Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

From Michael and I and of course all the animals at the farm, we wish all our customers, friends and family 
a very Happy, Healthy and "Green" New Year. 
We thank everyone for their continued support in 2011 and we look forward to providing everyone with "nutritionally dense food" from our fields to your table in 2012.

Monday, December 5, 2011

December is already here!

Not sure where the time really goes but we are already in December and counting the days down till Christmas.

This year has ended with lots of rain which is great as we have a full cistern in the basement heading into winter!  The water table is back to where it should be plus a little extra! But lots of rain and mud does make for some rather grumpy animals around the farm!

Life at the farm at this time of year is one of reflection of the past years growing season.  It's time for us to catch up on the comments from our CSA members about their experience, making plans and changes for next year, reading through seed catalogues and planning for next years garden. Taking reservations for pastured poultry, fattening up our Christmas turkeys, doing the accounts, winterizing the animal housing, taking a goat on a date, collecting more pigs and trying to fly one in from Nova Scotia. Getting hay and straw in for the animals, building the goats a permanent top paddock for winter, discing and cultivating the growing area in between several days of rain at a time, wrapping bee hives, cutting fire wood and also time to attend a few farm auctions, find a manure spreader and catch up with friends who we really don't get to see during the growing season.

Our new but old Cockshutt Manure Spreader
We can actually cross one item off the list which is find a manure spreader!  Ours finally came home this week after a long two year search we finally found one in pretty good condition.  Woo Hoo!!
Michael has a little bit of work to do on our  70 year Cockshutt relic but all being well we will be spreading our animals manure with our own manure spreader in the Spring!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Field Clearing...

The CSA and farmers market have come to a close and the major work of clearing the field begins. 
Last week one of our CSA members came over to help with clearing the tomato area.  All the Velcro ties had to be removed before we could cut the trellis strings and pull the vines out.  This year we invested in metal poles to create a vineyard of tomatoes which really made a huge difference in yield and picking.  Only one problem is that it is back breaking work trying to pull 6ft metal poles out of the ground and we had about 100 to remove!  That is if you don't have a Michael in your life.

Michael with his invention!
We did start trying to pull them out with a wiggle back and forth and then a lot of grunting but the soil was holding on and it was going to take a month of Sundays to do, Michael thought he had seen a post puller but after a few phone calls thought it was a figment of his imagination. Well lucky for us he does have the imagination as he created his own one in 10 minutes with a bolt, two pieces of 4 x 2's and a heavy metal pole.  With the placement of the  bolt in the pole and the correct leverage it made lifting the poles out of the field easy work. 
Within a week we have cleared all of the field bar the brassica bed, as we still have crops growing there.  We are in the middle of processing several crops for our larder and the other root vegetables we are storing in our basement.
May & Lily have been watching the field clear up in great anticipation of getting out on the field to work.  The girls will start discing this weekend. We are not sure how we are going to spread manure yet as we are still looking for a horse drawn spreader, fingers crossed Michael might have another one of those great ideas!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Road Trip...

After much discussion at the farm we made the decision to purchase another Nigerian goat as it  will be another year before we can breed Eva.   After a few days of searching we found Black Jack Stables in Campbellville, Ontario and sent a few e-mails to the very patient Sue who answered loads of questions and e-mailed loads of pictures of her doe she had for sale.  
Today was the day to take a road trip to go and see Elly!  Being the type of people we are we new it was going to be a 3 hour drive there so this week we made a few changes to the goat house to create a quarantine area just in case we came back with Elly.  After morning chores we headed out onto the open road for what we new would be a long day in the truck!  
So after nearly 6 hours of driving and two hours out of the truck we arrived back at the farm and not empty handed.
We are very excited to introduce our newest member of the Knotty Ash Herd Cedar Glenn Elly.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Autumn is just around the corner...

Fall has already started to show it's face, as the leaves start to change colour. The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder and we have already had our first three nights of frost at the farm!
We start to change gear from seeding and transplanting to clearing the field of plants that have finished,  allowing us to get the field ready for fall discing, manure spreading(if we ever find a horse drawn one!) and cultivation.  Most evenings at the farm at this time of year are spent preserving, freezing and canning vegetables for winter use and it is always nice to see the pantry shelves re-stocked with vegetables from the garden.

May & Lily working hard!
Over the last few weeks we have had the opportunity to test drive a new piece of horse drawn equipment.  It is called the "homesteader" and is designed and manufactured by Pioneer in Dalton Ohio, USA.  All being well it should be available to purchase as of 2012.  And for a small scale market garden it has great potential.
The homesteader with cultivator attachment.

It has been an interesting experience especially with having Suffolk Punch's as they are shorter in length and height and we have had to adjust the equipment slightly to accommodate this.  We love the cultivator attachment and May & Lily seem to enjoy working with the homesteader.  The nice thing about this piece of equipment is the interchangeable tools.  It also has discs, a potato digger,  and plough and hopefully more attachments will be made.   It took me a while to get used to being seated in a lower position and I had to get used to having a blind spot where I can not see anything directly in front of me when driving which has been funny as I nearly ran Michael and Kim over the other day while we where making adjustments. To be very honest most equipment I have sat on and used so far has not be made for people with long legs and the homesteader has pedals which means for me I have happy hip flexors and happy long legs!  I get to rest my feet on a set of pedals which helps to steer the wheels and adjust the line you are working on.  We will just have to wait and see if it becomes a permanent feature at the farm as everyone is still waiting to see how much it will cost to purchase!  But in the meantime we have enjoyed the opportunity of being able to test drive one.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August is here..

A rainy, cold wet spring to a blistering hot summer, who ever thought this season would change so dramatically in such a short period of time.

As we are learning and growing with our farm each year we start to realise that one season will never be like the last and this really has been a testing season for us at the farm.
Some vegetables have suffered with the heat/draught conditions as we do not have irrigation but others have done incredibly well.  We have more rain today which is always welcome, but sadly when plants have spent so long without water, when we have lots of rain it then causes yet another set of problem as vegetables are now starting to split!

The CSA is in full swing and our members are enjoying the bounty of the garden.  We keep our fingers crossed it will continue being fruitful 'till the end of the season.

Last month also saw the arrival of our two Berkshire gilts Ina and Nigella.  They will be the founding breeding stock for "Le Cochon Volant" herd.  Registered stock and wieners will be available for purchase in 2012.  

Eva and Soren are growing each day and have brought a new dynamic to the farm.  Soren is generally rather quiet and still a little shy, where as Eva likes to stand at the back door of the goat house and scream down the valley to hear her voice echo around the farm.  "Knotty Ash" is now our official herd name and we hope to be breeding Eva towards the end of this year or early next year.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

To Bee or not to Bee that is the question.........

We rarely have watches on while working on the field so we gauge the time by daily events on the road.  It is always around 7am and 3pm when the school bus goes by and our mail lady tends to drive by anytime between 12-1pm.  Once she has been we tend to stop for lunch.  Before heading back to the house we collect eggs and check on all the animals which is a pretty easy and uneventful chore.  Accept for Tuesday!  As I made my way down the field I heard a noise that makes me want to run in the other direction! I shouted for Michael and I have a certain tone that Michael knows something is wrong! He came heading over and did the same facial expression I had and then muttered about the weather! All these goings on means one thing the Bees had started to swarm!
Michael jumped in the truck, headed over to our neighbours to borrow the tractor as it was to high in the tree to reach from the ladder, suited himself up, collected a box and off we headed to catch the bees.  I remembered the camera this time! Michael gave me another quick lesson on how to drive the tractor and in the bucket he climbed.  He caught the  swarm but after re-homing them they all ended up going back to the hive they left, so it may have been a mating flight rather than a swarm.  Michael will have to keep a close eye on the hive over the next few days as this happened in our first year of having bees and a few days later they did swarm.

Update: 24 hours later they did swarm and settled in a tree in the horses paddock.  Michael managed to get up the tree on a ladder with a box and caught them again!  He has put them in a new hive and at present they seem rather happy.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

May is finally here, again...

I am having a sense of de-ja-vu as I write this for the second time this month! For some reason the original blog entry had disappeared after it was published, so fingers crossed this entry stays up longer!
May & Lily hard at work
I am not sure if Spring is really here? We were busy on the field last week discing and cultivating with May and Lily who after having two months off because of the inclement weather did an amazing job, but this last weekend has brought another dose of cold wet weather to the farm and with this an abundance of grasses and weeds have already re-grown on the field.  My theory to this is you know that we do not use herbicides when you see the lush grass and weeds growing!
I am actually impressed that all the animals are doing really well but all of us would like to feel a little more warmth and see a little more sunshine.
Before the rain started on Saturday we did manage to plant the first 400ft of snap peas, get 300ft of potatoes in the ground and move all the white rock chickens out onto pasture.
Garlic Patch

The greenhouse is filling up rather fast with crops and all the succession planting we have to do for the CSA.  Everything is thriving and looking amazing but we would rather see all the crops in the garden than in the greenhouse.  Last year Michael and I built raised beds around the greenhouse and this allows us to plant crops out when we have seasons like this that stop us from being on the field.  The beds are filling up with Chinese cabbage salad onions, radicchio, shallots, Chinese artichokes, radish and top setting onions.  The garlic patch is thriving and fingers crossed for another good crop this year.

Soren & Eva
We have seen several new arrivals to the farm over the last few weeks including our day old Oprington Buff chicks who will become our new eggs layers. We have finally welcomed Soren and Eva our two Nigerian Dwarf goats.  They have been here for 5 days and finally Eva has learned the power of the inner voice.  For the first 24 hours she did prove for such a little thing she has a rather large set of lungs. After all the screaming we think she did give herself a very sore throat by Thursday. They are both doing really well and love attention, Soren has taken to sitting on our laps, and Eva likes chewing on all our clothing.  Eva will become our milking goat in the future and our founding goat for the "Knotty Ash" herd at Strattons Farm.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Power Outage....

chicks staying warm by the stove.
Thursday brought a huge windstorm to most of eastern Ontario and for us a day without power and several days without internet.
The power outage brings a little bit of panic when you have day old chicks under heat lamps in the brood house!  We decided the best option for the Orpington Buffs was to bring them into the house and light the wood stove to keep them warm.
Michael chose a more Victorian approach when it came to keeping heat in the brood house for the older chicks. This was to place several metal trays on the floor filled with candles.  We were both surprised at how much heat tea lights can create.  It also smelt lovely as Michael used all my scented candles!
We where rather lucky as the electricity came back on at 17.30hrs. We are not sure what we would have done if like some of the homes in this area who reached today, Monday, 4 days after the storm and still had no power.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring has sprung...

March sunrise at the farm
It feels like it has been a long time coming but Spring has officially arrived.  After the dump of snow the next day, and the sudden drop in over night temperatures, I don't think any of us are convinced about Wiarton Willies preditciton of 6 weeks till spring! 
But that is March's temperamental weather patterns and winter not really wanting to let go.

March has seen two more of our Berkshire pigs leave the farm, seeding starting in the greenhouse, a trip to see baby Nigerian dwarf goats, greenhouse workshop, a speech at our local horticultural society and sadly the loss of some of our bees and lots of spring flooding at the farm.

Spring cleaning has started at the farm, even though we clean all the animal housing out during winter we only every remove the top layers as it helps to keep the heat in if we allow a thick bed to develop so this is the time of year when everyone's home gets a good clean and scrub out and we start our manure piles for Fall spreading. There is nothing better than using what the animals create to add fertility back into the growing field.

One of our goals on the farm is to slowly take the land back as we need it and to become more sustainable so this year we are going to be frost seeding one of the paddocks/fields for May and Lily. This will give us hay for the girls but also give them bigger paddocks to graze over on their days off.  Michael and I measured the field. Michael had a good laugh as I managed to walk over the ice and not glide, resulting in me falling through into 12 inches of frozen water. This led to my boots sitting by the stove to dry out  for 4 days!

The CSA vegetable boxes have been reserved at a tremendous rate this year and we are know creating a waiting list for this season.  We always grow more than we need, this allows us to still attend a farmers market and also for any loses that might occur during the season. We will be offering a few additional boxes nearer to the start of the season so please contact the farm if you would like to be placed on the waiting list.  
I attended a great workshop this month on greenhouse extension and offering a Winter CSA. Michael and I are planning to offer a small one this winter 2011-2012 as a trial to allow us to see how well it will work.  We have set up a survey for everyone to fill out to gauge the amount of interest for this.   Click here to take the winter CSA survey.

Seeding has started in the greenhouse but with the sudden drop in temperatures we have spent a few days not going inside.  The greenhouse is solar passive, which means we do not pay for heat, we allow the sun to do all the work.  Even on a cold day like today it  is very warm inside, the raised bed tunnels hold their temperatures really well, but when it does get a bit cooler we tend to leave it all locked up so the heat remains in.  With the sudden thaw and rain we did have several rivers running through the greenhouse this year which made for some interesting digging and drainage.

1.5" soil bocks
This season we are learning to grow in soil blocks.  This is allowing us to reduce our plastic plug tray usage, fingers crossed producing even stronger plants to be transplanted out into the field.  The soil blocks are made from a wetter than normal soil mix and the extra water and roots hold the blocks together.  Once tap roots emerge it is time to place them in the next size block.  It means we have less wastage, the roots never wrap around so it means there is little to no transplant shock and as the roots reach the end of the blocks they send all their engery back into growing stronger plants (called air pruning). We are very excited about this and will keep you updated on how they do.

We can get 300 3/4" blocks in a tray!
3/4" soil blocker.
Sad news on the farm is the loss of some of our hives. This is something that all bee keepers expect but it is always very sad to see.  It can be caused by lots of different things but many are saying it was the early spring last year that has caused some of these losses.  Fall flowers came in summer and the queen bees stopped laying eggs sooner so this meant there where less bees to survive through the winter. We have still been very lucky as we know of other bee keepers in the area who have had greater losses than us.

Nancy Drew and her triplets - 1 Buck and 2 Does
But with death comes birth on a farm and our friend and breeder of Nigerian Dwarf goats invited us to see her new arrivals.  Nancy Drew gave birth to 2 does and a buck.  We are waiting for Velvet to give birth and then we will be choosing a compainion or two for Soren.  Once the little ones are big enough and we have the new housing built they will be moving to the farm.  

Saturday, February 26, 2011

CSA Vegetable Boxes, only two shares left for the 2011 season!

March is only a few days away and already we have had a huge response to this years CSA Vegetable Box programme.  
We only have 2 shares left for this season, don't leave it to long to register if you would like to enjoy fresh, tasty, locally and naturally grown vegetables for an 18 week season.

Please remember shares are limited each year as this allows Michael and I to maintain a high quality of produce for you all.

What is a CSA or CSA Farm?: CSA farms receive a set fee from the consumer prior to the start of the growing season. In return you receive a share of the harvest on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, but you also share in the risks due to weather and other factors beyond the control of the farmer.

The Season: Will run over 18 weeks from the the week of the 13th June and will finish the week of 10th October Thanksgiving week.

What can you expect in your basket over the season: Arugula, Bush Beans, Runner Beans, Beets, Cabbage, Cucumbers, Chard, Chilies, Eggplant, Herbs, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Peas, Peppers, Potatoes, Radish, Rhubarb, Salad Leaf, Summer Squash, Sweet Corn, Winter Squash, Turnip, Tomatoes, Tomatillos and lots more to look forward to.

Pick-Up Location: Boxes will be available only from the farm and pick up days are either Tuesdays or Thursdays between 11am-6pm

Share Size: We offer two types of shares. Whole Share weekly basket and a Half Share a bi-weekly basket. A whole share will feed a family of four for a week or two adults who love veggies, love to cook or to preserve or can for winter. The half share is the same size box of veggies but you only collect your box every two weeks. This means if you are on your own, or don't eat as many veggies as some this will keep you happy and contented over a two week period.

How Much will it cost?: A whole share is $477 for the season, A half share is $238.50 for the season. This works out at $26.50 per box.

Payment Options: With your application you will need to enclose a $25.00 non refundable deposit cheque. You can pay for the season in Full or in 5 cheques which will be deposited over the season. All payments whether in full or installments are due by the 30th May 2011. If you choose to pay in installments over the season there will be an additional admin charge to each installment.

How do you apply?: Either e-mail or call the farm and we will get an application to you.
If you have any questions on the CSA scheme please do not hesitate to contact us, or read one of our earlier posts about the CSA.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Farm Update...

The farm after Wednesdays storm
It's been a busy winter so far.  Michael has been working at a local dairy milking and I continue to teach.  I am the lucky one as my job still allows me to work from home, so I am able to look after the animals that are with us through winter.

After the snow storm on Wednesday we spent yesterday grooming trails with May & Lily's help. It only took a few laps for the girls to clear the pathways to the chickens, ducks and of course their run-in, which would have taken Michael and I a good day to shovel.  

Seeds are starting to arrive and the greenhouse preparations are all underway, we will start building low tunnels in the next week and shortly after that seeding will commence.

Lily & May grooming trails

CSA vegetable boxes are filling up fast and we only have 7 shares left for this season.  So don't leave it too long if you are interested in reserving a fresh weekly or bi-weekly basket of veggies.

We are also taking Turkey orders for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We only have a few left for this season as with many other things we are limited to how many we are able to raise being a small farm and not buying into quota. We are looking at raising the Bronze Orlop this year.

As many know Michael sustained a horrible eye injury last summer and as of this week he was given the all clear by the eye doctor.  

Girls working hard to pull the tyre through the snow!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Donnie Brasco!

So this is nothing to do with the person or the movie but everything to do with a 19lb ham we had in the freezer! 

Aromatic Shoulder of Pork 'Donnie Brasco"  by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from The River Cottage Meat Book, cooked by Michael!

1 Shoulder of pork on the bone (we used a whole Berkshire ham)
5 Large cloves of garlic
5cm piece of fresh ginger
2 teaspoons of dried chili
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of flaky salt (we used sea salt)
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
1 tablespoon of soy sauce

2 star anise
2 teaspoons of fennel seed
1/2 cinnamon stock
4 cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Score the rind/fat of the pork with a Stanley knife in parallel lines about 1cm apart, to a depth of 1/1-1cm.
Grate the garlic and fresh ginger into a small bowl and mix to a paste with the chili flakes, ground ginger, brown sugar, salt, oil and soy sauce.  Pound the 5 spices in a pestle and mortar (or grind in a coffee grinder) and mix 1 tablespoonful into the paste (any left over will keep in an airtight jar; you could make larger quantities, if you like and store).
Place the pork, skin side up, on a rack above a large roasting tin.  With your fingertips, rub just over half the spice paste into the scored rind of the pork.  Place the joint in the centre of a very hot oven (450F) for 30 minutes.  The remove from the oven and, using oven gloves or a thick dry cloth, carefully turn the joint over to expose the underside.  Using a knife or wooden spoon this time (the meat will be very hot), smear the remainder of the paste over the underside of the meat (now facing uppermost).  Pour a glass of water into the roasting tin, turn down to 200F and replace the joint.  Leave for anything from 16-24 hours (we cooked ours for 24hours), turning it skin side up again, and basting with the fat and juices in the tin, about half way through.  About 45 minutes before you want to eat, whack up the heat to 450F again to crisp the crackling/fat.
To serve with simple starch, such as noodles, plain buttered macaroni, boiled rice or even mashed potatoes.

Have to say it was delicious, and the smell in the house for the 24hours it was cooking was amazing! 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

CSA Harvest 2010

July pick up day
I am in the middle of planning the 2011 CSA Vegetable box garden and have been looking over last years harvest and the amount of produce that Michael and I  picked for the members over the 18 week season. 

Our CSA members last year consumed the following amounts/weights of vegetables.  I have not put all vegetables on the list only a selection as we grow 47 different vegetable groups on the farm!

The amounts listed do not include what we harvested for the farmers market or farm gate sales!

 133 Heads of Lettuce
 72 Fennel heads
83 Heads of Cabbage
192lbs Tomatoes 
(we would have had more tomatoes if it had not been for the hail storm damage)
584 Beets 
157lbs Tomatillos 
401 Zucchini 
250lbs Potatoes 
76 Eggplant
125 Sweet Peppers

Our girls laid over 2532 eggs in 2010
Mid August pick up
September - pick up day

If you are interested in joining the 2011 season to receive fresh, local, chemical free vegetables for 18 weeks then please click on this link and contact the farm for your application form.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Heritage Berkshire Pigs.....

Even on a bright but chilly day the Berkshire's love to be outside.  They have free range of the barn filled with hay and straw to bury into at night  but we never lock them in.  The have a paddock to the south of the barn that they are free to roam around if they choose to and on a sunny winters day you will often find them all laying out against the back wall fast asleep in the sun.

Today we gave them an extra treat from our winter vegetable stores of squash and pie pumpkins.  Most days in winter we cook them up a veggie stew either for morning or evening feed!  Yes our pigs are spoilt!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year......

Happy New Year to all our family, friends and customers.

A huge Strattons Farm thank you to everyone who has supported our farm over the last 12 months. We feel very lucky to have met so many wonderful people over this last year who have provided support, help, encouragement, advice and laughter!
Looking forward to sharing more adventures with everyone through 2011.