New Farm Blog!

Hey everyone! I’ll be posting farm related posts on www.pachamamaorganics.ca. I’ll still be posting here about cooking, fitness, yoga, personal projects and computer-y things. Please check out my latest post about our new flock!

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The Countdown Begins

Hey friends!

It’s been FOREVER, I know! It is hard work finishing up a degree, starting a business, being social and managing “life stuff”. But the countdown to launching the farm has begun and I’m back to let all of you know what we are up to and what to expect from us over the next few months.

First off, if you haven’t had a chance to check out the farm website, please do! I’ll be blogging about farm things on there in the future.

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It has been a busy year here! I have been playing around with making cheese, pickling all the things, making soap, fermenting all the other things, pressure canning, hand lettering and a bunch of other small endeavors. I promise to write some detailed instructional posts later on!

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Things are speeding up here on the farm as spring approaches! Onions have already been seeded and we are getting ready to start peppers and some herbs. There are *so* many things on my Pre-Spring To Do List, I don’t quite know where to start! The big projects for the next couple months will be:

  • finishing the permitting process for the greenhouse
  • starting more seeds
  • finalizing bed plans
  • building beehives
  • building a new, more roomy, chicken coop
  • building a chicken tractor (or two)
  • planning the irrigation system
  • ordering the last bits of plant production materials
  • and so, so much more

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I finish my program in about a month and then I will be putting all of my time and energy into running the business. This year will be a learning year for me, so I am keeping everything really small. You will be able to find me at the North Gower and Kemptville Farmers Markets on Saturdays and Sundays. I will also be offering a CSA shares to 10 special people/families and contributing to the Two River Food Hub‘s weekly baskets.

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This year’s focus will be primarily vegetable production and processing. The goats and chickens will mostly provide milk, eggs and meat for Toby and myself. I’ve ordered a selection of heritage breeds to replace our flock (which was eaten by a hungry fox). The new chickens will be colourful, vary in size, shape and plumage. We will of course continue to sell eggs from the farm gate.

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Three of our goats are pregnant and due to kid this spring. I will be making and selling goats milk cosmetic products (soap, lotion, conditioner, shampoo, bath bombs, etc.) at the end of the summer and through the winter. I am considering offering a soap making workshop or two as well, so let me know if that is something that would interest you!

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Succulents have become a passion of mine and I’ve been propagating them like a mad woman! Look forward to succulents, terrariums and vegetable seedlings for sale at the farmers markets!

That’s the quick update! Please email me if you have any questions about the up coming season, or anything else you may want to know!

I hope to have a more traditional post coming out later this week! Thanks for your support and interest! For now you can find me working away in my office, finishing up school and planning for the farm!

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Weekend of Blacksmithing with my Love

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Toby and I have both been interested in trying out metal working for a while now. I have always wanted to make my own jewelry and Toby likes the idea of making our own tools. So this year for his birthday I booked us a weekend introduction to black smithing course with David Robertson at Ontario Artist Blacksmith.

The itinerary for the weekend was as follows:

Friday night 6 pm to 9 pm
We cover safety, introduction to tools large and small, proper hammer technique, and the first project of a Tool Hook.
Techniques: drawing out, curling, notching, curving, hot cutting.

Saturday 9 am to 6 pm
Consists of a series of projects with techniques building upon each other. Projects include Coal Rake, Coat Hook, Leaf Hook, Finials, and Tongs. Techniques include: Pointing, Flattening, Shepherd’s Crook, Hot Reverse Twisting, Pointing Flat Bar, Spade Point, Pattern Punching, Offsetting , Shouldering, Through Punching, Leaves, Rattail.

Sunday 9 am to 6 pm
Starts with a discussion of alloy steels and follows with making a Cold Chisel from high carbon steel, Finishing Tongs, Discussion of Forge Welding, Discuss Setting up a Personal Workshop, Several Hours are set aside for working on a Personal Project.

(taken from the course description page)

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We drove up early on Friday and made it just in time for our first lesson. David started off explaining the safety precautions that must be taken when working in the shop. After that, he went over all the basic tools: hammer, tongs, forge, air hammer, anvil and various other useful things to have in the shop.

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When David was finished the talk we jumped straight in and started working with the metal. He demonstrated the first step of forming a small wall hook and we immediately followed suit. This was the flow of the weekend, he would show us one or two steps and we would continue on our own. We made each made 2 wall hooks, a decorative wall hook with a leaf, a fire poker, tongs, a chisel, a center punch and a personal project.

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I found that I could either hit the metal hard enough to move it or hit it where I wanted to.  The choice was between power and precision.. and you really need both. By the end of the weekend I had settled into a good rhythm and was finding the work much easier. For my personal project I decided to make a pair of copper, leaf shaped earrings. It was soooooo much easier for me to work with the softer metal, I could shape it any way I wanted to.

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We learned all sorts of neat things through out the weekend, including all the basic black smith skills. We practiced many times and discovered that working with metal is unbelievably approachable and a whole lot of fun. I don’t think I can adequately put the experience into words but I highly recommend that you give it a try if the opportunity presents itself. Toby and I will most definitely be building a forge at the farm.

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Managing Our Shallow Soil

 

About 3/4 of a Frisk puppy deep!

About 3/4 of a Frisk puppy deep!

When we looked at our property we asked if the previous owners had gardened at all. They said that the original owners had a big vegetable patch in the back at some point so we assumed that we would be able to plant easily. It was not until the snow melted and we were able to dig that we realized we had purchased some pretty awful soil for planting. The bed rock is only 20 inches down (at the most) and above that the soil is compact, rocky and matted with dense weeds. I dug our first bed and it was difficult but not impossible. That night we had a decent amount of rain and when I went to resume digging I found the hole was completely filled with water, it had not drained even a little. That was when I realized I was going to have to rethink the plan for our garden, it was not going to be as easy as we had hoped.

The texture of the soil is not bad. I would guess a loamy clay.

The texture of the soil is not bad. I would guess a loamy clay.

Throughout the summer we tried tilling the entire acre we plan to use as our garden space. The soil drained better but was still shallow, root filled and 70% rocks. I had the neighbor use his tractor to push the dirt back from the bed rock so we could sift it as we placed it back down. Tilling and sifting helped a lot but did not tackle the main issue: we just don’t have a lot of soil.

All of that soil needs to be sifted and picked through.

All of that soil needs to be sifted and picked through.

 

To be completely honest we were pretty discouraged for a chunk of time. Sifting the soil was slow, exhausting work and we missed out on planting season. But after a trip to the mother earth festival and some research we decided we could do something about it. Now we are working toward raising the level of our soil, increasing the nutrient content and improving the soil structure.

Our first step is raised beds using straw bales. We spent this weekend building our first raised bed and planting garlic. It did not take too long and was much easier than what we had been trying to do before.

First we laid out the bales in the desired shape. This was really easy and kind of fun. The bales make great building blocks and make great walkways through the beds.

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We then dug out a little under the bales to make the bed more stable.

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We used top soil purchased earlier in the season mixed with our sifted soil to fill in the beds.

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After raking the soil flat we managed to plant four pounds of garlic. We planted until it was pitch black out but we got it done!! Yay!!

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Unfortunately we will have to wait until the spring to really see what we think of this planting technique. We are also planning to play around with planting directly in the straw bales. The bales will decompose overtime adding to the organic matter in the soil. You can read more about straw bale gardening here.

Frisk helped dig

Frisk helped us dig!!

Winter is coming and we will be ready!!

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The summer has flown by at an unbelievable speed. It has already been five months since we moved into the house and it still feels like we haven’t quite gotten our feet underneath us. The to do list is always growing and life has a funny way of throwing up unexpected obstacles. None the less the journey has been a fantastic one so far and we are loving every minute of it.

The leaves are starting to change, the weather is getting cooler and we need to make sure we are prepared for another long winter. The goats and chickens need winterized homes and we need enough wood to see us through until the spring.

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I am planning on refurbishing the old chicken coop that came on the property. The male goats are sleeping there now so it will require a thorough cleaning. I will then insulate it and use tin to line the inner walls so the chickens can’t destroy it and nothing can get inside. I will have to run power out to the building for a water heater and some lights. I will also build a fenced in run that will allow them to go outside without having to be completely exposed to the elements. The more sunlight they can get in the winter the better for laying. I have visions of wicker baskets for nesting, lavender hanging to repel flies and maybe even some floral wall paper. But once again time will tell, I might have to save the extravagance for the permanent coop. I could spend hours on pinterest getting ideas!

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The next task will be to buy or build winter houses for the goats. The options are: two small insulated sheds built by us, two plastic calf or goat hutches or two stalls built in the garage. We will also need to divide the backyard into three sections. A Frisk section, a lady goat section and a boy goat section. The plan is to put up a temporary fence in the existing chain linked section of the backyard.

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Last weekend we spent all day Saturday getting wood in Calabogie at my grandmother’s house. We met Randy and Deanna at Neat to have breakfast before our big day. I highly recommend checking Neat out if you have not already. The food is incredible and the coffee is even better.

After enjoying breakfast wraps, banana muffins and warm beverages we finished the drive to the cottage. We saw a giant snapping turtle on the way up. It was crazy! It looked more like a dinosaur than a turtle. The big guy/girl? was almost across the road when someone sped by and ran over its tail. It didn’t seem to be a life threatening injury but it was still very frustrating. Turtles are beautiful creatures and easy to avoid on slow country roads.

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Toby, Randy and Greg worked the chainsaws while Deanna and I shuttled the wood into the trailer and eventually to the splitter. We spent about 7 hours gathering/splitting wood. Randy and Deanna took a load, we took a load and we left a load split for my grandma. This weekend we will split and stack our load. We are also planning on building a woodshed this weekend. I will make sure to take lots of pictures and post about it ASAP!

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Throughout the day we saw all sorts of creatures! We saw a stick bug, a toad, many tree frogs, a crazy caterpillar, a snapping turtle and two newts.

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All in all things are going great here at the farm. We are crazy busy and crazy happy! Listen for me Monday mornings on CKCU 93.1 at 7:40 am for updates! I’ll be starting school on September 8th and learning all sorts of useful skills for the farm life. Can’t wait to share!!!!

Mushroom Hunting!!

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Toby and I spent the last week in Cleveland Ohio for the 9th Gay Games. It was a spectacular event! Toby’s volleyball team, Juicy fruits, received the bronze medal in the B division. We had a great week with the wonderful people on team Ottawa. I can’t wait for the next one in France!

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We were pretty excited to be home and see all our animals! The goats had grown fluffy coats and were half again as big as when we left. Frisket also seemed to have grown a bunch and maybe its just me but there seemed to be a new air of maturity about him.

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It had rained most of the time we were gone so everything was pretty saturated. This made me wonder what kinds of mushrooms might be popping up around the property. We went for a walk to check things out and Toby discovered that our stand of pine trees is home to all sorts of mushrooms. He brought one over for me to check out and I was thrilled to recognize a bolete mushroom. Pine groves are known for being home to these mushrooms because of the acidic soil.

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I could hardly contain my excitement when he told me there were many more where he found that one. We went back to the house to get the necessary gear for mushroom hunting: a carrying basket each, a sharp knife each and our camera to capture our first hunt together.

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We spent about 45 minutes wandering through the trees gathering an outrageous amount of mushrooms. We also took pictures of all the other types of mushrooms we happened upon.

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Once we felt we had enough and just as it started to rain we headed inside to prepare them for drying.

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First we removed any pine needles or other debris from the slightly slimy tops of the mushrooms then we sliced them into 1/4 inch slices and loaded up the layers of our dehydrator. We left them to dry 12 hours before rotating the trays and then left them for another 12 before storing them in jars.

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We ended up with three full jars! Not bad at all for our first haul, also the absolute max for our current dehydrator!!

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Homemade Butter Chicken

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Add a heart of sriracha for a bit more heat

For a few weeks now Toby has been asking if I could make butter chicken for supper. I really don’t have a lot of experience with cooking Indian food (excluding of course a simple curry or two) and was a bit nervous to try. I really needn’t have been nervous for this meal at all, it is simple and delicious. 

I looked up a few different recipes, picked through and chose the tastier sounding bits then went to town to pick up the missing ingredients. I started cooking as soon as I got home and had a tasty sauce simmering in no time. When Toby came home and exclaimed “It smells like India!” I knew I had succeed before we even tasted the dish.

This recipe is quick, simple and sooo good. It will now be a go to dish when I want to impress dinner guests.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 6 – 8 depending on who you are feeding

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Ingredients:

1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

3 or 4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts Cubed(really any sort of chicken will work but this is easiest)

3 Tbsp Tandoori 

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp Butter

One Onion (white or yellow) diced

4 Cloves of Garlic Pressed

1 Tbsp Garam Masala

2 tsp Cayenne Pepper 

1 tsp Minced Ginger

1/4 c Cashews Finely Chopped (food processor works best)

1 21oz Can of Diced Tomatoes Drained and Pureed 

1 Can of Coconut Milk

1/2 c Heavy Cream

Pinch of Salt

Handful of Cilantro (to garnish) 

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Chopped Cashews Waiting to be Toasted

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 C

2.  Place the chicken in a bowl and drizzle the tablespoon of vegetable oil over top. Toss to coat.

3. Sprinkle the chicken with the tandoori masala one tablespoon at a time, stirring as you go.

4. Spread the chicken out on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes (adjust depending on size of your cubes)

5. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a frying pan over medium/low heat and stir in onions and garlic. Saute until caramelized (about 15  minutes).

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The onions still have a ways to go

6. Meanwhile heat a large sauce pan on medium. Pour in the cashews and lightly toast (2 minutes)

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I used an enameled cast iron dutch oven instead of a sauce pan

7. Add the remaining butter and allow to it to melt before adding the remaining ingredients.

8. Stir in the onions, garlic and chicken.

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9. Partially cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

10. Serve over basmati rice, garnish with the cilantro and have naan bread on the side.

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