Tuesday, 24 June 2014

New Pigs

We have two Berkshire pigs.  They were weaned young and, frankly, young Berkshire pigs are ugly. At least these are, though they are getting a bit bigger and are starting to look more like pigs and less like big rats. They were raised from birth on a pasture of about 30 acres and developed a certain wildness and lean, boxy little physiques. The first evening we had them, after having put them in a pen for the afternoon and tossed them some grass, we let them out into the barn's "common area" to give them a proper meal.   Before that, each time either of us approached the pen, they would freeze, even keeping a leg in the air.  They were extremely alert and sensitive to every sound.  As they scampered around the barn they sought only to escape, and quickly pushed the big pagewire door open and started darting around the yard.

Actually, they are quite adorable

We had lined the yard with shipping pallets, forming a tight fence, with the intention of having them out once they had learned that the barn was where they would get food and they would not want to venture far.  But on the first day, they would not have been inclined to return if they got out.  As well sealed as the yard seemed to be, there was one panel that was shorter than the others.  Lazy, well-fed pigs would never try to scale it, but these ones took a run at it and one of the climbed to the top, got its body half way over before struggling for a moment to free herself.  It was by some grace that she struggled to get herself over because it gave me just enough time to grab her hind legs and get her back into the barn.  Imagine a $100 bill floating over the edge of a ship and you grab it just before it is out of reach.

Meanwhile, farmgate sales are coming along - we are gaining customers each day and meeting nice and interesting people. The farmgate concept is not common around here and people take notice when they see one.  I visited a farm called Vicki's Veggies in Prince Edward County last week, where I saw a stunning 16 acres of pristine veggies and then the most exquisite farm store - an old garage that had been converted into a small shop with old windows in rustic wooden frames and a floor of wide wood slabs that were just crooked and creaky enough, without being dilapidated.  There is no way to replicate that.  Ours looks a bit, well, suburban, given that we are opening up our much more modern garage door and selling from the edge of the the garage's shelter (of course when you see the chickens and wild flowers all around you, your don't feel you are in a subdivision).  In any case, we are admittedly less rustic than some and maybe not quite as much the postcard image, but we do have heart just the same.

Tomatoes are getting close now, they are big and green, and in another week or two ready to enjoy.  There is nothing like a freshly picked Brandywine tomato cut up and sprinkled with a little bit of brown sugar.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Farmgate is Open

As you come up the highway, past the old stone house with the white picket fence where the old bachelor farmer lives, and past the old United Church that sits unused, and then past the cemetery, the little one right off the highway with the old wire sign, you will see the sign for the hamlet of Murvale and on your left, a large greenhouse in the distance. You will then notice a sign that reads:

Eggs - free range, organically fed
Pork - organically fed
Chinese Dim Sum -
Steamed buns and egg tarts

This is Long Road Eco Farm.  The sign now reads all of those things and cucumber.  We have turnip greens and snow peas, radishes and collards, garland chrysanthemum and oregano.  Lettuce next week and then tomatoes, mustard greens, asian salad mix, then soon after we will have squash and sweet potatoes.  There will be okra, chard, zucchini, cilantro, sweet corn, strawberries, and lots of nice beans of different colours and lengths.  There will be garlic and onions, and ground cherries and watermelon.  There will be Shiitake mushrooms, Berkshire pork and eggs from Chantecler hens.  There is a lot going on right now.

The farmgate is open and people are pulling in.  You can hear the slow crunch of gravel as cars hesitantly venture into the property, driver and passenger gazing to the left at the garden beds under row cover or black mulch cover or bare soil with vegetation as neatly weeded as can be expected, then to the right where the greenhouse doors are open and cucumber and tomatoes sprawl upwards on stakes, the yellow cucumber flowers bright.  At the foot of the driveway is parking and a chicken yard in sight.  People get out and ask about our operation, buy a couple of steam buns, some veggies, some egg tarts.  Driving back towards the highway they see the red clover, the daisies, the butter and eggs, the alfalfa, the mullein, the prairie smoke.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Fields are in Bloom

A vegetable field grows slowly enough that it catches you off guard when things are ripe and ready to pick and then eat or sell.

We have been doing a market in our area and selling Chinese buns.  The cabbage above is used for the filling, as is the smoked, cured pork we raised and prepared and the eggs we get from our hens.

I have also been selling egg tarts with organic cream and homemade pastry.  Business is not booming, our products are not quite flying off the table, and there are no lineups, but we have gotten some good feedback about the pleasantly intriguing tastes of our food.  One customer said:  "These are awesome!" That was nice.

I was a lemonade vendor as a child.  I didn't have to have a permit for the stand I had at the end of the sidewalk.  I can remember one otherwise lazy summer afternoon when business reached a pitch and I ran out of popcorn and had to get another batch going.  My aunt Judy, who lived with us and who came home on the handy bus around 4:00 had just arrived and the driver bought a lemonade and popcorn.  She waited patiently.  A young couple stopped and picked up lemonades, I served them while the handy bus driver stood aside:  "There you are...popcorn will be just another moment...oh, hello sir, what can I get you..." another guy stopped for a glass and then I ran back into the house and got the popcorn out so the driver could be on her way.  Then the lull came and I felt very satisfied.  I think I made $20 for the summer (that's net profit - I think I spent another $20 on a new popcorn popper for the next season).

Being an adult food vendor comes with more stress obviously.  It's hard to establish yourself, and it's hard to go for long making $20 profit for the season. I do expect to do better than that, but business is slow at many Canadian farmer's markets.

2014 - Harrowsmith Market

1990 - Jonny's Lemonade, Lethbridge (from left to right:  Brother Patrick,
Schoolmate Reilly, and Jonathan at Right)