Friday 15 August 2014

Peanut Butter Spelt Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Peanut butter spelt cookies with chocolate chips.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup natural crunchy peanut butter
3/4 cup sucanat or coconut sugar
1 duck egg
1 1/4 cup light spelt or while spelt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips.
Preheat oven to 375
In a stand mixer, beat until smooth the butter, peanut butter, egg, and sugar.
Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until combined.
Spoon onto a cookie sheets and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

Sunday 10 August 2014

The Heart of Farming

Spelt and Einkorn

There are two worlds of field crop agriculture.
The mainstream agroindustrial system, and everything else.
They blend at the edges, but also show clear divisions.

Conventional farms belong to a well managed supply and distribution web.
The business formula and methodology is spelled out with assurance and backed by government ministry.
Typical crops include field corn, soybeans, wheat, and some oats and barley.
Corn and soy overshadow everything else; significantly.
Virtually all field crops are used to feed livestock.

Farms are well connected to a predictable distribution chain.
Farmers are well connected to seed companies and government guidance.
It's a well oiled, and tightly controlled system.


Then there are the others. 
Typically organic or biodynamic, they are run by those who farm on the margin.
Unconventional in many ways, these farms struggle to find their place.
Alternative methods and crop choices divide these farmers from the readily accepted norm.

Information is scarce.
Support is thin.
And the market is elusive.

Most often, these are the reformists.
The dreamers; driven by passion.
Outliers overshadowed by an infinity of conformity.


Operating outside of the system often means greater risk.
The incentives are elusive and failure is only one twist of fate away.
Crop yields are lower when you're farming using sustainable methods.
The soil is heart and soul, not simply a growing medium.

Alternative endeavours are usually small scale ventures.
Minimal capital means working with outdated and weary equipment.
It means scavenging for unwanted machines, cast away by the modern conventional farms.

There is no manual.
The neighbouring farms may be disdainful.
Government agents indifferent.
Friends and family, skeptical.

Volunteer Buckwheat








Self Determination




Our blessing is to be given the opportunity to work with these people.
We play a role in making connections and offering support where we can.
And by promoting agricultural systems that will be strong and lasting throughout generations.

The real reward is the challenge of agricultural reform,
and the hope that comes along with it.
We draw strength from the passion of others.

Farming has always been known for heartbreak and failure.
There is a great deal of burden.
Not everyone survives.

The problem is that food is a commodity.

The farmer's livelihood depends on the the whims of the marketplace,
and the ebb and flow of crop yields.
Wisdom, knowledge and hard work alone are not enough to weather the market system.
When crops are good, prices drop.
When there is failure, precious few prosper.
This is true of both agricultural worlds.

But that is the past.
And so it should be.

Undeterred by the obstacles, more and more people dream of meeting the challenge of farming.
Young families, seasoned workers, retired professionals, all disenchanted with the status quo, 
looking for change,
looking for more.

And there is more.
I have seen it.
In the hard won successes.
In the face of adversity.
In the people who forge their own destiny.
In the field.
In the heart.

Ripening Buckwheat

And what about you?

Saturday 12 July 2014

A Little Goat Visit, by Kira

While Andrew worked at home preparing for our goats, the kids and I travelled to Sky River Meadow to visit our new babies.
The trip gave us one more chance to get to know our goats,
and it was time that I learned how to milk!

I'm thankful that Angee gave me the opportunity, and that Carmella (the goat) was very patient with me.
Milking is a very slow, yet relaxing chore.
I'm looking forward to next Spring when I can wander out to the barn early in the morning, sit quietly and milk goats.

We snuggled and played with babies and mamas nearly all day!
The bucks came out for visit and some love too.
Even though they are a little on the smelly side, they are very gentle and friendly.

While I sat on the grass visiting Angee and Erica, we watched the kids strip down and play in a flooded area that was full of tiny tadpoles.

Tired out by the end of the day, the kids finished off the remainder of our picnic lunch on the ride home.
The van smelled of mud, buck and garlic scape pesto.

Our goats will be coming home in a couple of weeks.
We can hardly wait!


bee balm + tarragon chaga iced tea, by Kira

bee balm + tarragon chaga iced tea

In a 1.9L jar add:
1/2 cup of lemon juice
1/2 cup maple syrup
Fill the jar with brewed chaga tea.
Place a couple sprigs of bee balm and tarragon inside.
Refrigerate for a couple of hours and enjoy!

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Nigerian Dwarf Goats

It's naturally assumed that if you homestead, then you must have goats.
And though that's not always the case, chances are high that goats are part of your small farm.
Because of their manageable size, varied diet, and efficient feed conversion,
goats are preferred over cattle in most of the world, for milk and meat.


Certainly, now that it is becoming abundantly clear that small scale organic farming has the potential to provide global food security, it makes sense to choose livestock that meets the need of the small holder.
But thus far, for our own farm, I have been resistant.


There's a funny quote from a book we have here that says that,
the best way to test a goat fence is to throw a pail of water at it.
If the water goes through the fence, so can a goat.

So with vegetable gardens, herb gardens, fruit bushes, fruit trees, and other valuable perennial plants,
there is a lot to lose if a goat escapes it's pen.
Goats love, well, most everything. So despite Kira's insistence that we get some goats, I have managed to convince her that it's not a good fit.

Until now.


There was a plan to have a family cow here to supply us with dairy and some beef.
But we simply don't have the right kind of land to provide the feed needed for a cow.
We would need to bring in a considerable amount of hay, and that simply isn't a good strategy for self-sufficient farming.

Goats, however, subsist on a greater variety of feed and don't necessarily need hay if there is enough other forage available.
In the short term, we will need to bring some hay in from the south,
but we do have the capacity to grow goat forage on our land.
And like most small farms throughout the world,
we'll do best working with what is on hand.
So, in order for us to have our own dairy products,
we need to have goats.

And so goats we shall have.

Kira has chosen to keep Nigerian Dwarf goats.
More commonly sold as pets in North America, Nigerian Dwarf goats are actually excellent dairy goats that produce a high quality, high butterfat milk.
Unfortunately, misguided breeding practices have diminished the working characteristics of these small goats.
As a result, many passionate breeders are working hard to restore the functionality to Nigerian Dwarf goats.
And we are fortunate to have found such a breeder who has hand picked a genetically diverse starter herd for us.
Animals that show great promise as milkers, so that we can carry the line forward with the same intention of making these goats a prime dairy breed.

Angee Pell of Sky River Meadows will be providing us with five (or six) goats to start our own herd, as well as support based on her extensive experience with Nigerian Dwarf goats.
We visited Angee last year to see if this breed was suitable for us.
This past weekend, we visited again to see some of the animals that she has chosen for us.
We will grow our herd, and sell surplus goats in the future.
These goats have been screened for disease, and registered, so that we can start breeding with a fresh start, and high quality animals.


It certainly helps that goats are cute and capricious.
Especially these small and colourful Nigerian Dwarf goats.
It may be that breeding them for pets has improved their compatibility with humans.
Our farm animals should be our friends as well as our providers,
even if we do eat them sometimes.
But these goats are not a dual purpose breed and it's unlikely that any will end up as supper.


Our kids are enamoured with the goats and having heard about other families' experiences, the novelty doesn't easily wear off.
Goats are known to play, even in adulthood.
In fact, they need playground toys to help keep them entertained.
Things like merry-go-rounds, teeter-totters, and climbing structures;
pretty much the same stuff that children like.
Our hope is that our kids will develop a strong relationship with our goats, and will be eager to help care for them.


It is still going to be another two months before our goats will be ready for us.
And though it'll be a long wait for Kira and the kids,
I still have fencing and buildings to put up.
I have to admit though,
that they are pretty cute.
And that maybe I'm just as excited to get them home.


Tuesday 13 May 2014

Enchanted Forest , by Kira

Fairy Spud
Red Trillum
Maiden Hair Fern
Yellow Bellworts
Caped Fern
Dutchman's Breeches

Monday 12 May 2014

The False Morel, by Kira

Hoping to forage our favourite mushroom,
we went out into the forest in search of morels.
We found some, but not the edible kind.
These mushrooms are the false morel.

This particular variety is the Beefsteak Morel (gyromitra esculenta).
A look inside shows a stem that is filled with a cotton-like fibre.
True morels, like the Black Morel (morchella elata) or Yellow Morel (morchella esculenta), are completely hollow up the middle of the stem and throughout the inside.
Also, the stem of the false morel is attached at the very top of the cap only,
but the edible morel has a cap that is fully attached to the stem.
To be sure about eating any wild mushrooms, take a wild mushroom workshop, get comfortable with mushroom field guides, or have a seasoned mushroom forager help in identification before heading out to collect mushrooms.

Friday 9 May 2014

No Till Gardening, by Kira


All of our gardens over the past 5 years have been built hugelkultur style. Hugelkultur is a raised bed garden filled with logs, sticks, compost, and other organic materials; much the way a forest floor works.

I no longer till any of my gardens.

I rarely weed, and seldom need to water.

I mulch heavily in the fall and spring with leaves, compost, straw, or anything organic that will break down.

Once my planting is done I will mulch once or twice in the summer.

This supplies the soil with lots of nutrients and holds moisture longer so I rarely need to water.

The mulch covering also keeps weeds at bay.

This link illustrates Ruth Stout's method for no till gardening.


Monday 14 April 2014

Homestead Flat Bread Recipe, by Kira


6 cups of flour
2 cups liquid (water, milk, buttermilk, or whey)
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp yeast

In a saucepan, heat the liquid until it is warm to the touch.
I like to use water or the whey that is left over after making cheese.
Once the liquid is warm, pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer,
stir in the honey and add the yeast.
Let it stand for a couple of minutes for the yeast to awaken.
When the yeast has started to foam, start adding flour.
I usually use a light spelt, but lately I have been doing a blend of about five cups light spelt and one cup whole buckwheat.

Liquid and flour measurements will vary a little depending on the type, and moisture content of flour used.

Add a couple cups of flour to the liquid and mix.
Then add the salt and slowly continue to add flour until it has formed a soft sticky dough.(Most of the dough should stick to the dough hook,
but the dough should still be moist and sticky).

In a cool place, covered, let the dough sit for the day or overnight to ferment.
When you are ready to cook you flat breads, pour the dough out onto a floured surface.
Divide and shape the dough into small balls.
Let them rest for a few minutes and preheat a cast iron pan on medium heat.
You can fry the flat breads in a dry pan or use a fat such as butter or lard.
We like to use lard since we have some left over from our pigs and it gives the breads a great taste.
Roll the balls of dough out flat and add them to the hot pan.
Fry them until bubbled and browned, flip and fry the other side.
Store them in a sealed container to help keep them fresh.
But they're best eaten right away.

Here are a few ways that we like to use our flatbreads.
For dipping in soups, stews, chillis, and dips.
Open face sandwiches, topped with cheese, sprouts and hummus or steak. Spinach, melted cheese, and lemony pepper sauce.
Topped like a pizza and broiled in the oven.
Toasted with favourite butters and jams.
For breakfast, serve them with poached eggs and avacodo.

Friday 11 April 2014

Spring Chicks! by Kira

Spring has finally sprung!
I am so excited!
The snow is melting and the phoebes have returned.
It has been a long winter and so I'm eager to share some pictures of our first hatch of chicks.
Spring is all about renewal, and chicks really help us get over Winter and ready to grow.