Thursday, February 18, 2010

And the winners are

I've ordered my seeds and as usual, have picked out a few new things as experiments. This year's winners are:

Genesis Cilantro. I've grown cilantro before but it always seems to bolt so darn quick. Genesis is supposed to be very slow to bolt, even in hot weather. We'll see if the experts and I agree on the definition of "very slow to bolt". 

 Flash Collard Greens. The kale has been such a success that I've decided to branch out even further. Collard greens aren't exactly a local staple here in Alberta, but I figure I've got the next 6 months or so to figure out what I'm going to do with them. 

 Zefa Fino Fennel. I know fennel grows well here and have just never gotten around to planting any myself. 

T&T Seeds "Big Three" toato collection. Growing tomatoes that actually ripen before the frost hits can be a real challenge. This year I'm trying three varieties, all developed on the Canadian Prairies.  Prairie Pride is from the University of Manitoba, Charlie's Red Stalker is from the Morden Research Station (Manitoba again), and Centennial Rocket comes from the Beaverlodge research facility, which is even further north than we are. Hopefully I'll find my perfect "eating" tomato out of this bunch.

Borealis Haskaps. Technically these aren't going in the garden. We'll plant them somewhere in the yard. Haskaps are a member of the honeysuckle family.  They are also called honey berries. Apparently they produce berries that taste like a cross between a raspberry and a blueberry. They're hardy to zone 2, grow quickly and produce a lot of berries within the first few years. I'm kind of going in blind because I've never seen a haskap bush, let alone tried and the berries, but what the heck - nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Roast tomatoes and sausage

Those cute little tomatoes I mentioned last weekend? This is what I like to do with them. In February. When we're months away from cute little FRESH tomatoes. 

It's a very complicated recipe, so pay close attention. 

I take a bag of frozen tomatoes out of the freezer. I dump them into a baking pan. I cut up some really good italian sausage and throw them in. I drizzle some really good olive oil over top and sprinkle the whole thing with salt and pepper. I add some whole cloves of garlic. I don't even peel them. Garlic is really mild when it's roasted so don't panic. Your friends will still want to hang out with you. 
 If the sausage is hot I'm done. If the sausage is mild I sprinkle a few pepper flakes over top. 
 Then I give it a good stir before the tomatoes thaw. That way they don't get beat up. They stay whole and cook that way.  

This is what it looks like before it goes in the oven. 

I let it sit out for a bit to let the tomatoes thaw for a bit and then I throw it in the oven at 350 degrees until it's done - about an hour or a bit more depending on how much I've made and how thawed out the tomatoes are. 
I serve it with mashed potatoes (which I make with buttermilk instead of milk or cream - which tastes great if I do say so myself)
It looks gorgeous...but I forgot to take a picture of the finished product.  I tend to have a one track mind when food's ready - EAT.  

Friday, February 12, 2010

You can't name a blog Sheep Thrills

without having some sheep! 

This morning I went out...

and apparently woke them up.

They've got that "you've caught us in our jammies" look.  In case you're feeling sorry for them - stuck out in the yard with snow up to their armpits - they've got shelter - this is just their apres-breakfast napping area. Rough life these sheep have.

As usual 25T and 44U were the first ones to come visit. 

They need names. Do 25T and 44U count as names??? I just haven't come up with names that "work" for them yet. Don't worry, they know which way their bread's buttered on and have done a good job worming their way into my heart. No worry ladies - you've got a good long life ahead of you here. We've just gotten so used to calling them by their tag names that that's who've they've become - what's in a name? At any rate, I'm working on it, have tried a few, but nothing has stuck. However 25T especially, based on personality alone - she's a keeper. 

Gordon (RAMsey) and the other two girls, managed to stretch and join up to see what the fuss was about - paparazzi is not terribly common around these parts. 

The goal is grass fed lamb and nice Katahdin sheep, so let's hope that Gordon's been "on the job" so to speak this winter. He looks pretty content, so I'd say we're pretty safe. 

Over on the other side of the yard we've got the two ewe lambs and the whethers. 

The one on the left with the patch, well - she's named Patch...go figure. The brown one - she's named  Susi, because she's brown (Brown eye'd Susan - clever huh?), sweet and feisty, like the other Susi's I know.  The three white guys? Extra, Buy-Low, and Save-On (just add Foods to all of their names in case you aren't local)...and that's the life of a wether. In the grand scheme of things though this is a pretty good place to pick life as a wether... not too much work, all the grass you can eat, not a lot of stress.

And that's our sheep. I'll introduce the rest of the "crew" over the next little bit.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

Two more winners from last year's list of experiments.

Generally I plant Scarlet Runners, and green, and yellow bush beans. I think I've always planted the bush beans because that was what I was raised on. There's nothing wrong with them, but now that I've broadened my horizons a lttle, I can honestly say that there's nothing special about them either - especially after they've been blanched and frozen.  I love Scarlet Runners. I love the beans they produce, as well as how darned pretty they look producing them. The only issue we sometimes have with them here in the valley is that frost can cut their season short, just as they really start producing.

Last year I decided to try a flat Italian style bean.  I went for the Roma II Bean.
We didn't treated them like bush beans last year and they did fine, but it was obvious that they wanted something to climb, so this year we'll give them a little trellis and see how much difference it makes.  
We got a lot of great tasting beans off the few plants I put in. They were easier to protect from frost than the runner beans and if I remember correctly, started producing sooner.  Most importantly....they're actually good out of the freezer.  So this year...bye bye bush beans.  It's been nice knowing you, we've had some really good times, but it's time for me to move on. 

The second winner was a summer squash.  There's nothing wrong with a green zucchini. Except when you're trying to give it away. ;-) Plant a variety of colours and call them "summer squash" and suddenly people are interested! But I digress...
Magda Squash is a Lebanese Zucchini (suddenly it's even more exotic and "giveawayable").  The Magda plants out produced the regular zucch's, didn't have a single problem with rot, and we liked the flavour and texture better.  Veseys catalog mentions that they produce medium 4" fruit. Sure they do, as long as you keep on top of them. Just like any other zucchini type plant these suckers will keep growing way past 4". That's the beauty/curse of summer squash. It's  the reason  people people have "gifts from the garden" forced upon them. The good news is, these squash are great when they're bigger and are my new favourite for stuffing.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tis the season

There's less than 12 hours of daylight and the snow is knee deep, but we're past Christmas, so it's definitely Seed Catalog season!
So far I'm just at the "window shopping" phase. In a couple of days I'll get serious. 
There is nothing better in February than flipping through a good seed catalog... especially if you time it just right and catch the afternoon sun streaming through the living room windows - a person could almost imagine that it was t-shirt weather.  

We live north of the 54th parallel and in a valley - oh but I do love our valley. Look forward to plenty of long, full of pictures, boring to the outside world, blogs about our valley! It can make gardening a challenge though. We expect frost in June. We've had frost in July and August. September, well, we expect it. It just adds a special "we showed you" kind of success when we pick ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, home grown eggplants and melons. Necessity really is the mother of invention after all.

Still, it gives one pause to think, when driving past the old settlers homes that still survive in the area. Those were some tough settlers!

Thankfully, they survived, we're here, and now we have central heating, indoor plumbing and electricity. Oh, and as someone who actually had to go without central heating and plumbing in a similarly built house for a year and half - those are things you don't want to give up in these parts! 

Back to seed catalogs. Every year I swear I'm not "growing the garden" (not making it bigger). Then the seed catalogs have the nerve to come up with something I can't resist. Last year, this was the bait. 
I couldn't pass up the novelty. I couldn't pass up the colour. I couldn't pass up the cuteness. 
Here's the thing. Veseys more than delivered. Not only did those little tomatoes produce, we're still enjoying them now.  In a fit of late season "I'll never turn these all into sauce or something" desperation I threw a huge pile of these little beauties into freezer bags loose. We have been happily enjoying them in soups, stews, and other yummy items (I'll share recipes) all winter.  They're "people over for supper" kind of food.  There were a number of other experiments last year, just like every other year - this one's a keeper.  These little beauties are sold as Veseys Mosaic Mix

My job this week is to sift through all the "possibilities" and decide who's worthy of garden space. It's the highlight of my February.

Blame it on the dogs

 I've always been passionate about dogs. Directly, or indirectly they've been responsible for they way I live my life.  They have their own blog.

Because of the dogs, I live in the country, own sheep,  and have an obsession for good fences. I wouldn't be where I'm at without them.  However, I'm almost as passionate about the food we eat, how we grow it, and how we care for the animals that wind up on our plate.  

This blog is a little "Think Global" -as in food politics that shape some of the decisions we make (or try to make), and a little "act local" - as in, what I'm actually doing here in the garden, with the animals we raise, and in the kitchen.  

Having a little fun along the way doesn't hurt either!