Adios 2020

While we’ve been spared the worst outcomes of the pandemic up to this point, it still feels very myopic to focus on our homestead experience given the state of the world.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve had such a hard time updating the blog this year. That coupled with my general dread of writing has meant a big lag in blog entries. I’d much rather tell a story through photographs. So here we go.

I’ve cobbled together a selection of pictures to get you through the 2020 season and up to date on the farm. It sure is nice to look at all that colourful produce right now.

This growing season saw a lot of learning on my part as I switched from growing for the farmers’ market to growing for a select group of customers getting weekly veggie boxes. The temperatures were all over the place, the rain was abundant and the wind was exceptional.

Most of the summer, we were busy keeping the livestock fed and moving across the meadow to fresh pasture. The pigs did a great job clearing the future fence line and converting excess produce to pork. Windfall apples were a favourite.

Veggie shares came to an early end in September. We had a full week of cutting and wrapping pork, making sausages and juggling freezer space. Boy, did I learn a lot that week. The rest of the month we got the homestead ready for our fabulous house-sitters to move in for five weeks.

On to Quebec!

October saw us camping and eating our way through rural Quebec. Our goal was two-fold; to get to the ocean and to explore as many local foods as possible. This second part of our goal meant we travelled to a number of small farms, cheese shops, bakeries, butchers and fish mongers that decorate the backroads of rural and small town Quebec.

Speaking of back roads, we also learned a lot about where one should and shouldn’t try to drive while pulling an RV. Perhaps more on that later. (Can I just say how I loved having a private washroom wherever we went?)

Home again, home again, jiggity-jigg. Just in time to plant garlic and put the garden to bed. Also the perfect time to get the smokehouse set up to start makin’ bacon from all those bellies we cured. Add a new flock of hens to the mix and we’ve now got the breakfast of champions! Peter has continued to perfect his meat-smithing and we are eating really well.

We had a quiet Christmas, missing the dear family and friends that we would normally see over the holidays.

But apparently we thought we were sleeping too much, and too well. So, enter HoneyBee, our newest family member.

Yes, perusing the seed catalogues with a pup on my lap was lovely. At least while she was sleeping.

That gets you up to speed with what’s happening here.

So how are you doing?

Wherever this finds you, we hope you are weathering the storm well. Take care.

Summer Squash Overload

You know what summer means:

Costata Romanesco summer squash Polka Dot Hen Produce
Costata Romanesco summer squash

Zucchini

People joke about drowning in zucchini in July and August; taking to hiding it in the neighbour’s car or on the porch just to get rid of it. But zucchini is not a burden now that I know a couple cooking tricks that help deal with a lot of vegetable matter fast.

Freezing
We all know you can freeze shredded zucchini for later. Get out the Cuisinart, put on the large shredder attachment and go to town. Freeze the zucchini in 1 or 2 cup packages and you are done. Except for cleaning the Cuisinart. Why is that such a drag?

Did you know you can cut larger piece of zucchini then blanch and freeze them? You can! If you freeze the pieces separately on a cookie sheet first, they won’t clump together in a big mass. Once they are frozen, you can put them into your freezer container and use only as many as you want at a time.

But here’s my favourite way to freeze zucchini: as soup base. It’s delicious. I get so excited when I find it in my freezer in the middle of winter!

Infinitely flexible, this recipe is easy and uses up a lot of weird big zucchini fast. My version is based on a recipe from Lynne Rossetto-Kasper of the Splendid Table Podcast. It is here on the website.

Grilling
My brother-in-law taught me how delicious zucchini is on the grill. He used a simple sauce of lemon and soy sauce to baste the zucchini at very regular intervals. Very, very regular intervals.

I hate to baste over the grill – it’s too hot! So I do the seasoning ahead of time using this tip I found in Fine Cooking. Salt does the job of flavouring while removing some of the water from the squash so it cooks faster.  See the instructions  here.

Once the squash is mostly cooked, you can finish with the sauce of your choice. I still like that lemon/soy combo. Also balsamic/soy/basil is really good. But last week I found a new favourite.

Another shout out to the Splendid Table, this time to Francis Lam the current host. He mentioned making a tahini-soy sauce lately that he’s “putting on everything.” I McGivered  a recipe for it and we used it on grilled zucchini and turnips one night. Yum.

Here it is roughly, but you can adapt it to your taste:
5T Tahini
4T Soy Sauce
1teas. Sambal Olek (or Sriracha), or more
+ a little water to thin if needed.
Mix it all together then use it as a dip, marinade or eat it off the spoon.

Now I want to keep all the zucchini.

Crazy.

Centrecut squash at Polka Dot Hen Produce
We are loving this Centrecut squash variety from Row 7 Seeds. It’s nutty and delicious.

It’s Starting to Get Interesting

green field at Bird's Nest Garden Farm
Spring is here! Or is it summer?

 

Well, it’s a typical July afternoon with temps around 30C (mid-80’sF) and we’re cooling in front of fans inside the house…

But wait.

It’s the end of MAY. And there was snow on the ground May 9th. What’s going on?

 

May snowfall homestead Bird's Nest Garden Farm
May 9th snowfall. Merry Springmas from our home to yours.

 

The wild weather rollercoaster hasn’t stopped us from diving into new adventures this month.

What projects could top the dead hedge, you ask?

Pigs

Piglets Bird's Nest Garden Farm
Yes. We are officially pig farmers now.

Darn, they are cute.

The plan to get pigs was well in the works before all of the changes caused by the pandemic. We figured we needed the pigs to clear some areas and prepare the ground for more plantings and fencing. Plus, bacon. Continue reading “It’s Starting to Get Interesting”

How Do We Plan For Spring?

What a spring it has been for all of us- all around the world. We hope from wherever you are reading this, you and your loved ones are safe and well.

chickens and nest boxes at Bird's Nest Garden Farm
These girls have been practising sheltering in place all winter. About the time we humans got stuck at home, they got access to the big wide world. Go figure.

Here at Bird’s Nest Garden Farm, we are four weeks into our new stay-at-home lifestyle.

When I say “new,” this is for the other members of my family. I rarely venture off the farm at this time of year. It’s been a pleasure to have company at home, despite their need to be often glued to their screens for work and school purposes.

Probably just like you, our family is looking for entertainments other than zoom meeting gaffs and watching yet another webinar.  We’ve undertaken numerous projects aimed at keeping our bodies occupied and out-of-doors while distracting us from disheartening pandemic updates. Continue reading “How Do We Plan For Spring?”

Embrace the Cabbage

fresh cabbage sliced in half polka dot hen produce
Cabbage: get to know your winter veggies

How to Eat Local in the Winter and Enjoy It

Seasonal eating stories seem so one-sided. It’s easy to celebrate the first asparagus of spring, the first tender green chives, overwintered spinach’s fresh sweet leaves.

But what about when it’s February and you’re only half-way through a winter of trying to eat locally and seasonally? It can look grim. Now is the winter of our discontent.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Continue reading “Embrace the Cabbage”