Archive for July, 2012

Riverdale Farm with Farmers Feed Cities

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Now that we’ve officially started on our farming adventure we’ve been taking every opportunity we get to talk to farmers of all sorts.

So when our family was recently invited to meet some Ontario Farmers at Riverdale Farm as part of #freshfromthefield the answer was a definitive yes. Farmers that actually wanted to talk to the city girl and wouldn’t laugh at my need for a goat or two? I was so in. The fact that it was at Riverdale Farm, possibly my favourite place in the whole city of Toronto really sealed the deal.

The day was put together by Farmers Feed Cities, who are an organized group of Ontario farmers advocating for sustainable farming and consumer education. Although our own personal food philosophy has a stronger emphasis on organic produce and smaller scale farming I’m in full agreement with the importance of educating the public about where their food came from and making personal connections between farmers and the people who eat and use the fruits of their labour.

We had a great bunch of farmers take us on a tour of the farm, telling us about their own practices as they went.  The pig farming information was particularly eye opening to me as we drive by many pork farms on the way to Ryan’s home town in South Western Ontario where I tend to ask obnoxious questions about the whereabouts of the pigs the whole way. No sign of pigs outside whatsoever, just big signs announcing pig farms, it’s all very confusing. In comparison we also pass a real free range pig farm on the way to our farm where a slew of giant muddy pigs wander about, occasionally with an orange cat for company.


Stewart works on his family’s farm with about 9000 pigs and gave a great description of “full circle farming” where the farm produces the grain to feed the animals whose waste fertilizes the grain.  This particular farm raises pigs from birth, through nursing, to “finishing” and then sends them offsite to the abattoir, where experts give them what sounds like a humane end. If you check out his twitter feed there are some great photos of pigs outside including some escapees. A major point I left with was that the standards the farmers have to follow in Ontario are quite strict and quite high. I’ve come across this in researching our barn as well. Everything from the amount of space allotted to each animal to the origin of the grain used for feed is regulated. Regardless of your personal decision if you will eat this animal of not it’s important to understand the farmers have a vested interest in treating their animals well and keeping our food supply safe.

Next we heard from an egg producer who was telling us where his 11,000 chickens ended up after their careers ended just when Rebecca started working on letting all the chickens out. Then on to talk dairy cows and goats, basic lactation and a good explanation of the corn fed beef that’s being heavily marketed at major grocery stores right now. Even though I think it’s important to be well informed on the subject, meat isn’t exactly my favourite topic of conversation, so I was happy when we moved on to the market vegetables and Riverdale Farm’s great raised bed gardens.

Our last stop was talking to Jason and his family from Carron Farms.  They are 3rd and hopefully 4th generation farmers, farming the original land their dutch ancestors settled on in the Holland Landing, some of Ontario’s richest farm land. We discussed the diversity in the foods grown for the Ontario market, everything from asian eggplants to the original colours of carrots. They provided most of the toppings for our pizza lunch which we then cooked to perfection in the wood burning pizza oven. Lunch was served along with some lessons in peeling fresh garlic and keeping leafy vegetables and herbs fresh by pulling them from the garden with their roots attached and storing them in water. I think we’ll be building a brick pizza over sooner than later and planning a visit to the Verkaik’s diverse farm next spring. I’ll be posting some recipes using their produce in the next few weeks.

As bloggers and farmers mixed, there were great conversations about goats, bees and Agricultural University Degrees. We learnt that 98% of Ontario farms are family owned and operated, about average farm size and how it’s growing (thanks for not laughing at our intimidating 14 acres), and lots of talk of all the non-farming farm skills required to run a farm (like pluming and accounting).  Since I am easily befriended with Ontario garlic and fresh purple onions, especially when combined with an arm load of fresh basil we had a great end to our visit.

New in the Shop! Cubit’s Farm & Food Photos on Etsy

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Once upon a time, I used to sell my art. Unfortunately I found the whole ordeal extraordinarily stressful. I think back to the stress of openings, the expense of showing in galleries, and enormous effort of the outdoor shows and just shudder. So a few years ago, I decided that I needed a nice long break from publicly showing and that I would use my nice art background to sell something else. Cubit’s was born and I got to combine making art with gardening and use my photography and design skills to sell my seeds.  I even developed a business that could grow while worked at home with my family.

The only real problem was people kept asking to buy my photographs.

So three years later, I’m taking baby steps into selling my actual art work again and have introduced a new section in cubit’s etsy shop with small postcard prints of my photography. They’re perfect to send to your favourite foodie or hang in your kitchen. I’m hoping to expand this shop section in the next few months and offer larger scale prints.

To kick off finally offering these in my etsy shop Moo has generously offered 4 prizes to my readers to help me celebrate. I’ve been using them for much of my printing for a few years now and am always impressed.  The photo quality of their printing, combined with how easy it is to order and their eco friendly options just aren’t offered by anyone else.

3 readers will win sets of 100 business cards, like these coupons I made, and one will also win a set of 20 postcards, either with my images or your own.

To enter I’m asking that you share one of my images, listing or posts somewhere on the internet; pinterest, twitter, facebook, stumbleupon, anywhere really.  You can use the handy buttons at the bottom of each post or on the right side of each etsy listing and then report back by simply leaving a comment with the link and your twitter or email so I can contact you if you win.

Contest is closed.


Bumble Bee Bumble

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

We’ve been trying to use some our pre-baby-delivery nesting drive to get some work done at the farm. Some of the most useful space (and shade) we have is in two giant vehicle sheds.  They’re full of some pretty amazing stuff, old chairs, glass lids for jars, random cow milking aparatus.  You know, amazing stuff.  There’s also a fairly diverse animal kingdom.

Some time on Monday, Rebecca and I went on an adventure through the shed.  I found some tarps that I started to fold, but they felt strangely heavy so thinking I’d harassed a rat or such, we made a beeline out of there.  Later that evening we all went in to start really cleaning up and that’s when we heard the buzzing.  Not nice happy bee buzzing, but Laura shook up our house and we’re pissed right off buzzing.  We finally figured out where they were, and since they were in the old hauling trailer we simply wheeled it out the door until we could get a chance to investigate.

Early the next morning, Ryan left to go to a shoot in the city, sweet toddler was sleeping, the farm was quiet and cool. I figured this was my chance. Coffee, camera, macro lens, light coloured clothing, I was ready. I waited patiently. To my relief I saw that they were bumblebees and therefore unlikely to sting if I kept my cool.  It was lovely.  I started trying to move the tarps out of the sun where the bees were sure to bake if they stayed trapped there all day. A gentle breeze and Bumblebees gently flying around me.  Success! I had the traps on the ground  and on the way to a shady spot when, Bam! Hazel the giant had let herself out and jumped right on top of them.

The chase was on.  Hazel got stung on the mouth and proceeded to act like a maniac.  I was chased.  Bees in my hair, the whole bit.  Running faster than a pregnant lady ever should. I bet it was all pretty hilarious. Operation bee rescue was getting sticky.

Last night we were able to clean up and check on them.  They were working away to build a new colony, probably about 20 giant fuzzy bumblebees building away in a pile of insulation in the middle of an opening where everyone walks every day.  After some reading (mostly Ashley English’s Keeping Bees, twitter and this useful British wild bee site) we decide the best thing to do was to wait until early morning, gently move them in to a cardboard box, and then deliver them a safe distance into the field.  I once again headed out, coffee, camera, locked up dog. But they were gone. Something found them and ate the whole operation, leaving me a pile of waxy insulation and a guiltily conscience.

The only redeeming parts are all the pollination I have seen in the sweet peas this morning and that I have found the original colony, high up in the rafters of the shed, safely tucked away in a tire, and nobody is allowed near them.

The last of this Season’s Garlic Scapes

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

This is it, the last of this year’s scapes. I picked them last night, gave a handful to a neighbour who has been eyeing them, had Ryan roast some up with potatoes for last night’s dinner, and this afternoon I’ll turn the rest into this pesto with arugula and kale from the garden.

Combined with my grandmother’s pan and cutting boards from Timber Green Woods I can’t stop taking pictures. It’s a bit of an addiction.

Here are some of my favourite scape posts from around the internet. I’ve also been pinning scapes all over pinterest.

What are some of your favourite ways to enjoy these pretty and delicious garlic shoots?

Well Preserved’s Pickled Garlic Scapes and Pesto.

Shana’s roasting hers over on Folks Gotta Eat.

Karen is admiring hers for a bit after “borrowing” some and before eating them over at the Art of Doing Stuff.

Young Urban Farmer’s are making vegan scape pesto.