is best to get them up on a tower of some sort and definitely outdoors. Our antenna is simply propped up in the living room window and we still get two digitial hd channels...for free. Here is a link to tv stations and their digital status in Alberta. 

Anyways, this is the television package that we choose to afford. It isn't much, but we get the news and Funniest Home Videos, etc. and now we get to watch Hockey Night in Canada in HD. Just curious about how many people who say that they cannot afford our flour (which is still priced below grocery store prices) manage to afford a satellite/cable bill of around $60+ a month? Just curious.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

odd jobs

Lately, since being laid off from my off-farm job I have had to look for work elsewhere. It has been an adventure to say the least. Not many people want to hire someone who needs to be able to leave work for days on end to seed, or mill flour, or haul grain or whatever else is occurring on the farm. I need a job with flexibility and part-time hours that pays well. I have taken a couple consulting jobs helping other companies to achieve their own safety program. I have also offered to help my brother-in-law Darel with his screw pile business. In the spare time, I have spent a few hours here and there trying to get the interior of the house finished. Cindy has taken a full-time job in the city for the first time since we've been together.

Of course, more important than all of the above has been the efforts to grow the flour business. That is where my passion lies...the farm. Last night I had a meeting to present my flour and grain products to The Old Strathcona Farmers Market jurors. That was interesting, but no indication whatsoever if I was successful in getting into the grand ole market. We'll see.

While none of this crap is terribly bad, we are not in danger of losing our home for instance, it has given me the opportunity to realize the importance of making the farm work financially or simply getting out of it altogether at some point in the future. Trust me, getting out of farming is the last thing I will contemplate. Still, it has crossed our minds that if our farm venture doesn't work it will mean downsizing to hobby farm status at best while I get permanent full-time work off-farm.

Of course, all of this thinking gets me thinking about food and prices and sustainable agriculture. Driving through St. Albert today I saw a sign in front of the McGavins Bakery that said in big bold lettering CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP BREAD 10 for $12. That sign is the exact reason that agriculture and especially family-farm type agriculture is in serious trouble in North America. I would venture a guess that nowhere in Europe would a sign like this exist...I could be wrong. If you haven't had a chance, watch the Movie "Broken Limbs". It is a documentary on apple farming in Washington state. Incredibly inspiring to watch, cleverly portrayed and completely insightful. I am embarrassed by that sign in St. Albert. I continue to feel badly that we live in a place where people in general look for the cheapest food as opposed to the best food. I am so glad for the customers that chose to support our little farm at City Market and Alberta Avenue Market and the bakeries that buy from us.

In the meantime, we happily struggle ahead with our plan to provide incredibly fresh flour at a reasonable price to as many people as possible. I hope that it is a win-win proposition.

Friday, April 08, 2011

yorkshire pudding recipes baby!

My absolute favorite baking project...even better than pancakes, is yorkshire's from a smoky hot oven. Crisp, golden brown and savory I can't think of anything that tastes better when drizzled with a nice roast gravy. But...don't forget to keep some extras in the fridge and then in the morning cut them open, fill with whipped cream and then sprinkle with powdered sugar....oh my.

Here is where I got my recipe for yorkshires. I have been using this recipe for a couple years now. It is the first one...Maggie's. Yorkshire Pudding Recipe 
It is from the Canada B&B Hosts website.

I have found that the key to puffy Yorkshire's is to make sure that the ingredients are indeed room temperature. Really get that muffin tin hot too. So hot that it is smoky and the batter sizzles and spatters as you pour it in. Get the batter in the tins as quick as you can and shut the oven door...don't peek until they're done...keep the oven hot.

Ok, so here's the plan...go to City Market or Strathcona Market on Saturday. Buy a nice pork roast from Serben's Free Range or First Nature Farms and some Flour from us. Then go get some potatoes. Oh yes, if you need some really fresh and completely flavourful cooking oil, go see Mighty Trio Organics. Then, after a wonderful afternoon at the farmers market you will have your Sunday roast pork dinner all lined up. I can taste it now.


slow week turnaround

It has been a rather slow week so far at the markets. Last Saturday at City Market was the slowest yet for our sales and then again this Thursday at Alberta Avenue. I figured that the warmer weather would have folks out and about, and they probably are...just not at an indoor farmers market. Can't say as I blame you guys. It sure is nice to be outside on a sunny and warm afternoon after such a brutal winter.

Anyways, we are still at the markets come hell or sunny spring afternoons so please do take some time to come indoors tomorrow at City Hall for a visit. More and more vendors every week so there is no shortage of fresh local food! Hopefully we will see you all there!

Also, you can now 'like' us on Facebook!

Friday, April 01, 2011

RIP Jedi

There is nothing worse about farming, or life in general, than the feeling of hopelessness and the realization that you need to put an animal down. I have had to do this several times throughout my life, as I am sure most people have. The difference with being on a farm is that usually the farmer is the one who has to perform the solemn act. It is almost never worth paying a vet and the rifle is much quicker and more humane than the stress of needles and strangers poking and prodding. The feeling I get before having to perform this duty is never anything that I would wish on anyone...worst enemies included. I am not ashamed to admit that it makes me cry. I suppose the fact that it makes me feel so bad is good in a way...I am not used to it and I don't do it often enough to make me callous of the responsibility.

This morning I had to euthanize our Llama, Jedi. He had been down for three days and couldn't get up. We kept him as comfortable as possible but there was something dreadfully wrong with his back or hips. He was old and I was completely confident that there was nothing more that could be done. With a mouth full of tasty grains he got to see one last glorious sunrise early this morning and then his suffering was over.

Jedi was a good llama and we have many fond memories of him. As a basically useless animal in almost all aspects of normal farm operations Jedi found his niche babysitting. We originally bought Jedi as a pack animal. Cindy and I had dreams of packing in the mountains with our string of llamas and we got fairly serious about the training and even went so far as to acquire the llama packs. Cindy would very often saddle up the llamas and go for long walks around our old property. Winding trails through the woods and hills, string of llamas behind her, Cindy has many happy memories with the 'boys'.

Sadly, we never went on our dream holiday with them. I don't know why...just didn't. We ended up selling all of them except for Jedi. He was our favorite and we thought he should hang out with us for the rest of his days.

As I mentioned earlier, Jedi's best days were spent diligently watching over the baby critters of all types. He was especially effective with the lambs when we had sheep. They would drive him nuts climbing all over him and on more than one occasion we would look out to a lamb sleeping comfortably on his back as he laid chewing his cud. Lately though Jedi's responsibility was the calves. He would pace feverishly, humming noisily whenever a calf would escape. We always knew right where to look! As the calves grew, Jedi would become their unwilling playmate. I am sure they drove him crazy, but he never complained.

He never spit on anyone. He always reluctantly put up with our petting and I will miss his worried humming this summer when a calf squeezes through the barbwire.

Jedi was a good llama and a valued animal on our farm. I will miss him.