Sunday, May 1, 2016

Is it Spring yet?

While most of the country is enjoying Dpring several weeks early, the east coast is arguably colder and a few weeks behind. The day's certainly are warm enough being just a few degrees colder than normal, but the nighttime temperatures are well below freezing, even in the greenhouse. The sun is just coming up on this lovely May 1st and it's currently -5C/ 23 F inside the greenhouse. With the Suns rays it will quickly rise

to more comfortable levels but the low overnight temperatures mean seeds are delayed in sprouting, and some sprout only to freeze at night. It's very frustrating! Next week will see a return to above freezing temps but for now it's driving me crazy not to have more plants ready for people who are only seeing the warm days and want to plant. 

I shouldn't complain too much. Yesterday our friend Beckie and several other people were trampled by a crazed cow at the livestock auction. I think it sent a half dozen people to the hospital including at least 2 children before the police had to shoot it. And all because nobody at the auction thought to make sure all the gates were closed on the pens before unloading the cow. The cows owners took away her calf and unloaded her and she basically panicked and ran through the barn full of people viewing the other cattle for sale. I feel bad for the cow and for everyone who got in the way of her horns and hooves. A very scary situation that would have been much worse if one of the small children had been killed. It makes me very wary now of visiting Lawrencetown. 

I'm off for a firearms course today with my son Jordan. Should get going. It's 6 already. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Earthday and Permaculture

What is permaculture? Despite all the ways we can complicate explanations and make things seem either grandiose or like some unattainable dream, permaculture is simply short for Permanent Agriculture. It seems appropriate to celebrate Earthday by talking about ways that each of us can not only do less harm to our planet, but actually make it better and let it heal itself. 

Permaculture is as individual as those who practice it and as unique as each piece of land that's managed this way. As we learn more and as our small farm evolves the ways we steward our land change too. First the sheep came. They grazed down the old tussocky grass and added nutrients from their manure. Their hooves broke down the old dry grasses  and helped the old thatch get composted so that new grass could grow through. The chickens helped reduce the grub population and their scratching and pooping added to the biology of the soil, allowing air and nutrients in. The pigs dug over the pasture allowing for a garden to be planted the following year and the goats removed a lot of the brush. There is still more work to be done and more to be learned but the farm is now a haven for wildlife with so many more insects and invertebrates making their homes here. Our once barren soil is now teeming with earthworms and the fertility is increasing each year from the free range poultry. It's a work in progress for sure and we are trying to slowly but steadily make this a natural green oasis that will be productive ground for many years to come. But it's a slow and steady process to balance the rejuvenation of an old neglected hay field into a productive ecosystem that has room for humans, nature, and food production. 

People talk about permaculture as if it's some high ideal we should all study and then implement immediately. But to me it's just an integrated way of improving your land. And setting goals that balance the needs of your family and your land long term. Composting, recycling, home food production, mindful consumption (not wasting stuff), and integration of the natural world are just a few aspects of the ways we live and hope to teach others. Building community is another huge one. Shopping local, getting to know your neighbours and working on community projects are also great ways towards a more sustainable place to live. Permaculture in isolation isn't really permaculture at all. Working together to make things better, that's permaculture to me. So don't feel bad if you can't do it all at once. Start now and do something better. A thousand baby steps adds up and is more sustainable than a giant flash in the pan idea that never works out. Slow. Steady. Just like Mother Nature. That's the way to do things. We hope you have a wonderful week and that your seedlings grow strong and healthy. Love from Humblebee Farm. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Nursery Greenhouse

Good Monday Morning! You might be wondering how come I haven't written for a while. Well, it's been very busy what with building a couple of greenhouses and coaxing seeds to sprout in this still often sub zero climate. But Spring is becoming more and more entrenched and the cold weather crops are up and thriving. The nursery greenhouse at the Annavale Country Store in Middleton is almost done and will be open the first week in May. One of the neighbours had z little grass fire so some excitement on Sunday while we fastened the last of the plastic on the vents. Now we just leave it to settle, re-set the locks, and fill it with plants! 
I'm still moping around a bit. My best friend Deanna died on Thursday and I feel useless and a bit adrift. I miss not being able to just be there for her family. So all I can do is keep busy here at the farm. I'll get some photos posted later of our projects. In the meantime, hold tightly the ones you love.






Friday, March 25, 2016

Homemade Easter Egg Dyes

Today is Good Friday and here at the farm were enjoying a rather wet day. It is just sneaking up over the freezing mark and is supposed to stay warmer but a bit drizzly for the next day or so but we are going to make the best use of having Steve home for an extra day to get the greenhouse totally finished. Behind me in the lean-to greenhouse the chickens are cackling away like mad. It sounds like they've just laid us a few new eggs. Perfect, I have a craft to do with the girls this afternoon if it stays wet.
Without going into a complex chemical discussion of mordants and dyes, I thought I'd share a neat video for a craft you can do with your kids. It's in the link below. 
Onion skins have been used for years as a dye, I remember reading about Jewish prisoners in WW 2 who tried to brighten up the barracks they lived in by dyeing the curtains with onion skins. It's a very simple process of boiling the skins in water and soaking the fabric, or in this case an Easter egg, and allowing it to cool. It's time consuming but that's about it. The process is the same for other kitchen ingredients like red cabbage and turmeric as well. Is it suitable for kids? Yes, with some adult supervision for the boiling part. You will be sacrificing a pair of stockings/pantyhose, some eggs (white work best but use what you've got) and some flowers and leaves for decoration but it's a fun and interesting craft. I don't recommend using beets for the boiling method. Their intense colour will bleed past any decorations you use so they really don't work for this application but keep reading because I have a suggestion below. You can use a tsp of salt and vinegar in with your onion skins to help set the dye but it's not necessary. You're not looking to have these eggs last forever, they're still boiled eggs at the end of the day and won't last more than a few days as decorations. 
There are lots of other vegetable dyes you can research and experiment with once you've tried this. Using different mordants such as lye, salt petre, ammonia, vinegar etc can change colours quite dramatically and it's fun to wonder how our ancestors figured these things out. You might want to try melting a little wax and painting designs on your eggs with the wax too. Once the wax is cooled you could dip your egg into some puréed or boiled and cooled beet or other fruit juice and see your designs magically appear.
 Have fun with this craft and a very happy Easter from all of us at Humblebee Farm. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ugly Veggies -How to appreciate your knobbly produce


Despite all our skill, best intentions and hard work we always get a few chuckles each year when we're pulling root crops. We've had the usual carrots shaped like people, parts of the male anatomy, even a perfect pacman potato, but these oddities are still nutritious and delicious veggies that deserve a place of honour in the kitchen. Some are very tricky to wash and peel for regular use so the soup pot is a great destination. For the slightly imperfect fruits and vegetables that are now available at many grocery stores. For the most part these are a very cost effective way to get more veggies in your diet and once peeled and chopped you can't really tell the difference between them and more high quality veggies. But if it's nutritional density you're looking for, try growing veggies in your own garden. Even a small raised bed that's 4'x8' can grow a lot of veggies if you use methods such as square foot gardening, vertical gardening or planting fast growing crops such as lettuce, radishes, turnips and beans. Asian greens are also fast and easy to grow, often taking only 30-45 days from the time you plant them until they are ready to harvest and eat. And they're perfect for kids or beginners. If you really want a treat them get some grow bags or large pots and grow your own tomatoes and herbs too.  You can pick the fruits and veggies at their peak ripeness and eat them right away. Yum! So what are your plans for this year? Are you growing anything interesting? 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Our Children As Farmers

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/418059/why-north-americas-youth-must-rescue-farming/

It's really important to our family that we pass along what skills and knowledge we have to not only our own children, but to others who are wanting to learn. This type of community based learning and building up of local skills and the forgotten arts of things like basketry and hedge laying help to add to self reliance and food security. Having classes to learn how to grow and cook local foods as well as glean as much from your kitchen and garden as you can (I'm thinking about using your knobbly veggies and leftover chicken carcass to make soup) means more self-determination, less waste, and better use of our resources. If everyone made a meal a week using leftovers you might save your budget $5-10. But if everyone in your neighbourhood did, or every Canadian, can you imagine how much we'd save? Hundreds of millions of dollars every week! And that's just leftovers. So I challenge you to go through your fridge and spice cupboard and boil up a nice pot of soup this week. Don't forget to let us know how it goes 😊
And if you're interested in learning about market gardening or WWOOFing with us in 2016 please drop us a line. We love our woofers and can't wait to meet new friends this year! 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Wild Flower Bombs for Easter - Helping the bees

Do you ever wonder why planting wild flowers is important? Or why our bottom field by the river is always full of goldenrod and poppies? Because we plant for diversity to increase the food nd habitat for our pollinators. Our success as farmers is largely dependent on having our flowers pollinated and then harvesting the resulting fruits and veggies. As a planet, we can't afford to lose a third of our food production if bees and other wild pollinators fail to thrive. So each year we take a few hours and make wild seed bombs and spread them over the wild spaces on our property. We use native flowers, weeds to many people, and we also plant domestic flowers for their beauty too. It's a beautiful way to brighten up your yard too. 

Seed Bomb Recipe:
3 packages of wild flower seeds
10 litres topsoil (potting soil is too fluffy)
2 litres of well aged manure 

Add enough water to the soil and manure to make a sticky mix that will keep its shape if rolled into egg sized balls. Mix in the seeds. Roll into golf ball or egg sized balls and you're ready to go. Keep the balls covered so they don't dry out completely and use within two days. 

I've recently seen a video where coloured paper was ripped up into pieces, soaked in water for 15 minutes then put through a food processor until smooth. They squeezed out the excess water (it sort of looks like putty) put it into a shaped mold, sprinkled in seeds and then more paper mush on top. This made cute shaped seed bombs. Due to the seeds getting wet you'd still have to use within a couple of days but might make a good Easter craft. 

To use the seed bombs just plan to throw them out into your open spaces before a few days of wet weather. The soil and manure (or paper) will help to retain moisture as the seeds germinate and provide some nutrients. If you choose varieties that will self seed then you'll be starting a wild flower garden that will last for many years to come. 

https://www.facebook.com/LifeMadeDelicious/videos/10153644704948952/
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