Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Winter Wonderings

By Michelle

Alright. Three months has passed since our last website update, and I'm embarrassed. It would be easy to say that we just haven't had the time (only slightly true), we got caught in traffic (definitely not true), or that the dog ate my computer (only true in that my hard drive got 'eaten' by fate and resulted in 2 weeks of internet sabbatical + lessons in systsems back-ups). So, I'm coming clean, and going to admit that - I have a hard time sharing my world with the online public. I am becoming increasingly proficient at following and organizing my favourite blogs and websites, which mostly consist of what I like to call 'canning porn' (endless photos of gorgeous-looking food in jars), small farm & holistic management livestock practices, whole foods cooking, and sometimes, DIY health & body products. Oh, how foodie-homesteader of you, you say. (Well, yeah, so what, I say.) And it's very inspiring to read through blog posts from talented folks such as Aagaard Farms, Boundary Creek Farm, and The Dirty Life's Kristin Kimball, but when it comes to trying to emulate nuggets of wisdom to share with the foreboding interweb, I freeze up. Nevertheless, in the wise words of friend Pamela Cavers from Harborside Farms, 'Write it down. Write it all down'. Because, let's be honest, as much as I'm sure the average Joe/Jane doesn't give a flying flapjack about everything that goes on in the lives of two young, slightly green, aspiring/practicing small farmers, well, I might at least find some of it funny 20 years from now, when I look back with a shaking head (and ragged body). And, if nothing else, it really is nice to communicate with some of the people that are buying the food we grow/raise; that's why we do it that way, silly. The problem is, when you only post as sporadically as I do, then you end up turning nuggets into mountains o'words. Like this post. Oh, geez.

The winter is a time for reflection; on the past season, what worked, and what didn't. Both logistically and financially. And mentally/emotionally. Sometimes we forget about that last one. This past Spring/Summer/Fall was probably the busiest we have ever had, but one of the best. I mean, we've still only been 'farming' for two years now, but the difference between this one and last felt immense. This year, the two of us managed to grow, nurture and harvest 30 different types of vegetables (over 100 varieties, started from seed) in over 1 acre of gardens, virtually without the aid of heavy machinery...not counting 55 varieties of herbs and all of the greenhouse plants we started and sold to the public...we supplied 35 families from 5 different communities with a variety of vegetables for 15 weeks throughout the season, through our first-year CSA delivery program, which we are really proud to consider a success. We ramped-up the production side of things this year, using our newfound canning & preserving, drying/dehydrating skills, to make over 40 different products, many of these sold to the public, via word-of-mouth local sales, farmers markets, CSA members, and the Harvest Moon Local Food Buying Clubs. Despite all of the extra work that this requires, including late nights canning over the stove, re-trying many failed batches, seeking out the right packaging and branding techniques, we do feel like it was worth it - it is great to offer unique products, with ingredients that we grew ourselves, and, the kicker - to have people appreciate it. So - thanks, you guys! I can't help feeling an overwhelming gratitude to everyone that supported us this year, even if it was just a jar of grape jelly and some words of encouragement. It means a lot. Oh, and we managed to save some food for ourselves, too - if the 'apocalypse' really is upon us four days from now, we've got the pantry stocked to keep us goin' for a while. Alternatively, it'll do us the winter :)

So, some other things that happened on Fresh Roots Farm this year, that you'll know all about if you know us personally or follow our sparse online updates, include: raising 400 Cornish Cross chickens, 20 cows, 22 calves (that's right - 110%) and 3 heifers, 20 hives of about 2 000 000 bees, and 17 laying hens (let's not talk about the 6 roosters, shall we?) Not to toot the ol' horn or anything, but that makes me pretty proud. I'm less proud about the fact that we never took a 'holiday', let alone a weekend off, to inhale and exhale a few times; or that we rarely attended or hosted social outings. Holistic Management principles (and common sense) remind us that the work ain't worth it if you don't take the time to regenerate the mind, body & spirit - if you don't take a break from cultivating the rows to cultivate valued relationships with important people. It's sad for people that work to raise good food for others that we sometimes don't have time to make three wholesome meals a day for ourselves. So, in conclusion, we've decided to forgo [meat] chicken-raising and greenhouse sales for an increased focus on the market gardens, cattle and bees. Giving up the chickens makes me only slightly sad (ask Troy how he feels about it), as we did get some really great feedback from those who bought our meat this year. In the words of my cousin's friend, "Do you have more of those chickens? They're like crack!"  Some things work, some don't. And that enterprise was one with little financial gain and a large loss of sanity. (Have you ever tried herding chickens?)  But I regress...

In the avoidance of 'Christmas madness' (and we all know it can drive you mad, if you let it), we've settled into a nice, slower pace, with a lot more off-farm work and time to read a book, and even pore over seed catalogues perhaps (just give me another week or two, and I'll be mentally ready for that). I'm noticing that we get this question, a lot: 'So, uh, whattya do in the winter? You keeping busy?' Well-meaning, but I can't help feeling slightly resentful of the 'idle' undertones...'Well, since there's no plants to plants to grow outdoors, the chickens are butchered, and the cattle chewing their cud, I find myself listlessly drifting between a comatose-meditative state and thumb-twiddling during these precious hours of winter daylight.' ...Or not. Troy and I have four to five off-farm jobs, that we spend time at particularly during the winter (though some of these also during busy warmer months), 'cause, like everyone else, we got's to pay the bills. And we consider ourselves lucky, that we really do enjoy the work we do at our non-farm jobs, utilizing existing skill sets and developing new ones. Thanks to my entrepreneurial father, I get to work at Northfork Ranch Supply (your total livestock supply store*shameless plug*). Oh, and we do have cattle, laying hens, cats and dogs to care for, at home. So, thankfully, thumb-twiddling is kept to a bare minimum.

Most recently, we basically sold out our value-added stock after about 10 days of ordering online through the Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative and its four buying clubs in Winnipeg. A friend and I just made 3 different types of soap, a salve and lip balm from natural ingredients (including those from our own gardens). This latter is a new and exciting venture [read:hobby] that I can see myself doing much more of. Troy is experimenting with medicinally-infused honey, as well, which is exciting. We're pretty darn determined that we're going to keep our bodies somewhat healthy as we simultaneously work them to the bone. Okay, Captain Dramatico, here we go once more...Point is, we love the work we do and feel lucky to be able to do it. We also love winter because it does give us a bit of a break. 

Here's to exciting new adventures in 2013...we wish you are able to spend time with people you love, doing things you love and, obviously, eating food you love. And, if the world at large experiences a 'mass shift in consciousness' (or even if they just think they have), maybe it will mean more people will want to put good, healthy food in their bodies and support the farmers living near them, and that can't be all bad. Not bad at all. 

My New Year's resolution involves pushing my personal boundaries to write more frequent and less wordy blog posts. Until then, Happy Holidays, all.

Monday, 3 September 2012

September Update

Wow - what a long time it's been since we updated our blog! For shame. Truth is, there hasn't been much time...too much to do in the gardens, farmyard & kitchen! But now we have lots to share...

CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) Program
We're currently in week 13 of 16 of our brand spankin' new CSA program...hard to believe! As we near the end of our first season delivering vegetables weekly to 33 different households, we're reflecting on how it's gone and looking towards next year. We've been overwhelmed with the support from our CSA members here in the rural communities of Cartwright, Mather, Clearwater, Crystal City and Pilot Mound; really thankful to everyone who jumped on board and are giving us great feedback! Though we acknowledge that there are many things we can improve about the system, and though Thursdays are a long, tiring day (getting up early to harvest, clean & process, package and then deliver for four hours), we love seeing and forming meaningful connections with the people that are eating our food. This means a lot to us and fits really well into our vision of how we'd like to see our farm business function and develop.

One of our Large-size CSA baskets!

The market gardens are still producing lots of food, despite the extremely dry weather we've been having here in Cartwright. It's a bit overwhelming trying to keep up with it, frankly. On top of maintaining and harvesting the vegetables, we are really striving to process and preserve as much of it as we can - some for ourselves (this is one of the main reasons we grow a garden, after all) and much of it is being sold as value-added products. This means lots of delicious pickled things, jams and jellies, and freezing. We have some really diabolical plans for some special products that should be ready in mid-September (whoa, that's soon!)

...which brings us to value-add. Here's a list of some of the things that we've been using garden/farm products (and adding value to) in the past while:
*note: we may not have all of these items currently in stock. Please ask if you are interested.
  • Pickles (Zesty Bread & Butter, Dills)
  • Dilled Beans - a combo of our green filet and yellow roma beans with dill, garlic, & other seasonings. A real popular summer treat!
  • Pickled Beets with Fennel - an anise-flavoured twist on a classic fave
  • Jardiniere Pickles - a tangy mix of cauliflower, onions, zucchini, carrots and bell peppers. Great with grilled meats and seafood, or on their own for a healthy snack...
  • Troy's 'Billion Dollar' Relish - no, it doesn't cost that much, but totally worth that much, on a delicious burger. Made with our own honey to sweeten.
  • Chokecherry Jelly - Troy harvested local wild chokecherries, and also made the jelly, sweetened with our honey. Sooo good.
  • Gingered Citrus-Rhubarb Jam - A fresh-tasting Vitamin-C-enriched party in your mouth.
  • Apple Jelly - made with locally picked crabapples
  • Cran-Apple Jelly
  • Apple Rosehip Syrup 
  • Pesto (classic basil; garlic scape & herb)
  • Kale Chips - these have become one of our most popular item, selling out quick at the Farmers Market! Kale leaves seasoned with a garlicky-cheesy mix, and dehydrated, they're addictive (but it's okay 'cause they're crazy good for you)
  • 'Sundried' Tomatoes - actually dehydrated (hence the quotations), these gourmet little beauties packed in extra-virgin olive oil taste amazing with pasta, vegetables, meats and breads...or just as a tasty snack on their own!
Coming soon:
  • Dried herbs - stock up for the winter with our very own Fresh Roots Farm-grown herbs, from culinary singles and mixes to teas!
  • Herbal-Infused Vinegars - to use in salad dressings, meat or vegetable marinade, pasta salads, pickles, etc.
  • Ketchup - This ain't the same ol' Heinz 57. Tangy, made with real tomatoes.
  • Hot Sauce - Made with our own tomatoes and hot peppers, we have a variety of spicy sauces comin' down the pipe, for those that like it hot...
  • Dips, Sauces, Marinades - ....wait for it...
Many of the items in the first list are available now - call or email us for more info! Our new value-added products should be ready for sale at the Harvest Moon Festival Farmer's Market in Clearwater on September 16th, and the Country Vendor Showcase in Pilot Mound. We're really looking forward to these events. And of course, local folks can always give us a call to order.

As I write this, the second batch of chickens are facing the impending trip down the road to 'meet their Maker' as of tomorrow morning. We couldn't be more excited. It's been a long four months (between both batches of 400 total birds) and we are quite ready to see them go...and come back in a more delicious form. We have had a lot of orders for chickens this year, but may still have some available - we will see once we get folks their orders in the coming weeks. If interested or you want more info, please call or email us (freshrootsfarm.mb@gmail.com). See more on our 'Chickens' page

It has been a strange year for the bees (and beekeepers), with some wacky weather and timing has been a little off (flowering, harvesting, feeding, etc.) but we still ended up with a good amount of wonderful, sweet sweet honey. It's for sale now in 500g, 1, 3, 5 and 7 kg sizes. I'm hoping Troy will do up a honey update on here soon - it's his baby and he's got the real 'deets.

That's all for now - I'm currently working on getting a bunch of recipes that we have distributed to our CSA members onto the website (see 'Recipes' page)...we've had some technical difficulties in getting this to happen thus far!

Cheers - hope to update again soon before the Festival!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Fresh Roots Farm in the News!

We're excited and honoured to say that Fresh Roots Farm has been featured in a few different articles recently, namely: An interview in the Western Canadian Edition of the Country Guide, within a larger article about the recent 'movement' of young farmers in Cartwright; a feature story in the Sentinel Courier about our new CSA vegetable program; and a photo-op in the Killarney Guide advertising the Farmer's Market we attend there. (See photos below)

We're super excited to have others get revved up about local food and the things we are trying to do - a big thank-you to everyone who supports us through buying our products and also promoting us!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Spring Madness! (The Good Kind)

By Michelle
I meant to post this about 2 weeks ago...now it's outdated but I still wanted to share these photos. More to come soon, including a 'Recipes' section of our website for ideas cooking with local food!

So here we are, a long time since we've made a blog update...it's been hard to find take a break to share with you all everything we've been up to. In a nutshell (and this is hard for me): calving proceeded and ended (at 110%, not shabby); bedding plants grown and sold for the first time; 400 broiler chicks being raised; laying hens; CSA shares promoted and sold; market garden prepared & planted; 15 beehives purchased...etc. So basically that's what we've been doing for all of April and May. It's a lot of fun to be right back into the swing of things...but also crazy. A satisfying rush of insanity. I'm sure the short-term effects of such a feeling are fantastic.

Weather-wise, we've been having it all lately...'late' frosts, hot and dry, and now as I type - wet, chilly and miserable. We're very thankful for the recent rains (and missing the hail/tornado front) but looking forward to sunny days out in the garden/yard again!

Here's a short update on what's new - and check out our photos below:

  • We are still selling bedding plants for those that can come visit the Greenhouse - 50% off all flowers and herbs! Come soon as we'll be shutting things down in the next week or so.
  • For CSA customers: Yes, we will be making our first delivery this Thursday, June 14th! We'll be contacting you to remind you and if we need more info for drop-offs. This week's package will not be very large, but we will be making up for any lacking later on when the harvests are plentiful!
  • Chicken pre-orders have not officially gone out - we will be giving family and CSA customers first opportunity to get orders in...then keep a close eye out on our website here for a pre-order sheet for any extras! See more info on our pasture-raised meat chickens here.
  • We have laying hens now, and they are some fine looking assorted heritage birds! However, they won't be laying age until later summer-fall...we'll be sure to let you know when farm fresh eggs are ready...
  • We are still currently out of stock for honey, but as I said above, we've increased our hives substantially this year so look for lots of the good sweet stuff, starting late July-early August. 
  • We have decided not to raise pastured pigs this year - there is just too much going on already with our current enterprises. So no upcoming pork...
Please contact us if you have any questions about our products or wish to come out and take a tour of the farm! 
Email: freshrootsfarm.mb@gmail.com
Phone: (204) 529-2083
    Outside view of the greenhouse, including some of Troy's new landscaping work...
    The inside of our greenhouse
    Just some of the greenery that's been growing at Fresh Roots Greenhouse...

A view of chicken batch #1 enjoying the great outdoors

Chickies stayin' warm in the new brooder house

Check out our newly renovated chicken coop! Doesn't look like much, but it keeps the young ones warm & dry...
Fifteen new beehives! Things are already buzzin, honey's being made...

Mom and calf doin' the right thing

Some more of our new calves

Garlic coming up! It's grown at least twice the size since this photo was taken

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Veggies and Flowers and Herbs - Oh My!

Upcoming bedding plant sales in Winnipeg

The time has almost come for us to say goodbye to many of the little seedlings that we've sown, watered, transplanted and 'tucked into bed' for so many weeks now. Our first season of entering the world of 'bedding plants', including the sale of flowers, herbs and vegetable seedlings, we're pretty proud of what we have ready to offer. One of our first sales will be in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, as part of the Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative's monthly delivery. It will be easy to order - just go to the [newly re-launched] HMLFI website, click on "Bedding Plants" or our Fresh Roots Farm profile and browse the list to choose what you'll be planting in your garden this year! The website works by pre-payment with credit card in the new system. However, more flowers, herbs and heirloom vegetables will be available at the delivery sites, courtesy of Carissa & Greg DeJong and their seedlings grown at "The Greenhouse at Harvest Moon", which is what it sounds like (proceeds will be going towards the HMS). Note that these products will not be listed online, but available to purchase with cash. If you've never heard of or used the Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative Buying Clubs before, we highly encourage you to check it out - it's simple to go online 1-2 weeks ahead of delivery, choose from a variety of Manitoba-raised meats, grains, honey and vegetables, and simply pick it up at one of four Buying Club sites in Winnipeg (and now one in Starbuck) - see more info here. We will be marketing some of our chickens, and hopefully eggs, vegetables, and even pastured pork this year via this system. All of the food raised by HMLFI producers is done so with a set of standards developed to be safe, healthy and sustainable for you and your families. It's also comprised of a great group of mentors with whom we can gain advice and share knowledge.

CSA Share Due Date Coming Up!
We are very grateful and excited to announce that we have had 33 families sign up for our CSA weekly delivery program, available for people living in and around the communities of Cartwright, Mather, Clearwater, Crystal City and Pilot Mound, MB! We are really looking forward to the growing season (let's be honest, it's already here) and to supply these individuals and families with our vegetables throughout the 16-week season (mid-June to end of September). For more information, see our 'Vegetable' page here. The deadline for CSA registrations are this coming Friday, April 28th, and we still have some spots left - so contact us today!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Facts 'n figures

We wanted to share this table with you, because we think it is astounding to see the vast nutritional difference between organically and conventionally grown vegetables. Empirical data that supports what many have known through their own personal experiences are finally coming to the surface. We can attest to this with the veggies we grow, eat and market. The taste is better and we generally just feel healthier and more alive. Can't wait for those first fresh asparagus, lettuces and spinaches that are right around the corner!

Troy and Michelle

Monday, 26 March 2012

Bedding Plant Top Picks, Pt. 2 - Bodacious Herbacious Herbs

By Michelle

Oh, hello again. Back with another episode of bedding plant top picks, this time with our friends, the HERBS. With a loudly pronounced "H", or, if you're the shy and subtle type, feel free to deem it 'invisible'. Anyways. Many people are afraid or intimidated by herbs, except for perhaps the classic oregano, basil, dill, etc. that make their way into a variety of dishes. After my experience working in the prominent herb haven/greenhouse called Sage Garden, I had a whole new appreciation for the wide array of edible, medicinal, aromatic, ornamental types of herbs. Then comes the hard part - how to actually USE them! I've made it a bit of a life-long quest to discover which herb combinations can spice up a meal and take it from 'blah' to 'TAH-DAH' in a flick of the wrist. Really, it's magic. The number of times I've felt a million times better after a cup of tea made from dried herbs, or witnessed the effects of a tincture on my health, or simply just how the aroma of a lavender, oregano or basil plant can pick up my mood...are many. Basically, what I'm trying to say is, herbs are underrated - and they're just existing waiting for us to find their unobvious talent.

Moving on...I find it really hard to just choose 3 herbs to feature - but, if I must - I will.

1. Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis) - It really is as good as its name sounds (well, the regular one, maybe not the Latin one). This bushy-type herb flowers in the late summer, and until then, you can harvest its tasty foliage for a variety of dishes. It's most commonly used for flavouring green beans, other vegetables, poultry, or infused in vinegar (to make a really great ready-to-use salad dressing). It makes a mean meat pie, and is also popular used as a seasoning for grilled meats and barbecues, as well as in stews and sauces. It has a sweeter, more delicate aroma than its cousin, Winter Savory. And really, who wants to think about winter when we can revel in the short time summer gifts us with heat and sunshine...Unfortunately, summer savory is an annual, not able to last our harsh winters in the ground. However, in the season you do plant it, you'll watch its fast growth  in awe like a proud parent: "Oh, honey, look at the Savory...they grow up so fast, these days. Seems just yesterday I was transplanting its little roots in the ground". Anyways. It might be like that.

2. Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) - It's a member of the mint family, but its leaves have a sweet, citrusy flavour that make a refreshing tea. The leaves are awesome in fruit drinks, and the purplish flowers make a colourful addition to a salad. And did I mention it's medicinal? Aboriginal peoples traditionally made a bergamot tea to relieve symptoms of colds and chest or throat complaints, and for mild digestive problems. In aromatherapy and essential oil form, bergamot can combat anxiety and nervous tension, and also helps the urinary tract and respiratory system. Used topically, it benefits problem skin, especially when it's linked to stress, particularly eczema, psoriasis, and acne. It's not just us humans that like bergamot, however - bees, butterflies and hummingbirds use the plant for nectar - hence it's other common name, "Bee Balm". It's known for its sort of 'bad hair-do', which I can sympathize with, but who can blame it, when it does all these cool things?
Varieties we offer: The native 'Wild Bergamot', which is a perennial, and regular, pink/red-flowered 'Bergamot', which is a tender perennial/annual. 

3. Basil (Ocimum basilicum) - Okay, so I know you're saying: "That's super boring Michelle - couldn't you come up with something more interesting than basil"? The reply to this is a polite "NO WAY, JOSE" - basil has become one of my favourite herbs. It just makes me all-round happy. So I'm including it. Also a member of the mint family, coincidentally. Last year, we grew the classic Italian 'Genovese' variety of sweet basil in our greenhouse, amongst the tomato plants. Upon entering the building, you immediately would get a salivating waft of its strong scent, and we found that the tomatoes really love these 'friends', which helped their growth and production, while also keeping pests away with the aforementioned strong aroma. Basil can be used fresh or dried as flavourings or spices in stews, sauces, salad dressings, vegetables, poultry, vinegar, confectionery products, and the liqueur chartreuse. So basically, EVERYTHING. Some of my favourite culinary uses of fresh basil leaves are in pesto ('Genovese' is the preferred variety for this amazing Italian sauce'), and layered into a classic grilled cheese & fresh tomato sandwich...just makes me drool thinking about it. Takes grilled cheese up a notch, never the same. Oh, and would you like to know its medicinal superpowers? Alright: It's an antioxidant, often used for its digestive and anti-gas properties. Herbalists also recommend it for stomach cramps, vomiting, constipation, headaches and anxiety. So basically, EVERYTHING. Try steeping some basil tea after dinner for a calming, slightly sedating, digestive aid - I dare you. Now I would like to briefly mention the other great thing about basil - it LOVES to be harvested! (This means you can eat it constantly throughout the season.) The trick is to prune it (once it becomes a substantial size) just above a set of opposite leaves on a branching stem. This will encourage it to grow more voluptuous and bushy, and generate exponentially more awesome basil leaves for you to eat. It also keeps it from flowering, which will eventually stop its growth (though the purple mint-like flowers are so very pretty). For those of you with limited garden space, basil makes a great container herb, just give it some full sun love. The other variety we grow is 'Thai' basil - quite a different taste with its anise-like flavour, a staple in much of the South Asian cuisine. (And also good for container gardening.) It is distinct with its purplish-coloured stems, smaller, narrower leaves and mauve flowers.
Have I made my case? Not just the boring old 'basil' you thought it was, huh? Now: let's address the pronunciation. Is it "baah-sil' or 'bay-sil'? My preference is the latter, as I think it sounds highly distinguished, though many will choose to disagree within their right. Plus, 'baah-sil' is that guy who played Sherlock Holmes. So...I don't know what my point is there, but you know where I stand.

Well folks, there you have it. Three fantastical (and also bodacious, whatever that means) herbs, and there's so many more out there. Mostly in there, 'there' being our greenhouse, currently. Just waiting to show you their 'hidden' potential. Won't you let them?

Stay tuned for our full list of bedding plants, including flowers, herbs, and even some veggie seedlings! We hope to market to our surrounding area here at Cartwright, as well as into Winnipeg somewhat, perhaps through the HMLFI buying clubs. We hope that you will find something you like to plant for your very own! In the meantime, we'd love to hear what some of your favourite herbs are and how you use them...feel free to comment below.

On a side note...our very first mass mail-out went out today, promoting our CSA veggie delivery program! If you are in or near the communities of Cartwright, Mather, Clearwater, Crystal City or Pilot Mound, we would love for you to get on board and receive these weekly packages of delicious, in-season produce. Special discounts for bedding plants will apply for customers. For more info, click here.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Bedding Plant Top Picks: Pt 1 - The Powers of Flowers

By Michelle

To be honest, I was never really that into flowers. I grew up surrounded by beautiful flower gardens that my Grandmother, Aunt and Mom relished in designing, planting, maintaining and admiring every year, but I never really got what the big deal was. I mean, you can’t eat them…so what? And herbs – any discussion about these mysterious array of flora pretty much ended with the confusion of, “Is the ‘h’ silent, or not?”. However, I’m thankful that this indifference and perplexity ended a few years ago when I spent one Spring working at Sage Garden, a family-owned, organic greenhouse business on the outskirts of Winnipeg. Dave Hanson and Evelyn Yauk’s passion for bedding plants made me excited about the scent of a basil plant, the vivid red tubular Salvia flowers that guaranteed hummingbird visits, the variegation of a Coleus leaf, and the magic of a Sensitive plant (whose tiny leaves detract themselves by the touch of a finger), among other things. Having the knowledge learned during that short Spring, and engraining a good portion of it in my brain by teaching customers, inspired my newfound love of vegetables, herbs and flowers – and I’m thrilled to say that Fresh Roots Farm is going to be selling bedding plants this year! Of course, our selection is not that of your average high-production greenhouse, but we’re excited about some of the plants that you could take home this spring.

So, whether you’re a flower or herb enthusiast, or not, bear with me. I’d like to share with you some of my favourite bedding plants that we’ll have for sale this May. I’ll do this in a few different parts – why not start with flowers, lah-de-dah.

We all know about geraniums, impatiens, petunias, blah blah blah. We’re going to focus on a few more perennial flowers (this means they’ll come back year after year) that will hopefully provide folks with a hardy, low-maintenance, beautiful, diverse garden. Still, there’s some annuals you just can’t deny. Here’s just 3 selections of what we’ll be growing (and selling) this year, some of my personal Top Picks:

1.     Hollyhocks: Okay, we’ve all seen these massive beauties towering beside an old barn somewhere in the country, fulfilling our romanticized rural visions. They are a biennial (which means they bloom every second year, making it all the more special) and generally drought-resistant, which may make it a good choice for a dry year like it looks like this one will be. Hollyhocks are apparently also handy for maintaining a lady’s modesty. They were planted next to outhouses long ago, so that a visiting lady may subtilely ask where the ‘hollyhocks’ were, in order to be pointed to the direction of the potty. I think that it would be funny, when someone asks where our hollyhocks are, to point to the direction of the toilet. But that would just be bad for business, and just rude. So maybe not.
Varieties we’re offering:  “Ukranian”, “Old Fashioned”, and a black variety from a generous friend’s seed collection.

2.     Painted Daisies: Daisies have always been a favourite of mine – their simplicity and delicate (yet strong) composure remind us that something doesn’t have to be extravagant to be beautiful. These are also perennials that are be one of the first things to bloom in early summer. They also make a great border plant. These long-stemmed, sun-loving flowers come with a bonus surprise – they contain a natural pest repellant called ‘pyrethrum’ that works directly on the nervous systems of aphids, mites, leafhoppers (and, wait for it – mosquitoes!), without harming other animals or plants. Learn how to make it yourself with the flowers here.
Varieties we’re offering: Try the classic “Painted Daisy” in shades of pink, or the white “Pyrethrum, high potency”, specially bred for its organic insecticidal properties.

3. Nasturtiums: I can’t say enough about this rad plant, that probably falls somewhere between ‘flower’ and ‘herb’ – ‘cause it’s so good lookin’, useful, and you can eat it, too! Its Latin name, Tropaeolum, comes from the word “shield”, which well describes its unique large, round-shaped leaves. It’s pretty versatile and can tolerate part shade, or sunny locations. They like well-drained soil, and the poorer the soil, the more abundant their flowers, actually. Its only downfall is that it doesn’t generally survive our Zone 3 winters, so is an easy annual to replant every year. I would suggest planting it in a vegetable garden as a companion plant to many vegetables, such as cucumbers (improves growth and flavour), melons (deters bugs and beetles), and is a great ‘trap crop’ for aphids, especially the yellow-flowering varieties (did I hear some 'oohs' and 'ahhs' from you tomato gardeners?) And did I mention you can eat it?! Seriously, the leaves have a peppery, watercress-like taste that spices up a salad or an alternate for basil in a pesto recipe! The flowers are also edible, and have medicinal qualities (oh, just disinfectant, antibiotic, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial – no big deal). Steeping them in white vinegar for a few weeks can help you take advantage of these health benefits.
Or just throw ‘em in a meal as a garnish. Oh, nasturtium – my love for you grows just thinking about you.
Varieties we’re offering: The multicoloured “Jewel Mix” (as pictured), and the elegant-looking “Black Velvet”, which conjures up a vision of Alannah Myles singing into a mahogany-coloured flower petal. For me, anyways.

So – it’s okay – admit that you got a little excited there. I mean, flowers, right – who knew? Go ahead and get so excited that you wet the bed (of soil, silly) and dig right in. Stay tuned for Part 2: Bodacious Herbaceous Herbs. (And for the record, I pronouce the ‘H’, loud and proud. No shame.)    

What are some of your favourite flowers to grow (or just admire)? We'd love to hear suggestions about what to try growing for next year...comment below.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Spring Fever, Already?

Dreaming Up New Ventures...
Well, here we are, half way through February, winter winding down, and looking forward to another season's promise. Not like we have had it too hard this winter. On the contrary, it has often seemed like it has been having a hard time settling in from Fall. Oh well, maybe we got the equivalent of 2 winters last year and we get a break from the chilly climes. It is a leap year, after all.

Michelle and I have been taking advantage of these milder temperatures. On Sunny days, temperatures have been well over +15 C inside the greenhouse! So we've been doing some renovations in it, building higher raised beds and tables which will allow us to do more with it this coming season.

Troy building raised beds in the balmy greenhouse 

This year we will be giving the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) a try with our vegetable garden. Basically this means rather than taking all of our produce to the farmers market, we hope to pre-sell shares (half and full shares) to households in the surrounding area at the beginning of the season, which would buy them a weekly box of whichever vegetables are in season delivered to them to enjoy. The CSA model has really caught hold in larger centers, but we are sure that we can make it work here too. We believe it represents a better way for us to get to know the people we grow food for and vice versa. Basically, it is a great way to build community and share what we believe is really good quality, local, fresh produce with you.

We would like to keep our deliveries local - within 30 miles of Cartwright - but will remain flexible, depending on where most interest is. Tentatively, we are open to doing weekly deliveries to Pilot Mound, Clearwater, Crystal City, Mather, Cartwright, Glenora, and Killarney. Let us know if people in your community might be interested, as we'd be happy to try and accommodate you. We are also open to on-farm pickup. You can visit "vegetables" on our webpage for info on varieties and pricing.

Bedding Plants
Secondly, we are pleased to announce that we will also be offering bedding plants for sale this coming season! Michelle and I have been busy planting seeds, germinating them indoors so that they will be ready to transplant into the greenhouses come March. The plants we will be offering are mostly perennial herbs and flowers, but we will also have some annual herbs, flowers and, of course, vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, pumpkins, etc. These plants would all be ready to pre-order by the end of March and ready to deliver by mid to late May. We will hopefully have a plant price list up on our website soon, so check back in on the website in March or contact us.
Michelle and her grandma, Dorothy, seeding down some flowers. 

Aside from the CSA and bedding plant sales, we will also be offering a variety of other products, including unpasteurized honey, preserves, free range broiler chickens and eggs, as well as pasture-raised pork and beef later in the fall. Feel free to spread the word to family and friends - we'd appreciate it!

Please don't hesitate to get in touch with us if you would like further info on our farm offerings. send us an email or call, we'd love to hear from you.  

Hope you are enjoying this winter as much as we have been and talk to you soon!

Michelle and Troy

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

New Year, New Logo, New Puppy, New Plans!

Happy New Year to all of you - we hope that you enjoyed as much good food and good company as we did this holiday season. Thanks to everyone who came out to the farm to bring in 2012 with us! It was a blast.

So along with this new year that's come upon us, we'd like to introduce a swanky new logo for Fresh Roots Farm, designed by the talented, lovely Danielle Sheedy. She's been toiling away for a while now, trying to find something that 'fit' for us - and this does, beautifully! Take a look:
Speaking of new, a good snowfall was kind of a 'new' thing in these parts lately, and we got a nice one last week. Alas, most of it melted this week, with our +5 temperatures. Can't complain - it's amazing that the cattle have still been grazing on grass, as well as the bales, at this time of year. It just makes me a tad nervous, wondering what the upcoming planting season will be like...

To take advantage of this weather, while it lasts, Troy and I are thinking of insulating our newly-constructed hoop house...so we can actually use it for our veggie transplants this year. This will involve putting insulation on our plywood ends, and ideally, doubling our poly. If anyone out there has suggestions for a double-wall (with blower) design, or another more passive heating method, send it our way! Check out the amazing, creative greenhouse design that our friends Greg and Carissa deJong have been working on for the Spring at the Harvest Moon Learning Centre, here.

Lastly, Troy and I are looking forward to participating in a Holistic Management course later on this month, with instructor Don Campbell, renowned for his great facilitation of the course. Keep updated for our perspectives on what we'll learn in HM, and the valuable things we take away from it to further improve the sustainability of our farm and balance out our general lifestyle.

By the way, check out our brand new puppy, 'Merle'! He's an Australian Shepherd cross with a beautiful 'blue merle' colouring (aren't we creative in our naming?), and he's stolen our hearts away since we picked him up on Thursday. We're hoping he will be a help here on the farm, and know he'll be an awesome companion. More pics of him are sure to come.

Cheers to New Years,
Michelle (and Troy)