Sunday, 25 December 2016

Week #52 - End with Gratitude

This week ends a full year of weekly blogs of my random thoughts, pictures and musings from the farm. The year has flown by once again and I find it hard to believe that we are once again heading into a new year.  

Last year I shared a picture a day from the farm, a challenging yet rewarding practice that I enjoyed immensely except on the days I didn't. I enjoy sharing our successes and stories of folly and fun from the farm. I love hearing from the few of you who follow along and hope that every once in a while you get a chuckle or learn something new! 

Today is Christmas Day and as we get set to eat a meal fully grown here on the farm, I feel immense gratitude that we have carved out a life that allows us to enjoy good food, fresh air and simple pleasures.

I hope that all of you are safe and warm with someone you love, awaiting the impending blizzard that is reportedly going to arrive shortly. Regardless of what traditions you celebrate this time of year, I hope they bring you peace, joy and grace as you move forward to a new year.


Sunday, 18 December 2016

Week #51 - Worth the effort...

Many people have a favourite recipes that we make at this time of year. We haul out Grandma's shortbread or nanaimo recipes, prepare to make that special stuffing we only make once a year or enjoy some warm cider or eggnog that bring a rush of memories. 

This year, I've discovered a new favorite that will likely be a regular feature in my repertoire! Sundried tomato and basil pesto cheese torte is festive, yummy and impressive! 

Using a springform pan lined with plastic wrap, you layer a cream cheese/ricotta mixture with alternating layers of sundried tomato and then green basil pesto, freezing after each layer. It takes a day to make while you wait for it to freeze in between but it is well worth it! 

Once complete you cut in wedges with a hot knife and wrap individually. I keep them in the freezer, ready to grab and go. An impressive appetizer for any potluck! They kept well for months. 

If you don't have the ingredients or the patience to make your own pestos, you can always purchase them pre-made from your local farmers or small business shop. 

Interested in giving it a try? I found a number of different recipes on line by googling 'cream cheese sundried tomato basil pesto torte'. They were all fairly similar. Don't be scared off by various steps.... it is well worth it! 

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Week #50 - Failing to plan, is planning to fail

Last Christmas, my oldest son gave me a simple gift that I use everyday! A reclaimed frame around a board that he painted over with chalkboard paint, I've used it to post a weekly menu ever since. 

Each Sunday night, I take a look at our schedule for the week, collect requests from the family and take stock of what we have on hand. 

When you raise the majority of your own food, you learn to cook what you have in abundance when you have it. For instance right now I have a pantry full of winter squash and potatoes that I need to find creative and yummy uses for! 

After almost a year of creating weekly menus, I would highly recommend the practice to anyone and everyone! Taking time when you are neither hungry nor tired to plan out healthy meals for the week has helped us eat better, reduce food waste, decreased what we spend in the grocery store, and reduced the overall stress of figuring out what to put on the table everyday. 

Now that both Farmer Phil and I are working full time off farm and the kids are all in school or university in the city during the day, there is no "supper fairy" preparing our meals in time for our arrival home. Our evenings are full with barn chores, 4H, ferrying children around and house work... anything to cut down on work is most welcome!

I find the menu makes planning ahead much easier. We can look at what is planned for tomorrow or the next day and quickly assess what needs to come out the freezer... what can be prepped ahead of time or popped in the slow cooker. At the end of the day, when you are tired and hungry, its much easier to stick with the plan than come up with something new (and usually less healthy), especially when the rest of the family is looking forward to the advertised meal. 

And best of all... we don't have to face the daily question from everyone in the house..... "what's for supper?"... we simply point to the sign on the wall! 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Week #49 - Hello & Goodbye..

This weekend we said goodbye to Ariane. After spending three months with us she returned home to Quebec and her family. She was here on an exchange program that focused on giving youth an opportunity to learn English (or French) and experience life in another province! Our daughter will head to Quebec in February to live with Ariane's family for three months. 

This exchange program is one in a series of experiences that we as a family have engaged in over the past 20 years. We have hosted well over thirty people (mostly youth) and our children have had several opportunities to travel and experience other cultures that they otherwise would not likely have experienced. 

As I've written about previously, we have hosted so many folks from around the world in the interest of learning, growing and expanding our world without necessarily leaving the farm. And while I agree wholeheartedly with this and will continue to host... the goodbyes that are inevitable with any exchange program are challenging.....

The packing up, the airport drive, the hugs and tears, do not get easier with repetition. The commitment to return, to visit, to write are always there. Some do, some don't.... but all become part of our families collective heart, our history, our memories. Each one has taught us something.... 

Yuka taught us our first Japanese words....
Carwyn showed us how to judge sheep...
Haruka reminded us not to take ourselves to seriously....
Ricardo taught us to listen to the purr of every car engine differently...
..... and Ariane showed us the joy of a competitive spirit and the importance of seizing every opportunity! When Ariane was around it was impossible to be grumpy... it was also impossible to keep any candy in the house that she didn't eventually find! You will be missed, dear heart!

So while I am certain that we are all richer for the open door and the welcome we hold for those from afar, today my heart is a wee bit tender and needs some rest... 

...until we say Hello again.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Week #48 - Raising supper

There is no end of debate both online and off about the ethics of raising animals for food. Our approach has been to listen to all sides and decide based on what seems right for our family and business with a view to a sustainable approach for our earth.

We are blessed with space and time to raise animals in a manner that provides them with a good life, an ethical death and a modest impact on the world.  I appreciate that not all will agree but it is a choice that we feel good about. As we choose to include meat in our diets, it feels right that we should take responsibility to nurture the animal kindly with affection, sunshine and natural food sources. In return, we are blessed with food that is free of chemicals and has a superior taste and nutrition.

If we were not able to raise our food in such a way and we had to rely on commercially raised animals produced in factory like settings, I may make different choices about how we eat. 

Of course we all have a choice to seek out and purchase food from local producers who take the same type of care and concern with their animals. I encourage everyone to get to know where and how your food is raised whether its animal or vegetable. Get to know your farmer, producer, baker, butcher and small business owner and ask questions and visit farms. What you put in your mouth is important! Be aware, informed and engaged! 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Week #46 - Tis the Season

In our family, Christmas is a big deal.... 

We plan and conspire all year round to create, search for and find just the right thing for each other. 

Most of our gifts must be made, upcycled or re-used but this year we are also 'allowed' to buy from local stores. 

It always amazes me what we come up. For us Christmas is not a religious ceremony but one built on family memories and traditions.

The season begins on November 12th and lasts to Jan. 2nd. (our poor tree usually has only about two needles left by New Years' Day! 

My No. #2 son showed us all up by making and wrapping the first gift before the tree was even up! 

This weekend saw most of us ramping up the list making and planning and holiday tunes were at full blast! 

Next weekend the tree goes up and the eggnog season begins! What are your holiday traditions? 

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Week #46 - Recipe for a heavy heart

This week was long, dark and scary! 

The time change and approaching winter solstice set the stage for a week of doing chores in the dark and feeling like you weren't completely sure what time it was. I've never been able to explain why gaining an hour creates such havoc in our sleep patterns! 

Like many folks, I found myself swept up in the American trainwreck on Tuesday. I cycled through a series of emotions from horror, to anger to sadness. I do not yet feel like I've fully processed what has happened and what it means for so many. The symbolism of Trump's victory casts long shadows on the progressive lifestyle that I so often feel so grateful for in North America. While I hope that all our fears are misguided and unfounded, I do not hold out much hope on that front. 

Tuesday's events in the US, seemed to make Friday's somber ceremonies of remembrance for the fallen, whose shoulders we all stand on, seem fragile and bittersweet. Add the loss of a much loved and talented Canadian icon and the week seemed too much to bear.  

All that being said, I find myself on Sunday night feeling more optimistic and content and ready to continue to celebrate and honour the values that are important to me. Looking back, I find a simple recipe has soothed my heavy heart. 

  • Surround yourself with those you love
  • Add in some cuddles and laughter with young souls (babies and puppies work best)
  • Work until you hurt at something worthwhile
  • Blend in plenty of fresh local food
  • Marinate heavily in sunshine and gentle breezes
  • Repeat...

Next week is going to be better! Be good to each other!