An Update From Our Farm to Your Table…
by Amy Miller
Summer has brought us an extra challenge this year. Most farms regardless of type are dealing with drought this growing season. On our farm this affects the production level of our gardens and hay crop the most. Even with sprinklers and irrigation, if we don’t have an assist from Mother Nature once in a while, some of our vegetables are either not growing or showing major heat stress. On a positive note, however, the key to most problems that we have found is diversity, as it is rare that everything struggles in the same season.
Our bees have been busy turning nectar into honey. The supers (boxes of honey frames) have been pulled and spun out, resulting in some very flavourful alfalfa honey. We use honey in a lot of ways. We add it to plain yogurt for a treat, in teas when we are feeling under the weather, as well as in any baking that is done. Honey is a great substitute for refined sugars and healthier for you as well. I always find it amazing to sit back and watch those tiny creatures venture out from their hives to explore the gardens, hay land, flowerbeds, etc. and return with nectar to turn into honey for us.
We have had an abundance of rhubarb, garlic, and herbs for our kitchens so far and a large crop of catnip for everyone’s feline friends. Rhubarb is a great fruit to have on hand. It can be used in a wide variety of dishes (muffins, cakes, cookies) and preserves like relish and chutney. For those with diabetes, it also has a natural ability to help in lowering blood sugar.
The garlic crop did really well. We had taken a break from growing garlic for a few seasons so that we could work at improving the soil. This attention to the soil paid off in spades. Garlic does best planted in rich, well-drained soil. We fall planted garlic instead of the spring because it’s easier for us and we find it does a bit better in our area. Garlic gets planted late in the fall, as you want it to just get itself established and set a few roots before winter hits. Due to the lack of moisture that we are constantly dealing with, we water ours really well with the sprinkler and then apply a thick layer of straw. The straw helps the soil retain the moisture in low snow winters, insulates the ground against mild winter weather, and protects the new shoots in the spring from frost, dry soil, and weeds. Mid-summer we harvested our scapes, followed by the bulbs a few weeks later.
On the animal side of things, we have seen a rejuvenation of the land on which we graze our chickens, pigs, and cows. By moving our animals on a regular basis, it has triggered the grasses, etc. to rejuvenate quicker and withstand the heat longer than the areas that were not grazed. We transition our chickens from outdoor brooder boxes into our larger chicken tractors when they are about 3–4 weeks old. Once in the chicken tractors, they are moved a full length (8 ft) so they always have fresh ground to forage on. Each chicken tractor also has its own suspended water bar system so that their water is always clean. By combining the clean water and always having fresh ground, we have found that their health is dramatically increased and we have few losses. Our motto with our animals (poultry, foul, pigs, and cattle) is that they only have ONE bad day. Chicken raised in this method has a better flavour, is healthier for those who eat it, and as a side benefit, it increases the health and life of the soil as they graze and fertilize it. One roasted chicken in some cases may cost a bit more than the larger grocery stores, but the number of meals you can get out of whole roast chicken is amazing. The carcass can be made into broth, and leftovers make great soups, casseroles, or served cold as sandwich meat. Our farm favourite is to brine the chicken for 24 hours and then cook it in the smoker. In addition to chickens, we also raise turkeys and ducks for their meat. They are both raised in the same fashion with the exception of the turkeys, who are kept in their brooder boxes until closer to 5–6 weeks as they are more reliant on heat until they are fully feathered.
Our pigs are the other side to our pastured meat. They have a longer lifespan, so they do a lot more grazing for us. For this reason we typically use them to graze problem areas where there are either bad weeds or where the soil’s organic matter is low. They have a tremendous ability to plow through the soil with their noses and tracing weed roots a long way. To supplement the natural foraging, we also feed them a soaked grain ration that typically includes wheat, lentils or peas, and some oats. Once the weather starts turning to the colder side, we toss in large amounts of straw for them to bed into, play with and turn into a beautiful mulch. The pigs are probably our best soil improvers on the farm. Between their manure and the amount of organic matter that they turn in and mix into the soil, you would be hard pressed to find another animal that is as beneficial in both grazing ability, soil building skills, and of course their fabulous flavour.
Rhubarb Saskatoon Crisp
For this delicious dessert, if you do not have Saskatoon berries, you can substitute in any fruit or mixture of fruit that you have either on hand or in your freezer. Also, if you are short on butter, you can do half butter and half coconut oil for a nice flavour. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Mix the following together and put into a 9 x 13 pan (no greasing required).
3 cups diced rhubarb
3 cups Saskatoon berries
(blueberries or strawberries also taste great)
3 tbsp flour
1 cup honey
In a separate bowl mix together 1 ½ cups flour and 1 cup brown sugar. Cut in 1 cup butter until it is roughly the consistency of oatmeal. Then mix in 1 cup rolled oats (I have used both quick cooking and steel cut options). Spread this mixture on top of the fruit mixture. Bake for 45 minutes.
Garlic Scape Pesto
Garlic scapes are the top curly section of the garlic plant that are harvested just before it flowers to allow the energy of going to seed to be put into the development of the garlic bulb. There are several recipes out there for this amazing pesto so feel free to experiment. It is great on so many things. Serve it with crackers as an appetizer, mix it with pasta, or add it to any dish or meat that you would normally use garlic in.
Place the following items into a food processor and mix together until smooth.
1 pound of garlic scapes that have been washed and chopped into approximately 1”–2” pieces
1 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup olive oil (I sometimes use grapeseed or avocado oil for a different flavour)
1 tbsp lemon juice
ground black pepper to taste
Tips for a Great Roast Chicken
When cooking a chicken in the oven, some of the tricks that I have learned include mixing some (ground or whole dried) sage, rosemary, and thyme in a small dish. Then gently lift the skin over the breast, and depending on the form of herbs you use, either rub or stuff the herbs under the skin. This allows the flavour of the herbs to cook into the meat for a great boost of flavour. Cook your chicken with the breast side down. This allows the juices to flow through the bird and into the white meat as it cooks. Since doing this trick, the white meat is no longer the last meat left over.
If you have the space in your oven to do so, cook your chicken with the legs pointed to the back of your oven. They are the last part to finish cooking, so doing this will result in not overcooking the breast meat while waiting for the legs to finish cooking.
Recipe for the pesto was found at www.allrecipes.com. The “Crisp” recipe was originally found on Facebook and is tweaked a bit each time I bake it.
Sage Valley Farm is a fourth generation, family-run farm that raises pastured poultry and pork, as well as a wide variety of produce, herbs, and teas. They started their farm with a desire to create a farm that produces tasty, nutrient-dense food using organic and regenerative systems to feed their soils. They sell their farm fresh food to a wide variety of customers throughout Saskatchewan and are honoured to play a role in building our local food system. For information call (306) 476-7111, or email email@example.com, and visit www.knowyourfarmer.ca. Follow them on Facebook or Instagram by @SageValleyFarms, Lisieux, SK. Their products are available through The Farmers’ Table (see the display ad on page 9 of the 27.3 September/October issue of the WHOLifE Journal.).