Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Apple Butter, Pumpkin Butter, Yes, it's Harvest Time.

Autumn is definitely here. On the east coast the seasons turn slowly compared to other places we've lived and nowhere is that more evident than here in Nova Scotia. It's easily been a month or more since the leaves began losing their summery green glow and revealing the colours underneath of gold and red, but now I'd estimate that we're at least 25% of the way there and each morning as the frost melts off the leaves the subtle march towards Winter continues. Now is the time of mists and apples. Harvest.

Due to earlier than expected frost the garden was put to bed early this year. Some things like the beets and herbs are still fine but if you even whisper the word frost near basil it'll shrivel up and die. I'm going to lift a few of my bigger plants and get them trimmed and potted indoors but apart from that it's really the time of year that we rest from our labours, examine our success and failures, and plan for the coming Spring.

Oh, and of course it's apple season again!

We sold almost all of our Gravensteins this year at the Farmers Market and we'll probably sell about a quarter of our Cortlands but the bulk of them will be saved for eating fresh, for apple butter, and for sauce and pie filling. Just the thought of it is making me hungry.

Have you had apple butter and pumpkin butter before? Not everyone makes or knows how to use it, but it's like a smooth apple sauce that is spiced. It's great on toast as a spread or even dolloped on top of your oatmeal for some sweet and spicy goodness in the morning. Today's the day for the first batch of apple butter and I'm now blessed to have another crockpot after the incident last year where Jordan melted my base. Note to self: Do not let children turn on the wrong ring and walk away while your crock pot is sitting on the cooktop. Luckily the crock itself is still fine so I can use it in the oven.

You can make apple butter on low heat on the stove but I've found the best and easiest way is to use the crock pot or slow cooker method. You can't accidentally scorch the bottom as it thickens and it can cook overnight which means you wake to a delicious smelling house in the morning. Plus if you cook overnight it frees up more time during the day for other things like canning your apple butter or peeling more apples, lol. Here's my recipe and please note, you can substitute brown or golden sugar or honey in quantities from 1 cup to 3 cups. Obviously 3 cups of sugar per 3 pounds of apples is incredibly sweet. I can double this recipe and still have it fit in my 7 quart oval crock pot. Apple butter slow cooked in the oven or crock takes on a more evenly caramel colour than the stove top version I make, even using the same recipe. It can also vary depending on the variety of apples used. For a truly gourmet butter, mix a combination of sweet and tart apples and one cup of honey to sweeten. Really, whatever apples you've got will work.

Approximately 3 lb. fresh apples- Cortland, Bramley, Ginger Gold, Honey Crisp etc.
1-3 cups sugar, white or brown
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. cloves
Dash of salt
3/4 cup water or fresh apple cider (or even frozen juice if you have it)
Fill your crock pot 3/4 full with peeled, cored and sliced apples. Sprinkle the honey or sugar over the apples and mix together. Mix the spices and salt into the cider and pour over the apples making sure it's all mixed nicely.  Cover and cook on low setting overnight or until the butter is of a thick, spreadable consistency.If apple butter has too much liquid, remove lid and cook on high until thickened. Stir often as butter thickens to prevent scorching.
Store in refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. Freeze for longer storage. You can get longer storage by canning using glass jars and the usual 10 minute hot water processing method and leaving 1/2 inch head space in the jars before boiling.

Other tips I can give you from our farm experience are that you're going to want lots of this to give as gifts to family and friends, get your kids to do some of the picking and peeling, and invest in an apple peeler, they're fun for the kids to use and get lots of peeling done quickly without wasting a lot of fruit.

Ok I'm off to peel Cortlands. They're just coming into season for the next 2 weeks but since I'm going to be visiting friends and family on the west coast I need to get all my processing done in the next week. Nothing like a little bit of pressure to get the work going!

Happy Harvest to you all.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Helping a Friend in Need

I know it must seem that I do not love you any more, dear reader, but I do. I've just had an awful lot on my plate recently and for the past 6 weeks I've had various parents visiting, a market to run, kids, farm, family responsibilities and one of my best and dearest friends is dying thousands of miles away and I'm struggling to help her as best I can until I can get there in person October 15th. It's so frustrating!

I've got lots of things to tell you about but for now I'm just going to leave you with a short story of how amazing my friend Deanna Scrafton is and hope that you might consider making a small donation to help her out, she really is one of the most loving and caring people you'd ever meet. Just click on the link below to read a very brief summary of why Deanna and her kids need your help. And thank you from the bottom of my heart if you are able to donate. If you cannot we totally understand and ask that you'd remember her in your thoughts and prayers and share her story.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hot Humid Weather & Whitewash

It's the perfect weather for blight to start in the potatoes and tomatoes if we get a couple of damp days. Sheep farmers also call this maggoty weather. Keeping an eye on them is a priority too. But it's so miserable to be out there in the blazing sun and the heat.

Once it cools a few degrees we've got some property maintenance jobs to be done. Paint the tractor, whitewash the insides of the coops and barn, compost and shovel out the barn, put the rain cover on the barn extension and then we have a greenhouse to build. This in addition to baking and running a market, and growing veggies. Yikes! Over the coming winter I'm going to have a good think about how to streamline some of my projects. For example we're eating less lamb so I'm going to re-think my sheep situation. I sold some already.  And if the market keeps on being busy I'm going to focus more energy there.

But for now it's shaping up to be a wet and stormy weekend. We'll see. I thought it's a good time to shovel the barn out and give the whole thing a good thick coat of whitewash. The type of whitewash I'm talking about is the chalky, indoor style wash that's great for keeping bugs and germs at bay. The Amish use it to keep things sanitary inside their barns and it's simple to make and apply. I've heard you can use a sprayer but I'll just probably brush it on in two coats. It doesn't leave things sparkly and shiny but it does lighten up the walls and because it's so alkaline it doesn't provide a nesting space for insects and kills germs.

So how complicated is whitewash? It's not. There are hundreds of recipes but for smaller projects that are indoors, ie. chicken coops and small barns, I love this recipe.

Mix together in a bucket:
1 gallon warm water (4 litres)
2 pounds salt
Stir until salt is dissolved. Then add-
7 pounds hydrated lime and stir until it resembles lumpy pancake batter. It'll thicken a bit over time so you can add a little more water as needed.

Make sure it's hydrated lime and not garden lime or quick lime which is very caustic.

Now hop to it and brush that stuff on every wall, nook and cranny you can find. It'll dry to a powdery finish and if you get it on your skin or clothes it will just wash right off. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Just Checking In

It's a crazy week. My ex is here, the kids are having a rotten time, my parents arrive tomorrow and my adorable husband is fleeing on Thursday to go visit our kids out west. It's insanity here at the farm! But what can you do? It's been very hot so hopefully tomorrow will give us a little rain and some cooler temps. Gotta run. Hope you're finding time for fun this summer!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mid Valley Farmers Market - Up And Running!

I'm sorry I've been neglecting you all over the past month and a bit. Organizing the new farmers market has taken much longer than I thought it would. We held our first market on Saturday and it was amazing! We learned a lot about planning and organization and have a plan in place to improve each week. Do you want to know what the biggest problems we had were?

First,  crowd control. Actually it was more of a parking issue. We had so many people at times that the road got blocked and people were parking all over the place. Our solution for this is to move the vendors back further onto the grass to provide for a wider parking area. If the crowds continue to grow we'll have to mark out parking areas. There's lots of grassy space, we just need to encourage people to use it. Too many customers, what a problem to have! We appreciate all the community support, you guys are great. Please check back each week to see what's new and bear with us as we work out the kinks.

Second, lack of coffee. Vendors like us who get up early need coffee! Getting up at 3am to dig potatoes so they're fresh for you and to bake makes for one heck of a long day! And now everything is in place to just turn on the brewer as soon as we get there and have a pot ready within 20 mins. Our Bunn brewer has a large water tank so it takes a while to heat up. Plus I forgot my grounds until the second trip (silly me) so I kept everyone waiting.  On the subject of coffee, North Mountain Coffee in Berwick have agreed to donate us coffee each week which is terrific! Plus I hear that North Mountain coffee is delicious according to everyone who had some. I don't drink it personally but it's easy at the market to find other vendors who will sample it for me :)  We paired it up with wild blueberry muffins and cinnamon buns and it was great. As the cooler weather gets here I'm sure Meghan will do even more business. And thanks North Mountain for the coffee and the donation to the basket, the winner was thrilled!

A few of our vendors didn't come as scheduled for whatever reason but we're still accepting applications and hope to grow the market over time. If you're interested in finding out more just send me a message to managermidvalleymarket.com  We had a good turn out and sales were much higher than expected for all vendors except the coffee. We have a great little group of regular customers forming and we're available rain or shine because we've got the community centre booked until mid October and we can move inside if the weather gets crummy.

Look for the produce to change as the seasons change. Apples are beginning for us in September with our main crops of Cortlands available in October. Lettuces and peas will start to reappear as the weather cools and tomatoes and peppers should be available this week for at least one of our sellers. Yum!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Announcement and Farmers Market Update

Well the paperwork is in order and all the inspections are completed. We're now officially:

And to make things even better it's raining now :) After a couple of hot dry weeks it was getting really tricky to water such a large garden, so basically half of the garden got watered once and the rest of the plants just had to take their chances. This nice wet weather should be good for putting on some leaf growth so I'll get out there between showers with some fish fertilizer too. The plants will just love all that nitrogen! We're still about a month behind as far as production goes and the hot weather means we can't get things like lettuce and spinach re-planted for a month or so yet. I'll keep trying though. 

It's time to start the winter vegetables this coming week so that'll be fun, and we have a new wwoofer named Ceylin so I have some help. It' going to be a wet week so I'll have to get creative with the work. At least the weeds will be easy to pull out.


Our Farmers Market for the Greenwood / Kingston / Middleton NS area is getting off the ground at long last. We're going to call ourselves the Mid Valley Farmers Market and our first day open will be Saturday August 8th from 9am-1pm in the Wilmot Community Centre on the #1 Hwy. We have so much work to do up front though it's ridiculous. Luckily Sue and Beckie have got my back and are helping out with all sorts of stuff. We should have more details next week. If you're interested in being a vendor just send me an email and I'll direct you to our website which should be up and running soon or google our facebook page which should be up tonight.

Ok it's been a really long day so I'm off to bed now. Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Turkey Bobble Head

A post from June I forgot to publish, oops!

Today is the last day of school and the kids last half day of freedom. Now it's nothing but chores and weeding for six weeks! Okay well maybe we'll do some fun stuff too, but weeding is high on my list. And here's why. Can you see the difference between the garden rows and the lawn? No, me either. Time to weed!

In addition to our lambs having trapped themselves in the chicken tractor last week, the other animals are providing hours of entertainment. I drove home from church on Sunday and Steve was already in the yard, he left a few minutes before I did. And despite the fact that it's raining he was playing with the turkeys. I don't know why they let him carry them all over the place and play with their non-bobble heads, but they don't really seem to care. He's special for sure, lol! He thought I was taking a photo of him but actually I took a short video, too funny! It's been popular on FB among our friends.

Well there you have it, our week or weirdness.

We planted the pair of pear trees and today we're planting haskap bushes. We have a few different varieties so hopefully next year we'll get a few berries to try. Yum!! DOUBLE YUM!!
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About Me

Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, Canada