After years of wondering, I believe we know what the name of our first flower of each season is: palm-leaved coltsfoot (petasites palmatus)! Up close the flower is absolutely gorgeous.
Quick observation: now that the garlic has
been growing for a few weeks it appears that the fall-planted
cloves are significantly advanced over the spring-planted ones.
Later in the season when we start picking garlic we'll be able
to make a better comparison.
We've had some beautiful warm days this week and are expecting rain - perfect growing conditions. Here's a picture of the view to the river from above. We're waiting for green to emerge and take over.
A few signs of Spring -- moss and lichen are expanding and our version of the crocus is flowering. We haven't got any leaves out yet but this very early flower is out and thriving. Close up the flowers are gorgeous I think. And the beavers are busy gathering material for their dams. We still had snow covering the garlic field two weeks ago so we wondered when we'd see the garlic this year, and we finally have seen some emerge - whew!
We got our paper bags today! Without family visits it's taken awhile for them to reach us - our son and daughter picked them up in Edmonton and then our daughter from Calgary dropped them off after a distanced visit with her sister. They have a capacity of 10 pounds with a very comfortable handle. The 4 litre milk jugs are to show the size.
We have seen so many moose this year! They're
a favourite animal here, but it's unusual to see them as often
as we have this year that we've speculated that the matriarch is
getting old and doesn't cover the usual amount of territory. We
love to watch them from a safe distance. This week we've heard
the peep owl and lots of frogs - sure signs of Spring :)
We have quite a bit of snow and the ground is frozen solid. We've looked in a couple of the pots but the garlic cloves haven't done anything interesting - yet! We've planted some Spanish onions called Walla Walla and they're really strong - I can't wait to taste them this summer. One of the containers we seeded into wasn't deep enough for the long roots that onions have, so we transplanted them into a better pot today. Plastic pots that we've saved from buying plants in over the years are great for growing our own plants, but their drainage holes are really big for inside use. We used some cheesecloth to keep the soil in the pot and some newspaper just to cover the hole while filling with dirt - it won't prevent drainage.
If anyone is waiting for new issues of The Garlic News please email or send a facebook message -- uploading the issues is a great job to do while watching sports, but too boring to do without sports! But if someone's waiting I could watch a movie or something :)
There were only three tomato seedlings in newspaper pots - the others were mostly in the compostable bags. We needed to get the remaining ones into larger containers but we're out of bags so we decided to improvise. We put a couple into cracker boxes and hope the light cardboard will dissolve over the summer. We're confident that the tomato roots will push through the cardboard since they're so strong. In the picture you can see how much stronger and bigger the tomato in the compostable bag is compared to the one in the newspaper pot. There's a video showing the cracker box tomatoes.
Here's a summary of the tomato trials with
toilet paper rolls. Tomato seeds are so vigorous that they
sprouted well in our soil mix in the rolls. Once they started to
form their first true leaves we transplanted them into soil in
compostable bags, hoping to give the plants access to lots of
moisture and nutrients -- and not to encourage just a major tap
root without lots of smaller branches. Once they went into the
bags they grew really well, so tomatoes would definitely be a
good choice for planting in toilet paper rolls. We tried
cilantro and parsley also, but their emergence rate was very
low, even though they are really vigorous and dependable when
planted into peat pellets (which we did afterward with the same
packet of seeds and had great emergence) - surprising! The next
seeding we'll try in toilet paper rolls will be marigolds.
They're also very strong and reliable seeds, and we love the
gorgeous blossoms that attract a ton of bees and seem to
discourage some pests. They have a very distinctive smell that I
like but that bothers some people and most moles, for instance.
This year we're working on dry bean recipes so that we can enjoy this healthy ingredient more often. This week we had Red Beans with Rice, adapted from a great cookbook called Easy Beans by Trish Ross from BC. The recipe is:
Saute 2 cloves of garlic and an onion until soft
add 1 1/2 cup of tomato (paste, puree or whole tomatoes)
add 1 cup of cooked dry beans of any kind
add lots of fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp of tobasco and a bay leaf and cook for 20 minutes
Serve over rice of any kind
The beans are from last summer – the cannellini lingot that grew very tall and had gorgeous pods with streaks of red and pink. We’ve been thinking of ways to separate the beans from the pods, but over the winter the pods have opened as they dried and the beans have been really easy to gather. Cooking the beans is simple – cover with 3 times their volume of cold water, bring to a gently boil, remove from heat, cover and let sit for an hour or two. We had to repeat – drain the water, cover again with cold water about double their volume and bring to boil again – remove from heat and let sit for another hour or two. They had a good texture at that point, with the skins still intact. A great tip from the cookbook (and elsewhere) says to cook more beans than you need and freeze the excess for a speedier dinner next time.
We looked at another clove in the growing
experiment. We had to bring the pot into the house for a day
because it was frozen solid. It doesn't look like there's
anything happening yet - the snow cover and cold weather is
keeping the cloves dormant, we think.
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Young plants are so beautiful! The cotyledon is the first leaves that emerge when a seed germinates. A picture of a statice cotyledon is first - statice is the blue and purple flowers we use as dried flowers with garlic braids and the plants have hardiness, drought tolerance, attraction for bees and other pollinators and interesting winter colour (copper-coloured stems and any flowers remaining stay quite blue). They're a fairly hardy wildflower that grows from seed each year, so they need a hard seed coat to push through the soil early and that's what the picture shows - the first pair of leaves push the tough covering through to the warm sun. The second picture shows that another set of plain leaves emerges to feed the root strength and then the true leaves emerge - saw-toothed with a bit of red. The tomato shows it's plain cotyledon leaves giving way to the true leaves, basil's true leaves are the recognizable middle-creased oval shape, annual dill resembles a tiny palm, true leaves of the thyme show the typical oval spade shape and the rosemary is still the first (cotyledon) leaves - still waiting for their true leaves. Onions don't really have a cotyledon - they come up bent over and then spring up and now they're developing extra stems to feed their growing roots.
We decided to plant the rolls to allow the tomato seedlings to spread out. The tomatoes planted in jiffy pots then into newspaper pots were growing faster than the seedlings in the loo rolls and we thought maybe the rolls were not allowing the roots to spread. We're hoping that putting the rolls into soil will help the roll soften and dissolve and the roots will grow. In the past we've used compost bags to hold transplants that get too big for newspaper pots, or to put a newspaper pot into if the pot gets too fragile, so we're hoping they'll work. When planted outside the bags decompose over the summer.
We're going to do our best to make the loo roll experiment work out - then we can use the peat pots we've already bought, but minimize using peat as we go forward. With the next batch of seeds planted we'll cut the rolls in half - then when a root shows at the bottom we'll put the shorter roll into a newspaper pot to encourage wider root growth instead of restricting sideways growth (assuming the roll dissolves easily once inside a newspaper pot, which we think is likely but will find out!).
We've started onion seeds in the house and
they're so cute - the bow shape is fabulous, then when they
spring up they look so much more delicate. The first tomato
seedlings have gone into newspaper pots - they're going to be
the control for the loo roll experiment :)
January 20 + February 2, 2020
We’re doing a trial with toilet paper rolls (or loo rolls, as gardening guru Monty Don calls them) to see if we can use them for starting seeds. We love using newspaper pots for seedlings and the rolls might be similarly good – put to good use, dissolve into the soil and provide a good place for seeds to grow. This year we’ll try some tomatoes and herbs with long roots like parsley and cilantro – maybe marigolds later since they’re so vigorous. If they work out, we’ll use them more extensively next year. The soil is a mix of sterile Pro-Mix and rich worm castings from our worms last year. One thing I really like so far is that when you water the rolls you can see when the water is adequate – you can see the water mark on them, much like you can with the newspaper pots.
We’ve just started separating out the worm castings again. If anyone has any tips for this process or would like tips from us, please drop us an email.
Last season’s garlic and onions are still nice and firm. We have lots of garlic in the ground for this year, and we’re planning to plant lots of vegetables this spring – and we planted the very first onion seeds yesterday, so the season has officially begun!
January 7, 2020
We've had lots of snow this winter - should be great for the garlic! I've had lots of time for knitting and I think I'm happy with the design for the Scottish Highland motif cotton dishcloth :) I'm using Bernat 100% cotton Handicrafter yarn (made in Canada from American cotton) and I made the pattern myself. I may try to make a garlic motif cloth!
Check out the photos page - we had lovely soft snow falling this morning and it was gorgeous.
I saw a recipe on the Guardian UK website for carrot cake with beets (or beetroot as they call it). I tried it since we still had a few beets in the garden and I loved the colour - can't say the taste was much different from regular carrot cake, but that was good - I like carrot cake. I used my usual recipe and put half grated carrots and half grated beets. I thought the beets might make the batter pink so I stirred just enough, but you can see the cake doesn't look much different with the beets -- please drop me an email if you'd like the recipe.
Surprise! Lots of the beans that looked dead actually had big beans in their pods, so we've picked them and are waiting for them to dry. They're so beautiful - and hopefully tasty.
Recipe for basic Beef Stew
2 pound pkg of stewing beef, oil for frying it, water, salt and pepper, small clove of garlic, vegetables and herbs.
Brown the meat by frying in oil until it's
cooked on all sides, then pour hot water over it just to cover
it. Boil until the water almost all evaporates, then add water
to cover it again. Boil again until water is almost all
evaporated and taste a piece of meat. If it's nice and tender
then you're happy - if it's still a bit chewy add another
covering of water and boil again - this is the secret to stew
meat that's tender - and it's a tip from a friend, Donna Arnold
of the Henday Association for Lifelong Learning in Innisfail.
Once the meat is well cooked, there's an infinite variety of
choices, but the basic ingredients are garlic, an onion, bay
leaves and parsley. Then add a couple of inches of water to the
meat and cook the vegetables -- carrots and peas, potatoes until
tender. If you like the broth/gravy thicker then stir a
tablespoon of flour into 1/4 cup of cold water and add it to the
boiling stew. My Mom used to make dumplings with our stew which
we loved - send me an email if you want her recipe.
Sept 3, 2019
We're so excited to have beans for drying! Our growing season was cut short by a frost on August 17th - shocking - but it was fairly light and the bingo beans in the garlic field survived. We'll plant more of them next year since they can prosper in our harsh conditions. They have a few gorgeous pods which we'll pick this week and dry. The beans inside are green and soft, but they'll dry brown with darker brown streaks. We're supposed to allow the pods to dry completely and then thresh them by hitting them in a sack to remove the pods :)
Aug 26, 2019
Our newest Youtube video is up showing our tried and true recipe for borscht.
Aug 19, 2019
We had a great time again this year at Open
Farm Days - thanks to everyone who came out to meet us and look
at the garlic growing. We're concentrating on watching garlic
dry right now, haha - preparing for braiding and fall planting.
July 25, 2019
We have found a great way to use our beet greens! Beet greens are so lovely at this time of year and we're trying to find new ways to use this nutritious, plentiful ingredient.
Bowl is a mix of raw and roasted seasonal vegetables - a
prairie spin on a Buddha Bowl. For sure the leaves can be
added to other greens in any salad, but for the Baba Bowl
they're the main base. I left the onions raw because they're so
awesome at this time of year. We have deer eating our peas this
year, so if we want any, we have to eat them before they fill
out, so we used them like snap peas fresh in the salad - but
shelled raw or cooked would taste great. Then we roasted
vegetables to serve hot on top and drizzled dressing over all.
We made a basic vinaigrette, but I also think a hollandaise
sauce would work with the Baba Bowl.
I put the recipes on the garlic goodness facebook page on if you're interested in them. The recipe name is a tribute to the great Ukrainian gardeners I've known - their ability to make everything they could grow to taste great and to never waste a thing!
We are eating garlic bulbs now!
They have a super great taste and texture – crisp and slightly milder than they will be when fully grown and cured, but so much better than garlic that’s been shipped from elsewhere. Local and fresh is the best, right? They're $1 each - same as they will be when they mature.
We are pleased to offer a small number of beef packages from our herd of Highland and Highland-cross cattle.
The Highland cross offers a superior-tasting well-marbled beef with a smaller carcass size than a commercial breed. There are well-researched health benefits to the Highland meat, including lower cholesterol levels and higher protein and iron content. We don't use any hormones and our grass is natural - no fertilizers or pesticides are used anywhere on our farm.
Please let us know if you’re interested in buying a side of beef. We have animals booked in for November 12th, and with a 14-21 day hanging period it will mean end-of-November or beginning of December for pick-up.
Please email for more information or if you have any questions.
are excited to have a few young highland cows with their
calves at the farm. They are so beautiful.
If you haven't checked out our instagram feed please do when you have time - we're posting more regularly as of summer 2019.
June 24, 2019
Last week I attended a soil workshop featuring Dr. Kris Nichols hosted by the GWFA in conjunction with RD County. What a fascinating presentation – the value of topsoil can hardly be overstated and there’s a lot we can do to preserve and build up our soil. We want to add carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in the soil – increase aggregates, create and encourage mycorrhizal fungi – and embrace diversity. Dr. Nichols said we need a brown revolution.
Everyone who’s been out here knows we don’t spray for weeds or pests and we have a wide variety of plants growing everywhere. Our inspiration is nature – in the woods we see so many different shrubs, flowers, legumes and grasses growing naturally among the spruce and aspen. We see mosquitos, wasps, bees, dragonflies, flies and so many different bugs – both pollinators and food for the huge variety of birds we see along the Red Deer River. Small animals like mice, weasels and rabbits thrive and support the eagles and owls – it’s a complex and hugely diverse system that we use as inspiration in our planting.
Dr. Nichols said that if you lose soil health you lose food nutrients – maybe we instinctively understand that, but it’s the first time I’d heard it said from someone who studies the matter. Vegetables grown in dirt taste great – and maybe they’re actually healthier for us! She has a soil consulting service and a website www.KRIS-SYSTEMS.com which I recommend, and for anyone local I highly encourage membership in the Grey Wooded Forage Association – they have a wealth of information and they host really interesting talks.
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