Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Markets are Starting

Skeeter Farm will be at the Abbotsford Farmers Market starting this Saturday! Wahooooo! Hope to see some familiar faces there.

The rest of our market schedule is here, just in case you were wondering.

With Love,
From the farmers

A beautiful okra flower for your enjoyment.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Where's Mantracker When You Need Him?

We are a bit sad to report that the farm bandits have returned to Skeeter Farm. Last week on Friday Hannah arrived at the farm all ready to harvest for our second week of CSA deliveries on Saturday and discovered that our friends, the ones with the affinity for 2" layflat irrigation hose, had returned for another round of pillaging.

Fortunately for us, this time they didn't get as far as they would have liked. In anticipation of an event such as this, we spent some time and money getting our storage container as secure as we could to try to prevent the loss of more farm equipment. Last Friday the bandits didn't have the right tools to get into our container, and so fortunately they only made off with some hose and a lawnmower and messed up our locks enough so that we also couldn't get back into our container.

So what does this mean for Skeeter Farm. Well we felt, and feel even more so now, like sitting ducks, waiting for the bandits to return and wipe us out again. Slightly discouraging at a time where all of us are feeling the fatigue associated with the height of the farming season. Only this time, if they do come back for round four, we are more prepared than ever. Last week after the break in, I made sure do all of of the last seed bed preparation in order to get our sowing of fall greens in. We have also removed all of our irrigation equipment and marketing items needed to get us through the season off of the farm.

I usually like to have some sort of uplifting message associated with each blog post, and if I have to come up with a message for this post it is directed towards the bandits: dear bandits, you may be able to take our farming tools, but you will not break our spirits.

To add insult to injury, these jerks didn't even have the decency to walk around our beds!
If only daikon seedlings could talk...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Beer Friend?

Yes, folks, we do have a beer friend growing at our farm this year! Have you guessed yet what veggie that is??? Well, the name soya beer friend is the variety name for the precious athlete loving Edamame beans! Oh, and I think I should mention here that yes, it is boasted that these beans do help with the resolution of alcohol...

The edamame bean, otherwise known as a Japanese soybean, means "beans on branches". To grow edamame, you do not need moist soil, and are typically picked before they fully ripen. The pod is a little shorter than a sweet pea pod, and is quite tough, but the beans themselves have a lovely, buttery, rich texture. Often these beans are steamed, sprinkled with salt and then 'sucked' out of their pods.

I have been asked what my favorite vegetables are, and I have answered with the usual suspects: chard, corn, beets (and their greens!), but there are some crops I am really excited about- and yes the lovely edamame is one of them.

So, I assume that here would be the perfect time to spout some nerdy nutrition facts: per 100 grams, they have 125 calories, 3.6 gr. fat, 12 gr. protein and are good sources of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin A. With this being said, they are a great source of fiber, fatty acids and is the only plant that is a complete protein; they contain all essential fatty acids!

Filled with healthy omega 3's, athletes love edamame beans. Good sources of protein, they are a great quick snack, and let's face it, a whole lot easier to digest that a big piece of steak! Vegetarians, embrace this bean!

This crop you all will hopefully see at our late September/ October farmers markets, or maybe in your CSA bag around that same time. I can't wait to tell you more about some other veggies that I will highlight in the future!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cycle Tours and Terra Madre Fund

A couple of great events and a great cause to tell you folks about.

Slow Food Vancouver is again hosting two cycle tours in the Fraser Valley this summer. The tours take place on August 21st and 22nd in Agassiz and Chilliwack. These two events take you on a leisurely ride through the countryside with stops at farms and artisan food producers. Each time I have done them I come home with a bounty that is almost too good to be shared. Check out these events! The are definitely worth not missing.

For more information and to register click on the link to the Slow Food Website:

Slow Food Vancouver is ALSO organizing the Terra Madre Fund which is raising funds to help send a group of young farmers (including myself!), other local farmers and folks from the local food community to Terra Madre in Italy in October. 
About the Terra Madre meeting:

More than 5,000 representatives from the worldwide Terra Madre network will meet in Turin, Italy for the fourth time this October 21 to 25. The five-day meeting will bring together food communities, cooks, academics, youth and musicians from all over the world, who are united in a desire to promote sustainable local food production in harmony with the environment while respecting knowledge handed down over the generations.

A link to the fundraising page is here: 
Slow Food is accepting donations of air miles in addition to monetary donations, which is a pretty cool way to fundraise for airfares, in my opinion. 

I am so excited to be a part of the delegation this year and look forward to sharing what I learn from the folks around the world when we return!

Okay...thats it for this little promo post. More about the Skeeter Farm soon!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Big risk big reward!

Hooray! We made our first CSA deliveries!
Those of you who have been reading our posts may have noticed that it has been a bit of a tough season for us so far. I guess it was my own naivete that led me to assume that this year would be easier than last year. Although we didn't realize it at the time, we got super lucky with the weather and our equipment last year. I'm thinking it might be more like 5 years until I fully get used to the twists and turns of farming. There really are a zillion things to learn.

As Amy mentioned, we took a bit of a risk this winter when we were full of confidence and decided to run a full CSA program. We were pretty sure it would be easy to find enough customers and we were certain we would have enough veggies. It turns out we were right about the first part, but not completely right about the second part. As I imagine most of you know, the wet spring meant that it took us longer than expected to get everything planted and less sun to give our veggies a good jump start. There will certainly be tons of veggies out there soon- we actually have more area planted than last year and in a more strategic fashion. In the meantime, our CSA customers may be enjoying some fairly unusual items...
But, we had to take a big risk in order to get a big reward! Every time we finish a harvest (no matter how unusual the veggies are) it is an amazing feeling. I absolutely love driving down the road with my bus full of vegetables. This year, with our very own group of devoted CSA customers, it is even better. Many thanks to each of you!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Crops that Get Me Going

There is no doubt about it. We are vegetable people (if we weren't before, we pretty much have to be now). But we can't all love each crop equally, especially when there is so much variety. We each have our favorites. The favorites are usually crops that end up being favored out in the field. They get the most care and attention, the most water, the most coaching and the most praise. But don't feel sorry for the other veggies. With 4 farmers on the site, we pretty much have all of the crops covered off (except one seemed to babysit that crop this year, nor the green onions unfortunately).

Without further ado, here are my picks for my 2010 most favorite crops at Skeeter Farm.

Tomatillos (inside the lantern) because they are fun to gently squish to check out big they are

Melons (this one is either a cantaloupe or honeydew) because they are resilient! (survival credits include slugs, bunnies and 50 plus degree temps in the greenhouse earlier this year)

Ground Cherries - same idea as the tomatillos, but these ones technically pass as a fruit

Okra - definitely not for the texture (one of my least favorites for that), but for the beautiful flowers that are only open for a day - none open tonight

Peppers - the one on the left for its sheer beauty and the one on the right for its future as a chili relleno

tomatoes - possibly the grand prize of any summer garden. This one I like for its resemblance to a pumpkin (the tomatoes need another week of coaching before they ripen up)

Eggplant - for its appropriateness on a barbeque, and as mentioned previously, for the beautiful flowers

Amaranth - for its multipurposefulness - you can eat the leaves as salad, use the flowers in bouquets and harvest grain near the end of its life

Celery - because I tasted some the other day and it was the most delicious celery I have ever tasted.
Chickpeas - I was really excited about this crop until I saw this evening that every plant has been grazed from the top down like the photo on the right (bad animals!)

Red onions  - because of the colour (which is hard to see in the photo - a brilliant fuchsia 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Farm Update and Vegetable Related Stresses

It's warm out here....really warm!

Not that I am complaining. The heat is a welcome addition to summer 2010. Thanks for showing up to the party Sun...better late than never!

I'd like to say that we aren't the type of people who stress and worry, but there has been a little bit of an 'oh shit?' feeling lately around Skeeter Farm. Until the heat showed up a few days ago, most of the crops out in the field that we had direct seeded seemed to be just hanging out, enjoying the view. Growing was not top of their mind, thats for sure.

Last year we waited until crops were ready to harvest to make our marketing commitments (harvest box and farmers markets), however, this year we diligently prebooked our markets and set a date for our first CSA delivery (which happens to be July 17th). Now we really wanted the first CSA delivery this year be a feast of veggies fit for a king...but its looking like the feasting might have to wait a couple weeks yet. Oh, we will send out boxes this week, however some of the contents may be more on the unusual side of things, requiring our customers to be open to trying out some new recipes. I will leave it at that, as we don't want to ruin the box o' surprises.

As for some other minor stresses at the farm:
This week meant dealing with some new pesky pest management issues that we haven't had before. Due to the soppy wet conditions some of our garlic was infected with rust. Rust is a fungal disease that doesn't result in much (or any) damage to the bulbs, but does attack foliage. In order to keep it at bay we removed all of the infected foliage from the plants and cooked up a spray made of baking soda and other household items to try to control it. Thanks to the powers of google for farming advice, it maybe worked? Anyways, it hasn't spread. We will start pulling garlic out in a couple of weeks.

We also lost some melon plants to hungry rodents (rabbits?) who were grazing the stem of the plant off right where it meets the soil. To help with that we used some of the yogurt containers that our nice friends have been collecting for us to create a barrier around the base of the plant. Its been three days and so far no more chewed plants!

Something has also been chewing at our nicely forming peppers in the greenhouse. At first we thought it was slugs (because we have been having some issues with them this year) but Amanda saw a little bunny checking them out last night....pesky rabbits! Perhaps those coyotes we hear howling sometimes will come take care of them for us.

On a lighter and more exciting note, we have added a pickler to our team at Skeeter Farm. The lovely Jacquay will be taking on the making of various pickled items for us to sell at farmers markets. So far she has made pickled garlic scapes, which were taste tested the other day. We are really excited to have some value-added production happening this year. We had good intentions to do this last year, but ended up being way too short on time to get on it ourselves.

Thats it for now. Happy summer eating!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Not just a cute name...

Nope, it's not just a cute name and a scary logo. Our little flying friends are back in full force! Mosquitoes were our big surprise farming challenge last year. Of course, we didn't see them when we started getting going in May of last year, but then came July... At first we panicked and ran for cover as soon as the sun dropped behind Sumas Mountain, but slowly we adjusted. I got a special hat, started taking more B vitamins, and experimented with various types of citronella sprays.

So, was I ready for the arrival of our skeeters this year? Not exactly...I was only at the farm for a few hours this evening and I am now covered in calamine lotion. This means it is time for my now annual review of the latest (non DEET) mosquito repelling techniques.

Of course, many people swear by Avon's skin-so-soft, but the reviews online (both medical and otherwise) don't look very promising.

There's the intriguing Bug Button, which one can wear on the wrist, pin to clothing, or hang from a tree. The special ingredients are Indonesian lemongrass oil and Philippine geranium oil. It claims to repel for 220 hours once it is unwrapped.

Then there's Bite Blocker, which is a soybean-oil-based spray and lotion and calls itself the #1 DEET alternative. WebMD reports that it worked for an average of 94 minutes during a particular study...not all that impressive.

Finally, I think Repel Lemon Eucalyptus has some promise...Lemon eucalyptus oil is one of the three mosquito repellents recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (along with DEET and Picaridin) and this is apparently the only commercially available spray that contains it. It claims to block bites for about 6 hours.

Given the aggressiveness of our skeeters, I've got my doubts about all of these...but I'll try anything once. Let me know which one you think I should try and I'll report back!