Seedling sales!

Now that we have a lovely new greenhouse we decided to grow tons of great tomato, pepper, eggplant and basil seedlings for the farmers market.

Since we are pretty obsessed with tomatoes we grew a lot of these of all different sorts.  Below I’ve posted some descriptions for the ones we’ll have at our first markets on May 15th (Bayfield) and 16th (Goderich).  You can click on each one to see it full size, or you can download the pdf here.

We hope you’ll have a little bit of Firmly Rooted in your gardens this season!

 

Tomato Seedling SalesTomato Seedling Sales2Tomato Seedling Sales3

 

 

 

 

winter local eating

Brian and I get a lot people asking what we eat in the winter, and how we preserve foods.  So, here is a short foray into seasonal eating at our little homestead.

We are still learning and were a little busy this past season (having a baby), but we managed to save a lot of food.  Here is what we did:

Root veggies: We saved all of our carrot, beet, onion, turnip, watermelon radish and potato seconds (the ones that aren’t pretty enough to sell but still taste delicious).  We planted too many celery root and daikon radishes so we have a lot of them to eat up.  All of these can be stored  in a root cellar or fridge.  Most things need to be wrapped in plastic to keep; the potatoes should be in paper and the onions in mesh.

We ran out of cabbage in December so we are planting more this season.  Winter squash is not a root veggie but it stores really well.  Ideally it should be at 10 degrees but we have it in a 16 degree basement and it is holding really well.

Broccoli to be frozen

Broccoli to be frozen

Freezing: A cube freezer is your friend.  We blanched broccoli, beans and garlic scapes and froze them.  Peppers are pretty awesome because they don’t need to be blanched, just washed and chopped.  Frozen veggies like these are best in cooked dishes.  Next year I want to do peas, celery and some others.

I cooked down tomatoes with herbs and garlic and froze them.  They can go in whole but they take up so much space so I cook off most of the water.  We froze a ton of kale.  I hate blanching greens so we put it in bags raw.  Based on what I read it stays good frozen without blanching for about 6 weeks.  We will be blanching some greens this summer since they are so great to add to soups and smoothies.  Brian and I also made a bunch of veggie puree’s (carrots and squash).  These are great for dinner when inspiration is lacking.  We just take them out to thaw then blend them with stock, or almond milk or coconut milk and spices for a quick soup.

Last season we made a lot of pestos: basil, arugula, and garlic scape.  Just whip it up (sans cheese) and freeze it in portions that work for you.  Some people use ice cube trays but I tend to use ½ cup at a time so that’s what I do.  Herbs freeze really well.  In 2013 I froze bags of basil leaves, dill, cilantro and parsley.  I didn’t do it in 2014 and I’ve really missed them.  We also froze all of our garlic seconds.  Garlic should keep for several months if it is in good shape but frozen garlic is really convenient (it peels well and crushes easily).

Dehydrated tomatoes

Dehydrated tomatoes

Dehydrating: We have a pretty simple dehydrator (it’s a Nesco Snackmaster express that we got as a gift), but it works quite well.  My very favorite thing is dehydrated tomatoes.  We just slice them and dehydrate until they are leathery.  They are shelf stable and don’t take up much space.  To use them we soak them for a few minutes then blend them into sauces or soups.  They taste amazing.

We also dehydrated a lot of leeks.  We toss them into soups or grind them up to use like onion powder.  They are incredible on roasted veggies.  Brian grinds up the leeks and tomatoes together and uses the powder on popcorn; it tastes like a really gourmet barbeque chip flavoring.

Dehydrators are great for herbs, though you can just hang these in a dark well ventilated space.

I’d like to try vegetable chips (beets, carrots, sweet potato) with my dehydrator.

Salsa canning

Salsa canning

Canning: Confession, I’m a little afraid of pressure canning.  I know it can be done safely but I’m not there yet so I stick to water bath canning.  In water bath canning sugar, salt or acid keep your food safe.  In 2013 I canned so many pickles: beans, beets, cucumber, radish, turnip, garlic, and I made relish.  I canned whole tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato jam.  This year I still had so many canned goods from 2013 that I only did salsa.  Bernardin (the mason jar company) says home canning should be consumed in one year.  Other sources say two.  Two years works for me, but do whatever feels safe to you.

Sprouting: I don’t sprout in the summer but I do in the winter.  I buy my sprouting seeds at mumm’s (online).  I put 2-3 tablespoons of seed in a mason jar, soak it for a half day or overnight then rinse it every day after that.  I have a lid with metal screening attached but a piece of window screen and an elastic band works just as good.  Once the sprouts are the right size I stick them in the fridge with a solid lid.  I start a new batch every week or so.

Fermenting: This is an area I really want to explore.  You can safely ferment tons of different vegetables, creating delicious sour flavors and healthy bacteria.  I love kimchee and sour kraut.  I read that fermented foods are one of the top food trends for 2015, I sure hope that will be the case in our house.

 

What we eat changes in the winter.  Before we started farming we bought groceries based on what we wanted to eat, now we plan our menus based on the food we have stored.  It’s been a bit of an adjustment but it’s also rewarding.  I don’t feel deprived; it’s not like tomatoes from the grocery store in winter are anything to get excited about anyway!

Don’t get me wrong; Brian and I are not purists about local seasonal eating.  We love bananas and avocadoes.  We use a lot of coconut oil and drink a lot of coffee.  We just try to eat our food whenever we can and change the kind of food we eat as the season changes.  Eating this way means that we are seriously excited as each new crop comes ready.  In our lives it is snap pea season, or tomato season, or squash season, and we love each one.

Here are a few of our winter meal staples.  In the summer we eat a lot of green salads; in the winter our definition of salad changes.  We eat a lot of slaws: grated up carrots, beets, radishes and turnip.  I find that cabbage and sprouts really fill my need for greens when I throw them into my slaws.  I also toss in grains (quinoa, rice, wheat berries), or beans.  Our frozen kale (un-blanched) is actually really great as a component of salad (it probably wouldn’t be as the main part).  Brian made this salad using frozen kale and frozen beans and it was delicious: http://ohsheglows.com/2015/01/21/warm-roasted-winter-salad-bowl/.

We eat a lot of stir fries, soups, and curries and more pasta than we do in the summer.  We can use all of our veggies in these.  We also make some casseroles like shepard’s pie.

Roasted vegetables are a main stay.  We roast just about everything we have including garlic.  Roasted garlic is heavenly.   We make a lot of humus and other bean dips and eat them with raw veggies, mostly carrots sticks or thinly sliced beets.

Daikon carrot pickles

Daikon carrot pickles

I love quick pickled watermelon radish and daikon carrot pickles and eat them as a side.  I recently saw a post about quick pickling any vegetable and will be doing a lot more of that.

So there you have it.  This is how we eat in the winter and what we do to get ready.  It’s really not that much work.  Most of our preserving was done in a few afternoons.  This season I would like to spend one afternoon or evening every week doing some sort of preservation and Brian and I will be able to eat like royalty all winter.

We’ll keep you posted, until then Happy Eating!

 

 

 

 

Summer Squash

 

zucchini

 

patty pan

Radishes

Radish pea scallion salad lg

Braised radish lg

 

transplanting joy

chard seedling

I love transplanting. There is very little as joyful as tucking baby plants into the ground; it is such instant satisfaction.  Dig a hole in the soft soil, cradle a tiny, beautiful seedling in your fingers and place it into its new home.  I often whisper, “grow well little one”, and they do, quickly, and vigorously.  They become everything I hoped them to be.

We’ve harvested from first transplants now- glorious kale, beautiful rainbow chard, awesome head lettuce.  We planted our tomatoes, peppers and ground cherries not long ago.  I must admit even greater excitements for their development and ripening.  Tomatoes are my favorite of the many crops we’ll be growing this season.

So here’s to transplants, to immediate gratification in a profession that requires great patience, to sun ripened tomatoes, and to holding plant life in the palms of our hands before transferring their care to Mother Nature.  Cheers.

caress your kale

Not sure what to do with kale? Turn it into an amazing raw salad by showing it some love. It’s easy: wash the kale then tear into 1-2” pieces, removing the centre stem. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with sea salt then put your hands to work transforming the tough leaves into a tender treat through the power of massage. Top with your favorite fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and dressing then enjoy!

 

 

glorious garlic

close up of garlic plant

We love garlic and use it in everything, quite often far too much (but really, can you ever have too much garlic?)  This is why it was so exciting when we planted 50 pounds of garlic last fall.  It was our first farming act on our own farm.  The evening before planting we put on a movie and “popped cloves”, separating the bulbs and selecting only the firm, vigorous cloves to plant, saving the rest to eat.  We planted 1,200 row feet of garlic.  It only took a few hours then we had all winter to wait and see how they would do.  Then this spring, as the snow melted we began to see our garlic plants, bright, verdant green, poking through the dark wet soil.

In early summer we’ll enjoy garlic scapes, the delicious, relatively mild, crazily spiraled flower stalks of the garlic plant.  A few months later, in mid-summer, comes the main event.  Glorious garlic bulbs ready to pull, cure and enjoy.  We’ll let you know when they are ready!

first planting 2013!

close up of a planted bed

On Saturday April 6th we took a chance and planted our first few beds.  Looking at weather reports we could see rain coming soon and staying for some time.  We only had a small window to put seeds in the ground, so we took it.  Though the soil was dry our clay heavy ground was not ready for a tractor so we went old school, spreading compost by wheelbarrow, loosening soil with a broakfork and making our seed beds with rakes.

There was still frost on the ground when we started preparing beds in the morning.  We won’t know if we are crazy or courageous for a few more weeks but that’s farming; making a million decisions, gambling on weather and hoping for the best.

We’ve been planning all winter and seeding has to be one of the most exciting and hopeful tasks a farmer gets to do.  We loved it and we love our new Jang and Earthway seeders.  What did we plant you ask?  A little bit of a lot of things: baby lettuce, baby kale, baby chard, cilantro, dill, beet greens, Asian greens, arugula, spinach, carrots, beets, green onions, salad turnips, radish, shallots and peas.  Now, we’ll tuck them in under row cover to keep them warm and cross our fingers.

Hello Huron!

We are Brian Wiley and Tamara McMullen, a young couple with big dreams of living a tiny life on the farm we are building together.  We are starting our farm this spring growing on just over one acre of land.  We will be producing 30+ kinds of organically grown vegetables, flowers and herbs.  Farmer's Tamara and Brian

We have moved our 200 sq.ft. off-grid tiny home on wheels to Brian’s family property in Clinton and cannot wait to start growing healthy whole foods for our family, friends and neighbours in this wonderful community.

Thank you for visiting our site!  Please take a look around to learn more about our farm.  If you have any questions left unanswered feel free to get in touch; we’ll be happy to speak with you!

And of course… Happy Spring!