Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bees Late Summer Forage

We are enjoying watching all the marvelous varieties of bees foraging in our garden right now.  Here in Ontario there are over 400 varieties of wild bees alone! It's a busy time, they are moving with a much faster pace than in early summer, getting all the last best pollen and preparing for winter.  Any yellow flowers, like this cup plant and goldenrod pictured, are just covered with bees from morning until dusk. 

There is so much more I want to learn about bees, and from bees!  On our fall/winter reading list is The Thinking Beekeeper: A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives, learning about top bar beekeeping, an minimal intervention approach to beekeeping that uses a hive design much more similar to how bees would build in nature.  The idea is to create a healthy hive for the bees (and let them build and maintain it), with much less emphasis on harvest of honey. 

Visit Pollination Canada to learn more about the important role of bees and other pollinators, what plants to grow in order to help attract pollinators, and other useful info.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Basil Pesto - lots of it!

Now we are in the thick of it.  Preserving. Yesterday was pesto day.  The first of several pesto days.  I had planted 40 basil plants in the spring, and set out another 40 more plants only a few weeks ago.  What was I thinking?  I do love basil, and the first batch of seedlings had a serious set-back when we had that extra late frost at the end of May...but seriously, pesto from 80 plants....We also dry the basil leaves, and have eaten it with virtually every salad, egg dish, and pizza that has graced our table since mid-June, but it really takes pesto to make much of a dent in a basil garden.

Our favourite recipe is our own version of a vegan pesto - made with olive oil, fresh garlic, sunflower seeds (or pine nuts, whatever your budget prefers), nutritional yeast (in place of parmesan), sea salt, and a little lemon juice, plus basil!  We pack it into small glass mason jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace, then store them in the freezer until use.

A Chicken Celebration

Today, it was decided, was a day that our hens needed a celebration.  More importantly, they needed a cake!  A very special cake.  It's been cold and grey the past few days and today was not exception.  So, our daughter thought the hens needed some cheering up.  Why not call it their birthday - all of them at once?  She decided to create a cake that included all our hens most favourite treats - delicious layers of leftover brown rice, chopped up kale, comfrey & dandelion greens, crushed eggshells, mashed over-ripe pears, sunflower seeds, and shredded carrots, blended together with yogurt, and garnished with raisins, buckwheat, strawberry tops, and a garden slug or two.  Mmmmm.  Our hens were delighted with this treat, served up to them in a fancy old cake pan that they scraped clean by the end of the day.

We were rewarded with fresh eggs to warm our hands on.  Thank you, lovely hens!

If you ever decide to make your own cake for hens, please avoid: avocado (pits can leach toxins into the flesh making hens sick); apple cores (seeds contain cyanide, enough to harm a hen); fruit pits and seeds of other sorts; long grasses (these can case problems in the hen's crop); meat, citrus and onion (all not agreeable to hens).

Friday, August 09, 2013

Thursday, August 08, 2013

In the garden

In the garden these days...
zucchini, eggplants, basil and more basil, chard, pumpkins growing (the patch quickly taking over the side yard)!, first tomatoes (finally!  such slow ripening this year), kale in abundance, beans climbing high, fresh cukes, and flowers! sunflowers, zinnias, bees bees bees!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Wood-fired baking!

Each week during the summer months we have a CSA (community supported agriculture) food pick-up here.  Our friend, Angie from Fertile Ground CSA, brings her gorgeous organic produce and her members pick up their bounty.  We offer fresh bread and baked goods, made in our wood-fired oven.  It allows us the joy of baking for a crowd each week, with freedom to experiment and try new recipes out, as well as many favourite repeats that members ask for.  The favourite breads include: Superseed Bread; Walnut-Raisin; and Potato-Roasted Garlic-Rosemary Bread; and treats such as Vegan Pesto Rolls; Gluten-free Brownies (made with quinoa); White-Chocolate Roasted Almond Cookies; and Whole Wheat Sticky Buns.  All our baking is made with organic flour, organic seeds, and healthful whole ingredients (including basil, zucchini, beets and other veggies as they come into season), with our grains mainly sourced from the local organic flour mill at Oak Manor Farms.  Best of all, we get to bake in our outdoor wood-fired cob oven.  We love so many elements of this oven - it was made by us with the help of family; is made of natural materials; it's fun to play around with the wood-firing learning to heat the oven just right for long enough baking time; we often eat a garden-fresh lunch while baking; and we get to be outdoors while we work.  Here are some photos of this week's baking day.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Blueberry picking!

Blueberries!  A mid-summer rite of passage for our family, going berrying with friends at our favourite local organic blueberry farm to pick our fill of delicious berries that will hopefully last us for smoothies and pancakes all winter long.  Walkers Blueberries, near New Hamburg, has been in business for many years and has a strong base of returning customers.   We will certainly be back there next year, if not sooner!