Fall is in the air. Almost all of the garlic
orders are gone and we've started planting, but more about that
later. Today we're making tomato passata which is such a great
staple in our kitchen. We used it to make a sauce with onions,
garlic, carrots, chick peas and kidney beans that we freeze and
then bring out to make minestrone and chili. There's a you tube video showing the method. We cook
some celery, green pepper and green beans with small shell pasta
and then add a pot of the mixture with oregano, thyme and basil
to make a hearty and nutritious minestrone. For chili we saute
mushrooms with peppers and add the mixture with chili seasoning
to make a wonderful pot of chili.
The garlic is so ready to come out of the ground! The scapes have straightened out and the umbels are starting to open. The bulbil's curly tip has a true seed on its end. We are digging, cleaning and hanging it as fast as we can :)
Bring on the heat!!!!
And I’m not talking about our hot days and warm nights---though they’re helping our great harvest this year.
Red hot in taste, red hot in smell and with a large, beautiful shape and many cloves, each one of them bursting with flavour and, well, heat.
Like most great things everyone has different ideas of what garlic has the best taste, is the most versatile, most cooking friendly, most medicinal. Some like big cloves, some small. All our garlic has a strong flavour from being grown in our great soil and all has some heat too but Tibetan with its thick, strong stems is the fireball champion in the garlic patch.
We try to grow varieties to suit all tastes and respond to all needs. Two years ago several of our heat-seeking customers asked us to grow some Tibetan which was rumoured to have some heat so we did and it was quickly snapped up last year.
So this year we grew more from selected top seedstock and the result has been a fantastic crop of Tibetan. Combined with steady early spring rains, our thick black soil and grown without the use of chemicals or fertilizers of any kind this year’s edition of Tibetan is large, with 8 to 12 cloves per bulb and brings the heat. Like all the garlic we are selling it at last year’s price of $1.50 a bulb, $11 a pound.
Some like it hot.
We respectfully suggest that we have the answer to that urge.
Woohoo! It's harvest time :)
The regular rains set our garlic digging time back a little but we are well into it now. We are busy digging, pulling, cleaning and hanging all the garlic in our barn. And what a good harvest it is proving to be. We sold out of Music and German Red varieties through pre-orders in the spring and now we are working our way through the Russian Red, Yugoslavian, Chesnok Red and Tibetan.
If you would like garlic right now for fresh eating (not cured)
it's lovely and crisp. Chesnok Red and Tibetan are Purple Stripe
types - high in allicin with 7-10 cloves in a bulb. Chesnok is
milder in flavour than Tibetan but has an unmistakable taste and
great aroma. There's Russian Red (Rocambole) which is spicy and
has 4-6 cloves and Yugoslavian (Porcelain) which is strong with
2 or 3 very large cloves. Under its unassuming white wrapper is
a gorgeous purple wrapper.
We began growing Yugoslavian garlic a few years back in response to customers who were asking if we had a variety that was high in allicin.
And boy are we glad we did!!
Not only is this Porcelain a very good source of allicin, a compound which research has shown has many health benefits including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, improving heart and bone health and antibiotic applications, but the plant just loves our climate and soil. It is a hot, spicy garlic that is thriving on our wet weather this year and is used for a range of cooking and baking. And, of course, eaten raw by some people for medicinal or general health benefits.
Yugo bulbs have four to six cloves. This year the bulbs are going to be large because the plant is so vigorous – stems are already very thick and most of the plants will be well over three feet tall by harvest time. The biggest garlic on the farm is currently Yugo.
It’s a winning combination we think—eat Yugo because of its high allicin content and researched health benefits. And get a great, hot garlic bulb that is delicious, stores very well and has come from a large, strong plant that was grown chemical-free in our wonderful soil.
Hardneck varieties of garlic produce a green shoot from their centre. It curls around and it has an umbel at it's top -- a flower-like pod that has a number of tiny bulbs inside - called bulbils. Bulbils are small clones of the garlic bulb and they'll produce a seed if left to mature - it's on a little strand at the tops of the bulbils. Scapes are strongly garlic-flavoured and delightfully crisp. They can be used wherever garlic is used: in stir-fries, roasted with vegetables, grilled on the barbecue (awesome on top of steak this way), chopped, lightly sauteed in olive oil and served with pasta or squash with strong parmesan cheese.
Scapes can be preserved in a few ways - chopped, lightly sauteed in olive oil and then frozen for use in soups and stews, pickled, blanched and frozen or made into pesto, although we use most of ours fresh.
We have a few recipes to share: garlic scape soup, buttermilk ranch dressing, pesto and garlic scape marinade. There's a link to the
recipe if you click on the name and there's a you tube video showing the marinade.
We expect to have scapes available early in
July and they're so economical! Ten cents each or $4/pound and
there's around 40 in a pound.
When you turn into our driveway here at Garlic Goodness Farm, likely the first thing you notice are our small herd of Highland-Galloway cows and their new calves. The second thing you notice is our healthy dandelion crop.
We use no chemicals, fertilizers or artificial inputs of any kind anywhere on our farm. We do this because we know that natural, chemical-free food is tastier, more nutritious and less harmful for us all, and because we also know that farming without chemicals is beneficial for the environment.
We live next to the Red Deer River and everything from moose to bees to eagles and tiger salamanders call our farm home. We’ve been farmers and ranchers for most of our adult lives and we have noticed that the health of the land can easily be known by the number of bees that frequent that land. We are happy to report that bees are very abundant at Garlic Goodness Farm.
Which brings us back to dandelions. Bees love dandelions. If we were to spray our lawn, there would be fewer bees on the farm as a whole. And, to us, that would be against the principles of our farm. So, we embrace the dandelions so that we can have the bees and the wonderful strong-tasting produce and garlic.
We’ve been growing garlic here for many years. Every few years we add in well rotted manure and till it into our bountiful black soil and so we end up with crops like this year’s – amazing.
The garlic is bigger than it has ever been, more robust and taller and with incredibly thick stalks. We mulched after planting in the fall and had almost no winterkill. In short it is an all-round bumper crop and with many more weeks of growing ahead we are looking forward to large, healthy garlic bulbs. To pre-order we have Tibetan, Russian Red, Yugoslavian and Chesnok varieties at 2021 prices of $11 a pound or $1.50 a bulb.
Life On the Farm Is Kind of Laid Back…
I was lying under our old (1963) John Deere 4020 tractor the other day, trying to re-attach a swing arm on the tiller hitch that had come unattached for the fifth time when the old John Denver song came on the radio. And of course I started humming Thank God I’m a Country Boy as clods of dirt and grease dropped down on my face.
I was thinking about our Yugoslovian garlic that I had just irrigated. We aren’t in June yet and the stems on the Yugos are the size of my thumb. There’s still a lot of growing there before scapes time and more after that which means the bulbs are going to be really big. Last year we ordered extra large bulbs from our regular seed stock supplier and it looks to be paying off. I’m tempted to dig one up and have a look but Lorraine likely won’t let me. I can see Yugos becoming very popular with our customers.
All of this was percolating through my brain when all of sudden I felt a little scrambling on my chest and looked down in time to see the red squirrel, which has a nest in the machine shed where I was lying, scamper over my chest and across the stomach of Dar, our German Shepherd who follows me everywhere and was sleeping in the sun at the edge of the shed. Things then went, ahem, very squirrelly. Dar jumped straight up, barking and growling as she rose, the squirrel jumped up on the faded green fender of the truck and started chirping at the dog and I let go of the swing arm which smacked against my arm, then the tiller and unloaded a huge clod of mud in my mouth.
Lorraine came around the corner just in time to see me wiggle out from under the tractor.
“What are you guys up to in here?” she asked.
“Nuthin,” I said. “Nuthin at all.
Kinda laid back….
May 25, 2022
It's such a busy time of year but we thought we'd take a break to share pictures of some of the new calves. Some might remember we had a black Scottish Highland bull last year and it's been fascinating to see the range of colour in the calves: tan, pink, grey, black :)
May 7, 2022
It's thrilling to watch life returning!
Garlic, of course, but also leaf buds and blossoms are
wonderful. We've seen quite a few lovely feathers lying around.
You can see why 'feathering your nest' would be very luxurious,
right? There's a gorgeous nurse tree in the woods with 3 new
spruce trees thriving in its old roots. Nature is in such
perfect balance -- as soon as the birds are back the bugs are
also around to feed them. There are a few very early weeds
flowering just in time to feed the early butterflies. Whenever
we find insects annoying we think of how complex nature is and
we leave them alone if we can. We'll be in touch with our email
list before too long so if you'd like to be added to the list be
sure to pop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 24, 2022
We feel like we're on the verge of warm weather and we're so ready for it! Our onion transplants are coming along well and they're enjoying the strong Spring sun during the day. We bring them inside for the night -- opposite to their summer life where it's hot during the day and cool at night. We're growing our usual varieties and we added a red onion that's supposed to have superior storage ability. We are so excited to see the garlic emerging. In the woods we see the early plants coming along. Bearberry is a robust ground cover that takes advantage of the early spring sun to grow quickly before the trees have their leaves and block out some of the rays. There are just a few berries left for the nesting birds but there are also an increasing number of bugs waking up to keep them fed.
March 27, 2022
We're having very typical Spring weather this year where the nights are below freezing but the afternoons are warm. The garlic patch is losing snow fairly quickly and we've started to pull it back so the soil can warm up. In the yard ice forms on puddles then some of the water underneath soaks into the slowly-thawing soil underneath, leaving one of the joy's of Spring for kids everywhere - cracking the ice in the morning :) Each Spring we hear the American Widgeon although we don't always see it. They don't stay on our stretch of the Red Deer River but they rest here for a few days at the end of March. They're remarkable because of their call - they sound like a rubber duck toy whee-whee. The picture isn't great but we don't like to pester them - we respect their wildness and don't want them to become accustomed to us really. Geese and Goldeneye are busy on the river right now also. We saw an enormous eagle in the woods by the river and wondered if it had it's eye on the large flock of waxwings in a neighbouring tree. Snow gets into the crevices on fallen logs and helps to break them down as it thaws and freezes - expanding and contracting to widen the cracks. Deer and bunnies enjoy gnawing on bark of young trees and bushes to get the rich sap that's starting to flow. Poplars are sending out catkins in abundance. The onions are growing fast and we're trying an additional red one this year that's supposed to have great storage properties. We find that our white onions are still firm and great at this time year and the red ones are good but are just starting to get some green in the middle. As someone said last year - it's still onion isn't it?
February 21, 2022
It's exciting to watch the onions grow. The
majority of the seeds emerge together and spread into harp
shapes before springing up as tiny spears. They strengthen daily
although we have some challenges on cloudy days and on very cold
days with a South wind as they sit in our south-facing windows.
A few seeds poke up after the rest of their cohort as you can
see in the third picture. This little harp is in the pot in the
fourth picture so it's a couple of weeks behind it's group, but
it should thrive and become a good onion!
January 30, 2022
Welcome, 2022! Pictured is one of the 2021 calves looking so sweet with her little horns. It's a good thing the Highland have such thick hair coats with the extremely cold weather we had over Christmas and into the New Year. Since then we've had much milder conditions but there's lots of winter left, of course. Our garlic is holding up well and we sure hope everyone is having that experience. We've been cooking lots of beef and made a short video of making pot roast if you'd like to see it on you tube.
Here are a couple of recipes that we enjoy
every year over the holidays. Our son spent time in Australia
and said that one of the best things he ate there were meat
pies, so we adopted them and now they're a mainstay. They're
really convenient because you can make an enormous batch ahead
of time, freeze them and then simply heat them in the microwave
when you need them. We made both chicken pot pie and beef Guinness pie
together last week. Our daughter made gorgeous pastry and helped
chop mountains of mushrooms, carrots and onions. The garlic is
still in great shape, happily. The beef filling takes quite a
long time but its flavour is fabulous.
We've gotten a bit of snow so the garlic
patches have a blanket on top of their straw layer. So many
things are more beautiful when covered with snow.
The garlic is covered with straw and we're
enjoying the gorgeous fall weather. The local wildlife seems to
be enjoying it also. The rabbits have turned white and so are
easier to see against the lovely colours. There is so much to
eat in the woods for the resident moose and deer. It's sweet to
see how the berry season progresses - animals seem to like the
same ones we like. Saskatoons, raspberries and strawberries are
eaten as soon as they turn ripe, and chockecherries disappear
once there isn't anything else available. Crabapples, which the
birds must have planted in the woods many years ago as the trees
are 25 feet high, get eaten in a single feast - here one day and
gone tomorrow. The mountain ash berries similarly go in batches
but there are more of these trees so they last well into the
winter. Bearberries must be very tasty, although we haven't
tried them. We feel like the birds and other berry-eaters need
them more than we do! Rosehips last until next Spring which is
good for wildlife since they provide Vitamin C.
The garlic is all in the ground! It's such a great feeling :) We planted a lot of garlic this year - the reliable strong varieties Music with its large cloves and Tibetan with its smaller cloves. We added a Porcelain called Yugoslavian which has enormous cloves and possibly the strongest taste. When we were splitting the cloves for planting we could smell the vibrant aroma and we can't wait to taste some next Spring! It's pictured below in the first picture. We have Red Russian which has large cloves and a beautiful medium flavour prized for canning and roasting. Chesnok Red is a Purple Stripe variety (like Tibetan) which has the highest allicin content, a lovely mellow taste and small cloves making it ideal for those who treasure garlic for health reasons. Our favourite Rocambole, German Red, rounds out the crop for 2022. It's a garlic that suits every purpose - a lovely taste for dressings and marinades and a rich flavour for roasting without overpowering your taste buds.
For those who plant their own garlic we hope to have a good idea next year of whether smaller cloves thrive in our tough Alberta growing conditions. In our reference books we've read that the smallest clove from a large garlic bulb has the genetics to grow a large bulb itself. We aren't certain that this holds true for us, so this year we didn't separate the tiny cloves if we could avoid it. You see below that sometimes two cloves are fused together. The outer wrapper doesn't separate the cloves although it looks like two bulbs could grow. Sometimes the wrapper does separate the two cloves but we left them together to see whether we'd get lots of 'twins' where two bulbs grow too close together and end up flattened on the side they share. For those that we did split we planted in a separate spot and we'll see if they thrive next year.
There is no match for tomatoes grown directly in the soil. Their flavour is strong and complex. Our ripe tomatoes are steamed and run through a tomato press to remove skins and most seeds. The resulting puree (passata as it’s called) is a beautiful, tasty base for so many delicious dishes – sauces, soups, rice and beans. We make the passata with a mix of ripe tomatoes: traditional romas, sharp cherry tomatoes plus sweet sub-arctic plenty and flavourful ultrasonic tomatoes all grown in our healthy soil without herbicides, pesticides or fertilizer. Only one ingredient: tomatoes.
We freeze it in a range of containers: 375 ml and 1 litre which would be good for single dishes or bigger meals, and 3.5 litres or 7 litres which would be ideal for those of you who are canners.
We use the passata in many dishes. For
spaghetti and chili the passata is excellent and you can add the
frozen tomato directly to your hot meat or bean mixture then
simmer it until thoroughly hot. We love making Spicy Red Rice
and there’s a printed recipe or you can look at it
online here. Tomato kidney beans are a healthy and
delicious side dish and the recipe is here. We
cacciatore and the passata makes it so flavourful! There
are three soups: tomato
soup and minestrone.
A recipe we tried this year is homemade ketchup! It’s
something we like the idea of – the recipe calls for much less
sugar than commercial ketchups use and it’s much easier to
control your portion size when you spoon it out of a jar rather
than squeeze it from a bottle, and how gourmet. We adapted the
recipe from one we saw in the Backwoods Home Magazine from
January/February 2007 in an article by Jackie Clay. Backwoods
Home website is definitely worth checking out :)
We’re using good quality containers that we’ll charge a deposit for and then credit back if you return them when you get more.
The tomato passata is $9/litre.
Total incl. container deposit
**10% off 1 litre cost
Nigel Slater shared a recipe for Tomato Tart in The Guardian on July 25th, 2021. That's when they have an abundance of tomatoes in England, but we're just getting to that stage now.
Pastry: 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp of baking powder, 1/3 cup olive oil, a pinch of salt and 5 tablespoons of iced water.
Filling: 2 big mild onions or shallots (2-3 cups), 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, 1 cup of small tomatoes, 1 or 2 cloves garlic.
Sift flour with baking powder and add olive
oil and salt. Mix until it sticks together and put in the fridge
for 20 minutes.
Chop the onions into strips and gently fry in olive oil until golden with the thyme and some pepper. Remove from heat.
Set oven to 400 degrees. Bring out the pastry and knead it a bit, adding a tablespoon or two of water if necessary. Place a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet and roll the dough into a large disc about a foot in diameter. Don't try to make too neat a job of it - it will look better if the edges are rough.
Leaving a 2" rim of pastry around the edge, spread the softened onions loosely over the pastry. Cut the tomatoes in thick slices over the onions. Peel and thinly slice the garlic clove(s) on the tomatoes. Trickle a little olive oil over, then season with salt and pepper. Roll up the edges and pinch a bit to hold up. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and leave for 5 minutes to settle then enjoy!
Ode to tomatoes! It's so exciting to watch and wait for the tomatoes to ripen. We'll eat as many as we can while they're fresh but we'll be happy to have lots of extras for making tomato passata to use all winter. We freeze them until we have enough to process through a tomato press that removes the skins and most of the seeds. We have many ways to use tomato passata: Spicy Red Rice, Chicken Cacciatore, Tomato Soup, as well as chili and spaghetti sauce of course. There are a couple more you tube videos of the rice frying and the rice bubbling.
What a busy time it's been between digging and hanging all the garlic and hosting Open Farm Days last weekend, but now it's calmer. As the garlic dries we're preparing orders. We've had some calves and they're so gorgeous and sweet. Our pasture has been terribly dry but we're fortunate to have hay on hand and have been feeding the cows all summer. We have a couple of animals booked into the abattoir for November 23rd if anyone has an interest in a side of beef, or a quarter. Robins nested right along our walking path this summer and 3 eggs hatched last month. We've had lots of wasps this summer and are watching one of the largest nests ever down in the woods. We'll pick it up this winter if it survives intact - we've also seen a couple of wasp's nests torn apart. The wasp grubs must be delicious to coyotes and birds.
Digging our first garlic is always an exciting time for us and this year has been no exception. From the time we plant the bulbs in the fall, then mulch them with straw, fret over them in the cold nights of winter, make sure the new sprouts are uncovered in the spring and begin the never-ending task of hand weeding, we always wonder how the garlic bulbs buried in the earth are making out. So when the scape season ends and we start selling fresh garlic right from the earth we are always keen to see how the whole process has played out and pleased when the bulbs look and smell great.
We got our first orders for fresh garlic late last week and, wow, what a great feeling when we saw how wonderful the bulbs look. And smell. We dug up some Music, Red Russian, Chesnok, Georgian Fire and Tibetan for a few customers who visited us and all of us were thrilled (well happy anyways) to see big unblemished bulbs full of firm cloves coming out.
In a roundabout way that brings us to our latest update. We have sold, via pre-order, roughly 75% of our garlic this year. It is gratifying to us that so many of our customers have placed orders with us in advance of the garlic ever seeing the light of day and we are very thankful.
We are sold out of Chesnok, Kyber, Aliah, German Red, Leningrad, Italian and French Roca varieties. Still available are Music, Tibetan and Russian Red and, in small amounts, Georgian Fire and Romanian. These are available either fresh from the ground (dug on the spot) or to pre-order, harvested later and cured.
We have dug a few of the Music, Tibetan and
Russian Red and they look super. They, along with Chesnok, are
the varieties we planted the most of and they are quite popular
during Alberta Open Farm Days (August 14 and 15) when we hope to
have 250 to 300 visitors at the farm.
We can tell the stages of the summer season by where we are in the garlic – now scape time is ending and fresh garlic is here. Soon it will be time to harvest the garlic and begin the process of curing and drying.
Ode to potatoes :)
Alberta is famous for tasty root crops and when you eat a freshly dug potato you understand why - the flavour is wonderful. A treasured cookbook here is Food That Really Schmecks by Edna Staebler and in a recipe she instructs us to peel potatoes and reserve the starch to thicken gravy. Why do we buy cornstarch? Her comment made me question something I heard about early potatoes containing more starch than later potatoes. I think it's the opposite. Early potatoes have a much higher water content and I think that's why they don't store very well. It's best to dig up enough potatoes for a couple of days then get more when you need more. As the summer progresses the potatoes can sit for longer and still taste great until at the end of the summer, potatoes have substantial skins that allow them to be stored for a very long time and you can buy pounds and pounds of them. The first picture is of one pound of potatoes (about 12 small potatoes) and that's a generous meal for two people who love potatoes. You can see about how big they are in my hand. We give the potatoes a quick wash and brush with a soft vegetable brush which we have in the barn for you to purchase ($1.75). We cut them into roughly equal-sized pieces and leave the little ones whole. We got a tip from a friend who's a fabulous cook -- she steams her potatoes and it works really well.
Garlic Scape Soup
1 pound garlic scapes
2 litres chicken stock
Salt & pepper to taste
Herbs to taste – parsley or whatever you like (basil, thyme and rosemary all taste great)
Cream – 1-2 cups
Heat the chicken stock to boiling. Coarsely chop the scapes into pieces (5-10 cm long) and add to the stock. Cook until just tender (10-15 minutes). Pour the stock with scapes into a blender and blend until the scapes are 1 cm or less, then return to the pot and bring back to a boil. Add salt and pepper plus herbs, heat until wilted if using fresh herbs. Add the cream and heat until hot and enjoy! A parsley leaf and a tiny scape make a great garnish when serving. This soup freezes really well.
Garlic Scape Marinade
1/3 cup soy sauce
½ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar or wine vinegar)
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 or 3 garlic scapes
4 large basil leaves
2 large parsley leaves
½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
Put everything in the blender and chop and mix, then pour over meat. Refrigerate for up to 8 hours, drain marinade and cook as desired.
Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 garlic scapes
5 big parsley leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)
fresh dill (or 1/2 tsp dried)
chives or onion greens (or 1 tsp dried)
Blend well and enjoy!
Garlic Scape Pesto
10 garlic scapes
¼ cup pine nuts
½ cup grated sharp cheese
¼ cup vegetable oil
Pinch of salt and pepper
Coarsely chop scapes in a food processor and add nuts and cheese and chop to combine. Drizzle in oil and salt and pepper. Enjoy wherever you’d use pesto – crusty bread, on fresh pasta or grilled meat or vegetables.
The above scape
pictures are from previous years! And this year we finally found
out the name of a weird growth on some raspberries and wild
roses in the woods: Spiny Leaf Gall Wasp according to an
excellent website called Insects of Alberta.
We are in the middle of super weather right now: we had lots of sun and now are getting some welcome rain. The garlic looks amazing and vegetables are growing well. We have lots of tomatoes waiting in their newspaper pots for planting out in the garden. It was too hot to plant them last week and we have a couple of cool nights in the forecast but then it'll be time to get them in the ground. Lettuces look good, although the red leaf lettuce was transplanted when it was very hot and it's suffered a bit. We'll see how many survive in the next week - we have a pot of red lettuce transplants that we could fill in spots if we need to. Lettuce needs so much room in the soil - a planter that gets seeded in the house in the early Spring takes a long row of soil in the garden. Last year we had a portion of the lettuce growing in the main garden and we found that once it got established it was really hardy and the taste was better when grown in the soil. A gardening show on the radio this week mentioned how they don't support using soil dessicants like Round-up to kill weeds before planting (or at any time) which we completely agree with - weeds might be annoying but they may be contributing to the health of our soil so we live with them as well as we can. We planted beets, carrots, peas and rutabaga in wide rows and they're coming along well. We have a couple of types of turnip that should have tasty greens and tender roots that will be suitable for salads and summer pickles! Potatoes are really growing well and the onions are coming on strong. It takes a few days for the roots to take hold once the onions get transplanted. We have dill, cilantro and parsley growing in the garden although only parsley is pictured here. The tomatillos are planted in the big planter and the weather has been punishing for them with the hot winds we've had that stripped them of lots of their leaves but they seem to thrive in hardship - we see their stems getting stronger and new leaves starting to emerge. We'll use our email list to let people know when things are ready to eat so if you aren't on the list and would like to be, please send us an email and we'll add you. We'll post of facebook and instagram also if you'd like to follow us there.
There was a really thought-provoking article in The Guardian International online edition this morning (May 24, 2021). Shop local was the main take away, but it was backed up by masses of statistics and discussion prompted by EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) talks. For us it was like a customer appreciation article, because the truth is that it has to matter to consumers for producers to farm in the best way for good health, beneficial soil practices, conservative green space management and proper animal welfare.
We don’t kill weeds chemically or spray out grass and weeds anywhere on the farm. We believe that the complexity of plant, bug and microbial life is beneficial to the soil and to wildlife and also that it contributes to great tasting produce. The variety and abundance of wildlife is evidence of the health of these practices.
We don’t use fertilizers. If the soil is healthy and we don’t crowd plants into every available space we expect that the natural fertility of the soil will be adequate. The taste of our produce is the most important thing for us, not producing the biggest.
Our cattle have an abundant, comfortable life. We do our best to work with their natural instincts and minimize any stress on them.
When our customers appreciate our efforts by supporting us that is the ultimate confirmation for us. That’s the power of shopping local – using your money to reinforce your values.
One aspect of the CAP is that large, corporate farms in the EU are the beneficiaries of a disproportionate amount of funding, which was put in place to achieve the goal of supporting small farms. It’s difficult to get the outcomes desired for certain, but that just underlines the importance of individual actions like shopping local!
The goals of CAP probably match exactly with what most of us want. "Reforms to the CAP to be brought forward this week by the EU will include measures to encourage farmers to leave more space for wildlife, to adopt organic standards for livestock, to use less chemical fertiliser and pesticide, and to nurture healthy soils."
The beauty of our customers is that they encourage these values with their purchases. We do our part to reward our patrons by keeping our prices very reasonable. Because we don't fertilize or spray, we save that money and although we grow our produce organically, we aren't certified so we don't spend money on that either.
As consumers we can't rely on governments to make the right policies. We should make choices that conform with our values. We appreciate that our customers shop locally and support our efforts.
We're getting a good rain today, so we thought we'd update some pictures and share a picture of a tiger salamander we saw last week in the garden. It was really big and healthy looking. There's another picture of it on the photos page. We only have two types of salamander in Alberta (according to the Nature Alberta magazine Spring 2021 edition): tiger salamanders and long-toed salamanders, found in the mountains. We don't spray out weeds or add fertilizer to our vegetables, and the soil is full of worms, beetles, and seeds which probably appeal to the salamanders. Lots of onion transplants are growing outside now, along with parsley, cilantro and dill, but other transplants are waiting until the risk of frost is past - basil, dill, lettuces, marigolds, thyme and tomatoes, of course! Watch here for news of the lineup of vegetables coming this summer.
Now we're busy! Lots of seeds are planted, especially the root vegetables. We have a couple of new turnips that are great for fresh eating and the greens are super in salads or a stir fry. We've planted lots of beets and plan to use some panels to keep the deer from eating them, haha. We have a few types of carrots this year and a few types of lettuce. Salanova is a butter lettuce that we'll have this season for your enjoyment. We've planted lots of potatoes, including a new one for us called German Butterball! One big job right now is transplanting the onions. The red onions germinated really well this winter so we'll have lots of them, along with the Trekkers and Walla Walla sweet onions. We're watering them as we plant them because it's quite dry here right now, although we have rain in the forecast next week so we're hoping to get the onions all in before the rain starts.
It's a great time of year in the country - watching fall crops like garlic emerge and preparing to plant spring crops, seeing the woods and fields turning green (anytime now) and observing birds and animals getting ready for the next generation. A non-profit organization called Nature Alberta featured pictures of Saw-Whet owl juveniles in their Spring 2021magazine. The owls are gorgeous and they were noticed by someone out for a walk in Sylvan Lake - awesome! This week we saw a bald eagle in with the cows. It appeared to be gathering hay and straw for its nest and the cows were completely willing to share. On the photos page we put a few more pictures of the eagle since it's magnificent and some pictures highlight the fabulous feather details, or show how the eagle tucks in its talons in flight.
We found a charming book while organizing the
bookshelves this winter called The
Pattern Under the Plough by George Ewart Evans
(published by Faber and Faber in 1966). It's full of stories
from East Anglia but they're universal to country and farm life
everywhere. The author quotes an old proverb: farmers should
live as though they were to die tomorrow and to farm as if they
were to live forever. The author discusses the ancient belief of
planting crops according to the phases of the moon which we had
heard of before, but haven't put into practice before. This year
we're going to give it a try. The guideline is to plant root
crops when the moon is waning and above-ground plants when the
moon is waxing. The calendar says we'll have a new moon on May
11th, so if weather permits we'll plant root crops before then
and the tomato transplants, beans, corn, pumpkins, cucumbers and
zucchini after the 11th. Much will depend on the temperatures in
May of course, but we're interested to try it.
In the barn this year we'll have some books
called Storey Country Wisdom Bulletins. From the publisher: they
offer practical, hands-on instructions designed to help readers
master dozens of country-living skills quickly and easily. . .
their remarkable popularity reflects the common desire of
country and city dwellers alike to cultivate personal
independence in everyday life. The titles we have are pictured
below and just so you know, the Planning and Planting a Moon
Garden doesn't refer to the moon cycles discussed above - it's
about having a beautifully scented garden for people who work
long days - but we aren't certain what the book contains. The
bulletins were slipped into re-useable sleeves the day they
arrived at the farm to keep them clean and to ensure that only
their owners will flip through their copy. We have a few titles
that will be available to look through when you're here so you
can see how useful and interesting they are.
For years we've planted onions from seed into a rich soil mix and then transplanted them into the garden in May. For a couple of years we've used the same method for lettuce, and this year we added marigolds and tomatillos to be grown this way. It takes the least amount of inputs and space and the plants are so vigorous that it works well. When we're transplanting this year we'll do some updated videos so people can see the strong root systems they plants have that ensure their success. Luminous basil, parsley and thyme are pictured below. We still start these in individual pots, then put them into newspaper pots before planting them in their final location.
Our moose family is back and there's a new
picture of them on our photos page.
Newspaper pots are a big item here right now. Seeds are coming up and once they need the room to spread their roots they're so much better off in soil in the small pots. We use Pro-Mix with vermiculture compost and it's rich and healthy. It's also very much easier to gauge the water needs of the seedlings when they're in newspaper pots. It's a simple origami project and we made a video showing how we make them. There's also a video showing how they help you tell when a transplant needs water. Given that we don't get many newspapers in physical form we're trying a few pots using origami paper, although we're much happier reusing and reducing! The pots even get recycled into the garden during the growing season - so we'll continue using the newspapers we do have until we have to make a change. This year we'll find out if the heavier paper decomposes well enough.
March 9, 2021
Even though we probably will have some cold
weather yet, it's starting to feel like Spring and we're ready
for Spring! The onions are growing well -- we have lots of
Trekker, Ruby Ring and Walla Walla growing in the windows for
transplanting when it's warmer. We found a basket of onions in
the cold (cool) room today happily. We thought we were out, but
when we went to see how the garlic we bought for Spring-planting
was doing, there were about 20 onions we forgot about. They
likely were put there for a picture and then just stayed there.
The Trekkers are still completely firm and delicious. The Ruby
Ring are getting ready to sprout so we removed the middle
sections but found the outer rings still crisp and excellent.
This is exactly what we'd expect and we should use the Ruby Ring
and enjoy the Trekkers last. We didn't have Walla Wallas left
for longer-term storage, but they aren't supposed to last until
the new year and should be used in the calendar year they're
planted. If the onions we found today had been strung up they
would be in slightly better shape possibly, but they are really
nice regardless. Unfortunately the garlic was bad, so we'll only
have a bit of Spring garlic to plant. Maybe next year we'll save
some of our own for a more proper, larger-scale, experiment.
We made minestrone
soup last week and really liked it. Its main
characteristics are beans and Italian seasonings - otherwise
it's a tomato vegetable soup. To make a more substantial meal
add more beans and pasta. Usually when we use beans we boil
twice or three times as many as we need for the recipe and
freeze the extras for quick use later, but this is the last of
our beans for this winter. The garlic is still looking really
firm and nice, happily.
After the tremendous cold weather we had lately the onions are echoing our joy at feeling the sun's rays.
February 2, 2021
We're having soup weather right now. Our tomato passata makes a great base for soups and we've tried a couple of new (although obvious) soups. Today we made a vegetable soup that tastes like a canned version that's super but a home made version is tastier and healthier. It's delicious made with frozen vegetables which means it's also a really quick dish. It's good with fresh vegetables but will need more simmering or the crock pot which is totally fine. You may need to add water to keep your broth thin enough to cook the vegetables through. Years ago I read that cooked tomatoes have higher nutritional value than fresh tomatoes, which was surprising, but now that we cook with so much tomato I wonder if it's mainly because you eat so many more tomatoes when they're cooked into a sauce or passata? Either way, the tomato base is tart and strong and the soup is so flavourful! When cleaning out the cupboards last fall we must have gotten rid of the barley - put it out for the birds, probably. A quarter of a cup of barley would be a really tasty addition. Next time we'll make minestrone and share our recipe.
Happy New Year! We wish everyone the best for
2021 and let's hope we return to normal soon. Winter is seed
ordering time and it's a great project for us and all gardeners.
Dreaming of Spring and fresh produce is so fun, isn't it? We saw
some charming newspaper articles from the UK showing the largest
of different types of vegetables so we're going to try growing
some big ones of our own for 2021.
The winter continues to be so beautiful (we don't really consider winter starting December 21st around here). We had a hoarfrost this morning that was spectacular. Last week when it was quite warm we saw piles of dissected spruce cones that squirrels had taken apart for their seeds which sit at the base of the individual scales of the cones. Squirrels must sit in the sun and patiently take the cones apart and store the seeds for when we have a cold spell.
This weekend we started using garlic that we
planted in the Spring of 2020. We planted it in May as early as
we could. It emerged quickly once we got some warm weather,
which was later than usual in '20 and every clove sprouted,
which was an excellent result of course. Through the season we
worried that it was far behind the typical Fall-planted crop -
the seed garlic for those Spring-planted rows was garlic that we
had kept over for our own eating and it was mostly very small
cloves, which we normally wouldn't use for seed. Nonetheless it
thrived, and we picked it fairly late - around mid-September.
About three quarters of the plants were differentiated nice
garlic bulbs and about one quarter of the crop was
undifferentiated rounds with quite a thick neck. We didn't keep
these although we wish we had just to see how they looked now.
Most of the nice-sized bulbs went to our final pre-order
customer in the fall of 2020, but we had a small amount leftover
for our use. Last week we noticed that the bulbs are really nice
and firm. We cooked some tomato sauce with a few cloves and were
impressed. The taste is completely the same as our fall garlic
and the texture is perfect - crisp and juicy and as strong as
the fall-planted cloves. We'll plant anything we have leftover
this year again in the Spring of 2021 and treat it with a bit
more respect (such as weeding it) and discover whether last year
was an anomaly or whether planting in the Spring is a good alternative. The pictures
show the Spring garlic in the garden in July, hanging in
September and on the counter in December.
The new garlic-drying barn arrived yesterday!
Thanks to Classic Barns in Spruce View, AB (west of us on
Highway 54) for their good work. We can picture rows of garlic
and onions, baskets of potatoes and tomatoes - can't wait for
3 cups tomato puree (tomato passata)
1 cup water
1 ½ cups rice
1 medium onion
(or more to taste)
2 cloves garlic minced or sliced
2-3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to taste) this is fairly picante
Mix tomato, water, salt and cayenne in a medium saucepan and wait for rice mixture to turn on heat. Heat oil and sauté rice for about 3 minutes, until it’s turning golden brown, then add sliced onion and garlic and cook a further 3-5 minutes until onions look translucent. Add mixture to the tomato pot and heat until it’s boiling. We use a long grain parboiled white rice which then needs to simmer with a lid on for about 15-20 minutes, until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring occasionally. Then remove the pot from the heat source and let it sit for a few minutes to finish absorbing the liquid. Serve and enjoy!
It’s great with plain meat (fish, steak, chicken, pork chops) or with sliced meat cooked with a chili seasoning (cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cloves, oregano, garlic) and with sautéed sweet peppers.
November 2nd & 3rd
Each Spring we notice the odd garlic clove
sitting on the surface of the soil instead of sprouting like it
should be. Why do they get ejected? We really don't know why it
happens, but right now we have about two-thirds of the rows
covered with straw so we don't know what's going on underneath
and the remaining one-third are waiting for cold weather to
return before we cover them up. We noticed a clove sitting on
the surface of the soil this morning so we dug a hole to
re-plant it and inadvertently dug up its neighbour and were
pleased to see the root growth. Soil conditions are excellent
with nice moisture and no frost, although before the recent warm
spell we did have a couple of inches of frost. On Tuesday
morning we found this skull at the edge of the woods. Months ago
there was a pile of huge feathers close to this spot and we knew
a big bird had been eaten but imagine finding the skull - it's
gorgeous. We'll have it in the barn next summer for people to
The farm's autumn schedule is mostly finished. And, although 2020 has certainly had its trials and tribulations, we had an amazing year at Garlic Goodness thanks to an excellent growing season and the loyalty and patronage of our super customers.
Our garlic crop was largely pre-ordered early in the summer and our potatoes, onions, beets, rutabaga ad carrots sold out as well. Tomatoes, always our last crop to mature and sell, were almost entirely sold this year before they even turned red and were popular in delicious puree. Our Highland beef sides sold out mid-summer.
One of our goals has always been to keep prices very reasonable so that our produce is accessible to everyone. We think we've achieved that.
This fall we planted our largest garlic crop ever with 12 different varieties. Along with Music (developed in Canada) and Chesnok Red we have back by popular demand the hot Georgian Fire, German Red, French Roca and Leningrad. New varieties come from places around the world and are new to us, and, we think, to Alberta. Making their debut are Tibetan, Italian, Romanian, Khyber and Aliah. In addition, we planted lots of Russian Red after receiving several requests for it. Each garlic type has its own characteristics and we sourced the seed bulbs from the highest quality sources available so we are excited to see the results in the spring.
We're wishing you all the best over the winter and we hope to see you all in 2021.
September is a busy month on the farm, I see. Cleaning garlic and getting ready for planting dominates our days, along with picking everything else! We got an early frost and brought in our tomatoes. As they ripen we've been making tomato puree and we'll share some recipes for using it. Last night we made chicken cacciatore. There's a you tube video showing us making tomato soup. The 'recipe' is to reduce 3 cups of tomato puree to about 2 1/4 cups and add 3/4 cup of whipping cream, heat through and enjoy. We perfected our recipe for Spanish Rice tonight.
Here's a summary of recipes this season:
We're nearly finished picking garlic! For
those who saw the rows of garlic that still had their scapes on
this year so that we could distinguish between German Red and
Chesnok Red here are pictures that show the big bulbils of
German Red on the left and the smaller bulbils of the Chesnok on
I was reading a psychology article that was making the point that our brains will make up a story to fit the situation in which we find ourselves. I can’t remember where I read it or I’d cite it. It’s fascinating to me because we want things to make sense, so we fill in logical assumptions. The experiment mentioned in the article had two groups: one had to work really hard to be allowed to join a group – pass tests and pay a fee, whereas the second group was given instant admission. The group they joined was the same for both groups – purposefully boring and tedious, a bit rude and obnoxious. After a time, the participants were surveyed about their impressions of the group. Those who had to invest a lot to join rated the group much more positively than the second group, which rated the group as boring, etc. The conclusion from the academics was that our brains assume that if we worked so hard to gain membership it must have been time well spent. The reason I was thinking about this was because we kind of take pride in our low prices, and we set them to be affordable for everyone while providing a decent return for us. Our quality is as high as we can make it. We don’t use any chemicals to spray weeds or bugs, or fertilizers to maximize yield. We feel like we have lots of room and we’d rather plant more plants if we want more produce on offer. We’ve read and attended lectures that say diversity of plant matter and an abundance of organic matter are critical for soil health so we attempt to maintain and improve our soil. We have clean, soft well water that we use if we need to water the gardens. We do pretty much everything by hand and by ourselves with help from our adult children when they’re free. For these reasons we could charge a premium price and there’s no question that the vast majority of our customers could afford to pay a high price like they would for boutique, exclusive items. We want to make some money from the farm and we set our prices so that we’re happy with our return, don’t get me wrong. But we want to have everyone able to afford our produce. What we don’t want is for anyone to think that it’s not awesome or amazing because they didn’t have to pay a multiple of the grocery store price for it! Remember we don’t have regular employees to pay, or pay rent for a store or a booth space, and for the most part you have to come out to our place, which we appreciate very much!
It's been a hot, hot week! It's really super weather for the garden. The beans are growing well and we'll have some nice dry ones this year. The corn is coming along and when you look at the tops you can see definitely that it's a grass.
We made some potpourri this week with beautiful-smelling sweet clover, mainly. To me it smells like the prairies. We have some linen to sew it into to make sachets.
We have Spanish onions growing this year and they're great! As we were told, they can just be eaten raw because they're so sweet. We tried them as onion rings and they were very good that way, too.
When our kids were younger and we'd have holidays where there were woods we'd often see an odd foam that looked like an animal had spit on the plants. It was so weird, but now we live with beautiful woods, and we see the spit often. It must be an over-abundance of moisture that gets forced out of the plant at a joint because the plant just can't grow fast enough? Kind of hilarious now to think of a bear or moose wandering around spitting on plants :)
Update summer 2021 - found out there's a bug
called a spittlebug! Pretty much self-explanatory.
We planted a few seeds where the beet row was
bare and it's very cool to see how the plants emerge: a hoop of
fuscia, then the cotyledon leaves flatten out showing the
distinctive purple veins. Golden beets have quite yellow veins.
Next week we'll share a potato salad recipe that looks amazing -
hot crisp potatoes on a bed of greens with a pesto-like dressing
- yum! It looks fabulous, but we have to perfect the pesto once
we have lots of scapes to work with. We haven't peeked at any
potatoes yet, but the flowers are nearly open so we're getting
We're excited - scapes are almost ready! We've set up a table where we'll have the Square card reader so you can pick up your order and pay with tap. Your account will show 'SQ' or 'gosq' when you tap. Email us: email@example.com or text 403-506-2129 with our order. If you prefer you can email transfer us - we have autodeposit so you won't need a password. If you haven't been to the farm have a look at the video showing a bit of the farm.
Getting ready for the season: lots of paper bags, scale is ready, card reader is ready. Vegetables are coming along. Pictured below are beets (red and golden), carrots and an onion. In July these will all be $2/pound, along with potatoes when they're all ready. Garlic scapes will be 10 cents and lettuce and herbs will be $1 per bunch. We're hoping to have scapes at the beginning of July and beets and potatoes in the first week of July, weather permitting and we'll email and message when we do.
Lots of signs of Spring now: violets and wild strawberries, the gorgeous common blue butterfly and haskap blossoms. There's a crab apple tree growing on the flood plain of the Red Deer River - birds must have seeded it there years ago and it's in full bloom. There was a bald eagle across the river from us this morning, and just the bits of a trout left on our side - it was probably waiting for us to leave to finish it off. It looked like a pretty big fish!
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.
Lorraine & Kevin Bannister
Red Deer County, ABT4G 0M9
Member of the Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association
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