Thursday, January 22, 2015

Niagara SOUTH Seedy Saturday-Feb 14, 2015

Seedy Saturdays and Sundays are great events held across Canada that get you thinking about spring. These events are held with the intent of promoting gardening, open pollinated seeds and to get people thinking about diversity in our food system. No matter which event you go to, you will always learn something new, and will make a connection with like-minded growers and home gardeners. For a complete listing of "seedy" events go to the Seeds of Diversity website HERE

This year there is a new Seedy Saturday in town, the town of course being Wellandport. When I realized that Niagara Seedy Saturday wasn't going to use the 2nd Saturday of February as it traditionally has, (Niagara Seedy Sunday-March 15th) I let it muddle around in my brain for a while, until I decided that another event in the southern tier could be a very good thing. I sure hope it is.

Niagara SOUTH Seedy Saturday is being held from 1pm-5pm on Saturday Feb 14th at the Wellandport Community Centre, 5042 Canborough Rd, Wellandport. Everyone is welcome, there is no advance ticket purchase required. Admission is a $2.00 minimum donation which will help cover costs incurred for the day. There are no business or corporate sponsors. This day happens because of your support. You will receive a package of seeds upon admission.

I am excited about Niagara SOUTH Seedy Saturday and there has been a good deal of enthusiasm for the event. As a result I have some great people participating both as speakers, vendors and promoters.
The first speaker of the afternoon beginning at 1:15 is Tiffany Mayer. Tiffany is well known in Niagara through her stint as a reporter at the St Catharines Standard a few years back, where she wrote about agriculture and food. She has since gone on to write a very well researched book "Niagara Food- A Flavourful History of the Peninsula's Bounty". She will be pulling some interesting tales from her book and will be open to your favourite food questions so get them ready! She will also be selling copies of her book in the main hall after her discussion.

Next up is a Seedy Saturday favourite, Steven Biggs at 2:15.  The talk is indeed "Biggs on Figs" as Steve tells you precisely how to succeed with figs in a less than fig-friendly environment. Steve is  the author of two wonderful gardening books, including "No Guff Gardening" and "Grow Figs Where You Think You Can't" and comes to us from Toronto.

At 3:15 Hanna Jacobs from Matchbox Gardens in Caledonia will be talking about heirloom vegetables and seed saving, a discussion that is the heart of the event, followed by Ryan Waldron- Deputy Chief Librarian at the Grimsby Public Library who will be talking about the seed library , the first in a Canadian library.

I am excited about vendors and groups displaying at the event. Bet some of them have never been to Wellandport before!

Welcome to:
Urban Harvest- OP seeds, supplies.
Matchbox Gardens-OP seeds
Earth Haven Farm-Biodynamic OP seed and planting calendars
Pear Blossom Orchard-Microgreens and growing kits
Wildcraft Niagara-Wildflower seed bombs, organic gardening services
TK Preserves-Preserves, chutneys, jams
Pridham's Holistic Health-Natural Soaps and creams
Black Cat Botanical-Natural body care, laundry detergent
Lickety Spit Farm-Alpaca, sheep related products
Terra Teas-selling coffee, tea and snacks throughout the day
Seeds of Diversity Canada-Canada's Heritage seed program
Greening Niagara-Environmental non-profit
Niagara Vegfest-Niagara's all things-veg festival
Grimsby Public Library
Tiffany Mayer-Author-Niagara Food
Steven Biggs-Author-No Guff Gardening
Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm-OP seeds

The heart of the event is a seed exchange so bring your seeds to share and trade. As well if you have any clean gardening tools, gardening or cook books or magazines and don't want them anymore , deposit them on the gardening give-away table and hopefully they will find a new home.

There will be an informal pot-luck following the event...I have the hall well into the evening, so stay and chat.

Let's hope for good weather, and look forward to talking gardening and seeds!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Carrots in Clay and CSA Week 23

Despite the date on the calendar, you cannot convince me that winter has not set in. It is all a bit earlier than I would have liked.

Remaining in the garden right now are some of the winter radishes, sugar beets, a few idling greens and...carrots!
The carrots are at their best right now,  having remained in the ground for a good number of frosts and freeze-ups. These cold temperatures make them very sweet, starches converting to sugars.
This is the year the carrots haven't stop coming.  I'm glad about that. It's isn't a given in any year that if I plant them, they will grow and do well.
Carrots like a light soil and my clay is anything but.
I could grow carrots that don't reach down far into the depths of the soil, like Paris Market or the wonderful Oxheart which grows a chubby stubby carrot that can weigh up to a pound.
My preference though is the longer carrots, Scarlet Nantes in particular and in clay soil that takes a bit more work.

I grew some very interesting carrots this year. Red Elephant, White Belgium, Dragon, Yaya, Paris Market, Jaune du Doubs, Snow White, Purple Haze and of course Scarlet Nantes. There were more too.
Some were from seed I had saved myself, so the process of getting these carrots was more than a year in the making.
To prepare my soil, I pulled my hoe across freshly tilled soil, making a trench a good 6-8 inches in depth. This year it was many long rows.
I filled each row with compost and hand seeded my carrots. It took several days. I then lightly pulled some compost over the seed, and watered many times per day with a light mist, until a week later the seeds germinated.
Alas, as the carrot seeds germinated, so did the weeds.
There were many days of hand weeding, keeping up with the watering, and now the digging.
I've spent hours digging and there are more, many more to go. With the temperatures being as cold as they are, and my poor old fingers numbing up after about an hour, it's a slow process.
I dig, then come in and warm my hands, then out I go to dig again. I've dug more than 1000 lbs of carrots so far I would venture to guess.
Some of the carrots I have dug are stored in barrels layered in straw. At this time they are outside under a tarp. But once I can get all the dried beans moved inside that are in the garage, the carrots will be moved in. This weekend. Of course that's what I always say.
I know the way I do things makes me a bit of a dinosaur.  I'm at the stage of my life now though that I don't want to have a bigger, busier business. In fact that was never it for me.
I received information today on an upcoming conference which is a "must attend" for growers and those interested in local food. New ways of marketing, processing and all sorts of networking opportunities.
I've lost my desire to scramble, compete and connect so it doesn't hold much interest to me.
I just want to grow now. Enjoy the garden, marvel over the size of some of the beets in the garden, the horseradish that showed up out of nowhere and try some of the amazing heirlooms I have yet to discover.
Every time I scoop up another shovelful of carrots I marvel at their size, their colours and I understand when I eat them, why I did the work I did. This is the way I'll keep doing it.
The CSA baskets that went out today are clearly not as full as they were in the earlier months of summer. Carrots, jerusalem artichokes, beets, dried beans, greens and jam or jelly of some sort-basil, tomato or grape.
There are two weeks left now of this 25 week season and I am starting to get some people asking about the 2015 CSA. Although I haven't decided how many shares I will do, or the length of the season or seasons, let me know soon if you are interested as I am developing a bit of a waiting list. It won't be a large CSA, this I know. But I always do like to change something up every year, so don't expect an exact replica of this year.
I'll have the new info up on my website in January, and I thank you for your continued support and interest.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CSA Week 22 and Carrot soup

Three weeks left of my CSA for 2014. Yes, we are getting close to the end.

The last few days in the garden have reminded why in recent years I have chosen not to do a complete winter CSA.
Folks, I tell you, it isn't that much fun. My body can tolerate the cold, with the exception of my hands.
Today getting the carrots out of the freezing water, picking some outdoors kale and chard and digging out the leeks had them tingling.

The older I get, the less I appreciate the cold.
My daughters tease me because I have been researching good places to retire. Panama it seems is a good choice, and who knows...
But for now here I am. I'm starting to get excited about 2015, am shelling my beans like mad to package up for seed, have finally ordered a small scale to weigh up my seeds instead of counting them, have ordered my Seed Savers Exchange seed to sell, and am organizing yet another Seedy Saturday. (Mark the date-Feb 14th here in Wellandport!)

It's hard to move on from 2014 though when some things still niggle away at me.
I've been trying for months now to get some people and businesses to pay up. Christmas is coming, the produce has long been made into overpriced dishes sold for a good dollar. My calls, my emails are not returned and people, I tell you, you are being duped.
You are made to feel that the farmer and the chef are buddies as they stroll through the fields of produce. They chuckle and pat each other on the back for a job well done. Sometimes it's true and I've had relationships like that.
But there are chefs who are just a bit too good for you and I. They've let the fact they can cook go to their head. They speak well of you when it serves their purpose, but when it doesn't and no one is looking, they just don't care.
Marketing. Local food is a marketing tool the same way that VISA tries to warm your heart with their commercials, banks try to make you believe they care, and the flipping pink ribbon on everything makes you believe you are helping people with cancer.
And you know what the bottom line is? In any line of work there are people who are difficult to deal with. Period. Just because people are farmers, chefs or even radio hosts, it doesn't mean that they are good people. Over the years my motto has become to only deal with nice people. Sound silly? No, it is the only thing that makes any sense. Life is too short.
End of rant.
The CSA baskets today were heavy, although without question the variety is diminishing. Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck squash, a very good lot of carrots, potatoes, leeks, herbs and winter greens.
I put the potatoes in the baskets with the leeks thinking potato leek soup, but for supper I ended up making carrot soup with those same ingredients and more.
This recipe is adapted from "Laurel's Kitchen" one of my favourite ever cookbooks.

5 large carrots, cut in 1" pieces
1 large potato cut into pieces
2 leeks chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups veg stock
2 cups non dairy milk
1 tbsp dried herb or fresh-thyme, tarragon or rosemary

Cook the carrots and potatoes in enough water just to cover them.
Saute leeks in the oil, add herbs.
Add both the veg and onion to a blender, blend till smooth.
Return to pot, add veg stock and milk.
Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.