Saturday, September 19, 2015

BFM Sept. 19

Sun pouring into the Town Centre parkade, followed by jackhammering
 Today Jon and I tetrised as many squash and pumpkins into the truck as we could, and headed to the market.  We have a ridiculously full table right now, and actually considered getting 4 tables this week instead of 3, but can barely work the 24' with two people as it is, so we went up instead!  The only casualty was a 20-lb pumpkin that the chickens will enjoy, or if I am particularly ambitious when we get back from Winnipeg tomorrow I will make it into soup or something else delicious-- he took a tumble off the back of the table and cracked open.

 Shortly after the market opened, we found out why there were so many barricades up around the main floor of the parkade.  The jackhammers started!  Holy hell, the noise that a jackhammer makes from above a concrete and steel parkade is absolutely offensive.  Customers fled as fast as they could.  Faced with an empty market and a bunch of unhappy vendors, I went to figure out what we could do.  Admin office closed on a Saturday (of course).  They had warned the market management of the construction, but not to this extent.  The security guards were wonderfully helpful as usual, but couldn't do anything for us.  So, I went upstairs to see what could be done.
Jon getting the cash ready
 I pleaded with the crew of 4 guys working hard on the jackhammers that there was a Farmer's Market going on downstairs, the only 3 hours per week that the parkade is used as a public space.  It is also how we make our living, and without being able to talk to customers we might as well have not come.  It made the parkade an absolutely horrible, detestable place to be, for vendors and customers.  I offered to buy them coffee if they could take a long break.  The foreman was very nice and we finally compromised: they would finish the 20 minutes more of jackhammering that they had to do, and then they would take a break and do some less noisy things as long as they could.  They were silent until 11:45!!  We were very, very grateful for this, and so myself and another vendor loaded up a bag of goodies as a Thank You from the market.  It turned out to be a great day!
Brimming with bounty!
 It never hurts to ask nicely, you might get what you want!  Those 4 guys may have had to work later because of my request, and it's the weekend, so I hope that they get the good karma they deserve for helping out our market today.  :)
Jon and I watched the sun dip quickly below the horizon on Friday evening.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Vegetable Marrow

 I have this character trait of being so honest that I can't sell anything that I don't stand behind 100%.  It doesn't always make for the best salesperson, except that I LOVE most of the vegetables we grow, and I think that people love the authenticity behind my answers when they ask about something at the market.

So, a couple of our younger customers were asking about the vegetable marrow squash this weekend.  I tried some earlier in the year as a young squash (like zucchini: vegetable marrow can be eaten young or as a storage squash), and didn't love it.  Compared to the zucchini I did at the same time, it was bland and watery and tasteless.  So, I was harvesting some yesterday and decided to try it again, so I could genuinely say it was great when I had it with me at the market.  There is a contingent of market shoppers who snap these up two at a time when they see them.  One lady brought me a Vegetable Marrow Dessert that she made-- very similar to the citron preserve-- which was delicious, but not something I will be able to make until later in the fall (and she gave me the recipe, too!!).  So, what to do with these prolific & enormous white leg squashes??

I decided to stuff it with ground beef, leeks, peppers, celery, jalapenos, tomatoes, and a nice Japanese eggplant that I got from Greg when he gave us a garden tour this weekend (holy hell, his backyard is like a park... Two fish ponds, thousands of different rare flowers, GRAPES, veggies, the most huge herb plants I've ever seen, beautiful hostas, bay, a banana tree, in short: AMAZING!!).  The stuffing tasted amazing and I topped it with panko breadcrumbs.  I cooked the squash for about 20 minutes with garlic and butter, poked with a fork, before adding the stuffing and finishing baking.

The result:  I don't know what people see in this squash.  It is bland and flavourless, the texture is inferior to zucchini, it added nothing to my dish other than making Jon and I think: this would be SO GOOD if it were stuffed in a Kabocha or a Buttercup.  BOOO, Vegetable Marrow.  You suck!

So, I still won't be able to sell this squash, and will have to bite my tongue when shoppers tell me that they love it roasted or boiled (yek!) or baked.  Good thing there are lots of different tastes in this world, this one just doesn't do anything for me personally.  For those who love it-- Lucky!-- More for you.  Go nuts, there are lots, and I will be sticking to my Kabochas.  :)

(Sorry for the crappy photos, broke my camera last week and have to go get a new one tomorrow... An essential tool for me!)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Brandon Farmer's Market September 5th

Luckily Colin from the Brandon Sun was around to take a photo last weekend, to commemorate our best market day ever!  We were busy from the time we stepped out of the truck (running late due to too much tetris involved packing the truck), to the last customer (well after 12 pm), followed by shock at how we fit all the full crates in, as we barely fit all the empties back in! 
Photo shows one of our favourite customers, Eva-- aka the Dill Lady-- and her daughter in the foreground.  We love the Brandon Farmer's Market, and the best part is the customers!  They have proved to be more engaged and adventurous than we could have ever hoped for!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

September 6 Update: Fulfilling

 It's been a while since I even uploaded any photos to the blog, never mind written anything.  We don't have internet at home, so those convenient times when it is too dark to do anything outside aren't filled with the computer (though the time is usually filled with cooking or preserving or bagging or washing veggies).  We plan to get it soon, and haven't really missed it that much this summer, as we spend most of our time at Mom and Dad's anyhow, so the few hundred dollars to set it up and then $80 + a month has been better off in our pockets. 
It's also a good reminder of how much we rely on being connected-- We actually considered making a list of "things to Google", because we'd so often have questions neither of us knew the answer to-- like the lifespan of dragonflies, or the habits of Sandhill Cranes (which we finally figured out are the birds we hear circling high overhead when we are working in the fields).  At any rate, life without Google is possible, and still lovely!

We have started the process of harvesting squash and pumpkins and bringing them into the greenhouse to cure, so they will store well.  It's a big job, as the three rows of squash have erupted into a 60' x 100' swath of tangled vines, which means some of the harvesting is done with one person waist-high in the middle throwing squash to the other, who loads them in our wheelbarrow and carts them over to the truck.  We don't have a truck, but have been lucky to borrow the Brown Sugar truck or occasionally Dad's for this purpose.  There are still hundreds of heavy squash to come in, and we are chipping away at it as quickly as possible before the impending F word-- Frost!-- necessitates this task.  If it were up to Jon and I it would all still be in the field, but luckily Mom's experience advised us that in this climate it is important to get started on harvest as soon as they begin to be ready.  The butternut and Long Island Cheese Pumpkins still have a ways to go ripening, and so we hope that they will make it!  Last week's two days in the +35 Celsius range and all the rain will do wonders, I'm sure.
Joan, our most regular market visitor!
 As I write this, the smell of hot coffee and freshly baking bread come from the kitchen, I can see Samson in the yard chasing butterflies, and hear the muffled beats of Jon practicing DJing upstairs.  I am working at my newly acquired desk, facing our now-cozy living room, which looks more like my Gran's living room because the desk and nearly all of the furniture and accessories in it are from her.  It was such great timing to arrive back in Manitoba in time to visit with her in her last 3 months.  We've also been enjoying seeing Auntie Joan all summer, as she arrived in early June and has been around sorting out Gran's affairs since then.  Gran's photo now honors the wall beside Grandpa Tom's, with a framed message from a card she gave me in 2013, when we visited at Christmas: "No matter where you roam in your exciting life, you will always be welcomed here where you began.  Love always, Gran".  I am so glad to have such a nice little house where all of Gran's things have such an honored and appreciated home.  We will also miss Joan, who returns to the Netherlands tomorrow.

Tomorrow we welcome our first guests from Nova Scotia-- Jem's wife Karen and her daughter Cleo, who will spend a night with Cleo's labradoodle Annie, on their way to Victoria-- a long trek, and we are glad to host them.  I am making Ratatouille Provencale from the Joy of Cooking for the occasion-- also the occasion that we have a few ripe eggplant in the field!   The tomatoes and peppers and garlic and zucchini and herbs and squash and basically everything in the fields right now are stunning, so I am excited to have some visitors and also to get to share the peak of the season with their tired traveler bellies!

Last night we enjoyed a garden veggie pizza and some roma beans, shared by one of our best customers, Greg.  I don't get to cook as much as I would like, but with the help of Auntie Jayne there is lots being put in the freezer for the winter, and I am doing what I can to enjoy the bounty-- Greek or cucumber salads nearly daily, eggs as much as possible, beans with every meal, tomatoes in everything, etc.  Avoiding potatoes and carrots and squash for the most part, as there is lots of time for that in the winter months ahead.  As we near winter, our need for winter employment becomes an increasing reality.  I find myself waffling on what I want to do-- I have an open door with Ben at Remington's, but I am not sure if I can muster going back to serving after 10 years of being away.  I have loads of alternative ideas for making income, but the practical me knows that the easiest and most advantageous winter endeavor would be to just work somewhere by the hour.  It's a means to an end, and will allow us to save some pennies to put back into the farm that we love so much and have just signed an agreement to buy next year (until then, we are renting to own).  So, even if it means doing something entirely fulfilling, farmers Jon and Teri will have off-farm jobs this winter.  Hopefully something I can get excited about comes out of the woodwork before November. 

On the note of fulfilling: that's the word I would use to describe this season.  It's not been particularly easy, and there's definitely room to grow and adjust in future years, but it has been the most fulfilling year of my life so far.  From its start in Nova Scotia in the terrible bitter snow-heavy winter of 2015, lugging vegetables to market with my revered mentor Andrew at Noggins (and wondering often where the heck my life was going), to making the decision to change our plans last minute and uproot to Manitoba-- I've found so much joy in so many things since we made the change and so many little markers along the way that tell us we're on the right path.  We're still able to laugh at ourselves, like these zucchini behemoths that made a lot of customers really happy with their great value ($2 each!), and are a result of us choosing to do many other things rather than harvest zucchini for a few days....  And really, who cares?  We're having a record-breaking year, the farm is supporting the addition of two farmers to the team, we are connecting with lots of amazing customers and blowing folks away with our variety and quality at the markets.  We're in charge of our own destiny, which is one of the major reasons we decided to make the change in the first place: and also the reason why I can choose to sit at my desk today using some of our phone's data to reflect in a blog post rather than being outside harvesting beans (really, it's because it's too wet :P).   Jon and Teri and Manitoba are getting along just fine, and we look forward to many, many great seasons to come.

Plans for the winter include looking into setting up a shoots room in our house, beginning the organic certification process, streamlining varieties and ordering seeds, creating a plan for next season, compiling all the data collected this season to help us make our decisions, collecting all the thousands of photos I've taken this year into a book, and also doing lots of resting and culinary adventures and enjoying of our farm.  Looking forward to it-- Much to do before then!  :)