Sunday, February 12, 2012

We've Moved!

We have decided to change our blog host. We can now be found at

See you at the new site!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

It's a New Year!

Welcome back, everyone! As I write this, the snow is accumulating outside on one of the most wintry days we have had this season. I spent an hour working inside the greenhouse, pulling some old plants, and visualizing this year's crops. When I came outside, my tracks to the house had completely filled in with snow.

I love this time of the year, because it is when I spend alot of time poring over the seed catalogues, reviewing last year's hits and misses in the gardens, and trying to decide what new things I would like to try this year. I already have a list of "new" things, and will be sharing those in a future article.

I have been keeping busy most Saturdays at the Elora Farmer's Market, which is held at the Grand River Raceway, from 9 - 1 pm, every Saturday, until mid-March. On February 4, our mushrooms and I will be the feature at the market. In preparation for that, I have been trying out new recipes, so that I can hand out samples, and recipe cards, to our shoppers.

One recipe that I just tried today is a definite "keeper". When I mentioned it on Facebook, there was alot of interest, so I thought I'd share it right away. For those of you who aren't familiar with quinoa, it is a protein powerhouse, that I learned about from my ultra trail-running sister. It provides the heartiness to this delicious soup. Here goes:

"Mystic Mushroom and Quinoa Chowder"

1/2 cup quinoa
2 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 lb. oyster mushrooms, chopped
2 tbsp. maple syrup
3 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 cup heavy cream (I used milk)
Salt and pepper to taste

* Optional: 2-3 shiitake caps, slivered and sauteed in 1 tbsp. butter
chopped fresh chives

1. Toast quinoa in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat, until fragrant.

2. In a large saucepan, or stockpot, melt 2 tbsp.butter over med.high heat. Stir in onions and cook until caramelized, about 6 - 8 minutes. Stir in quinoa, mushrooms, and maple syrup. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add chicken (or vegetable) stock, and bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 18-20 minutes, or until quinoa is cooked.

3. Meanwhile, melt 1 tbsp. butter in a skillet over med.high heat. Cook shiitakes until softened, set aside.

4. Puree soup in a food processor or using hand-blender, and return to saucepan. Stir in cream (or milk) - do NOT boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with shiitake mushrooms, and chives, if desired.

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Goodbye, Inglewood....Hello, Elora!

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you know it's been a busy summer for me. This spring, we put up a 72 foot long unheated greenhouse, and it was filled with delicious heritage tomatoes, carrots, beets, lots of peppers and cucumbers, basil and dill, and even some ground cherries (I have left out some plants, I'm sure). Outside, we had dozens of zucchini plants, melons and watermelons, 3 varieties of cucumbers, and many more succulent meals-in-the making ! Yes, it was a lot of work, but boy, we sure ate well this summer :) As well, we feel healthier and better....and the larder downstairs is filled with 100 + jars of pickles, jams and preserves.

Much of the produce we grew went with me to the Inglewood Farmers' Market, where I sold it beside our mushrooms and mushroom products. Customers were so grateful to have produce a few weeks earlier, because it was grown in the warmer greenhouse. Our market was very successful for all the vendors, and after four years, we have developed a wonderful community of producers and faithful customers. Next year, we will be starting an hour earlier, so that we can present our wares to train passengers who will be making a special stop in Inglewood, for that very purpose. Very exciting....

After we had our last market day, I thought to myself, "Finally, I am going to have so much extra time again, I'll be able to catch up on lots of stuff, housework included." Wrong! Nevertheless, when I received a call from one of the organizers of the Elora Farmers' Market, I agreed to try out their indoor winter market, which is held at the Grand River Raceway, in Elora. So now, from 9 - 1 pm on a Saturday morning, that's where you'll find me!

Today, one of my market neighbours was Krista of From These Roots. She has combined the most delicious flavours of fruits and flowers together, to make her unique jams, spreads and salsas. Today, I bought Sour Cherry Whiskey jam, Black Currant Wild Violet jam, and Strawberrry Lilac jam, just to name a few. Be sure to check out the recipe section on her website, lots of great ideas there!

Another stall a few tables down is Caitlin, from Re Root Organic Farm. Today I bought a beautiful Chinese cabbage, which I made into an Oriental style slaw, with sesame seeds. Yummy!

Of course, because it is in Elora, there are many Mennonite producers and vendors. My other neighbours are Floyd and Marie, who sell delicious chicken, pork and beef, which Floyd butchers. Last week, I picked up some breakfast sausage rounds, and tomorrow night's dinner will feature a sirloin tip pork roast. On the side will be some spaghetti squash that was purchased from yet another vendor.

Now, before you think all I do there is shop, I am pleased to say that I have now introduced a whole new set of customers to the delicious oyster and shiitake mushrooms that we grow. As well, I am carrying cremini, white button, and portabello mushrooms that are grown by the wholesaler we deliver our mushrooms to. This week, I brought some mushroom ricotta pastries, and mushroom dip, both of which went over quite well.

It's nice to be back behind a market table, meeting lots of new people. I quite enjoy describing how we grow our mushrooms and giving people the opportunity to "shake the hand that feeds you". Conversations often evolve into recipe-swapping, or an educational discourse on the perils of some of today's conventional farming practices, including GMO's. I enjoy all of this as much as tallying up the day's sales.

So if you're in the neighbourhood, please drop by and say hi. The market will run until mid-March, and because we're indoors, it's a pleasant, warm way to spend a Saturday morning!

Monday, September 26, 2011

From the Garden (and Yard) to the Table

Hello again! Happy Fall Equinox and nice to take the time to write here again ;) For those of you who follow me on Facebook (either under Julie Baumlisberger or Windy Field Farms), you will already know that we have had a busy, but bountiful growing season.

The greenhouse we put up at the end of May has produced bushels of tomatoes, and many other delicious meals which included beans, onions, basil, greens, beets, carrots, dill and a few other yummies. The outside gardens are still producing, thanks to the
successive sowing regimen I used. When one crop was done, I immediately cleaned out the old plants onto the compost heap, worked up the soil again, and planted something new. In fact, in a week's time we will be eating green beans which I planted a month ago, on the hope that we would escape the mid-September frosts we often get after the full moon. A few things were covered up and the very light frost did no damage to anything that was left unprotected.

Today's short post is a wonderful example of the bounty we have been enjoying, from our entire property. As I was cutting the grass before supper on Sunday afternoon, I spotted a large clump of Pleurotis ostreatus (ie. Blue Oyster mushrooms).

They appeared to be growing in the lawn, but since these mushrooms only grow on dead organic material, we knew they were probably growing on a dead root, near the lawn surfa
ce (and they were!).

I had some delicious beef strips simmering with onions and garlic (okay, and a healthy splash of red wine), so Ralph helped gather up the mushrooms.

I washed them, chopped them up and added them to the meat that was almost cooked

and ...voila! a delicious gourmet dinner.

For the record, I have some beautiful photos, from start to finish, for this entry....but for some **##"? reason they are not loading properly.. I will include them on my Facebook post.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spring Has Definitely Sprung!

I can't believe it's been over a month since I last posted my defense, I have been putting lots of information out on our Facebook page.

Yes, spring is definitely here. The robins and chipping sparrows wake us up every morning, saying, "Get up, get up, there's SO much to do!" And then the day just never seems long enough, although my body is grateful for bedtime as a break from all the chores outside. The spring flowers are so vibrantly colourful, each day provides new beauty...

On the farm, we are very pleased with the new brown oyster mushrooms we have started growing recently. Beautiful flower-like petals of tan/brown set them apart from the blue oysters. I have yet to do a side-by-side taste comparison, but I'm sure they are going to be a big hit at the markets this summer. I will put up pictures soon...

Gardening season means compost top-dressing season. On Friday, we delivered to a landscaper who has bought our mushroom compost for her clients for the past two years. She says the difference it makes in the gardens is like night and day, with water retention, robust growth through extra fertility and ease of handling all making a winning combination. We have also been taking calls from friends and neighbours who have bought our compost for their vegetable and flower gardens in the past, and are now regular customers. The new greenhouse had a thick layer applied before we worked up the soil, so the new transplants are all off to a great start.
Speaking of the new greehouse, it was finally completed in time for Mother's Day. The boys spent several days framing in the metal structure in preparation for the plastic sheet that they pulled up and over it. They built two doors at each end, each 5 feet wide, so that we can open it right up and have good air flow through the greenhouse. Inspired by Elliot Coleman's The Winter Harvest Handbook, we have designed the greenhouse to have 6 rows for planting, with 18 " footpaths running down the length of the house. The tomato plants, which will be mulched with chopped straw soon, to help with water conservation, will be clipped to string hanging from above. The heirloom varieties I started from seed are indeterminate growers, which means they will not stop growing at 3 feet or so as popular varieties, but can attain heights over 7 feet!

Once the rows and pathways were established, I was eager to start sowing : mixed lettuces, 3 varieties of beets, heirloom carrots, pak choy, radish and spinach were all seeded on Saturday. On Wednesday, I saw the first emerging bit of green, from the pak choy. I did a little dance, I was so excited! Over the next few days, all but the carrots and spinach have come up. I've also started Italian Parsley, cilantro, bunching onions, basil, 5 varieties of peppers, brussel sprouts and dill. A "Mojito" mint plant was my homage to the Cuban drink and 6 climbing strawberry plants are Ralph's indulgence...Baby tiger and patty pan squash are yet to emerge from their sunny corner.

Outside (take a deep breath), I've started bush peas, 3 varieties of Swiss chard, spinach, leeks and Spanish onions (leeks started from seed this winter). I have yet to plant the lemon cucumber and watermelon seedlings - will definitely wait a few weeks, until the risk of frost has passed. 25 new asparagus roots went in beside the greenhouse, too. Oh, and Natalie bought me two beautiful fruiting mulberry trees for Mother's Day, which I planted at the entrance to the greenhouse. Potatoes will have to wait until the ground dries up from the rain we had today (and all next week, by the sounds of it). Oh well, I can finish planting the pole beans and cabbages inside the greenhouse and enjoy the progress of the emerging seedlings.

If it sounds like that's alot of food for one family, you're absolutely right! I do plan on preserving a bit more than last year, especially the tomatoes, but we certainly won't be able to eat everything I've planted. I have grown lots extra, so that I can sell our bounty at the two Farmers' Markets I will be at this summer. The Inglewood Market is having it's Spring Festival tomorrow, with the regular market season starting on June 15, and our Grand Valley Community Harvest market will be starting on June 2. I've got my mushroom dips and pastries ready to go, and will pick some mushrooms tomorrow morning for the "season opener". Really looking forward to seeing friends from previous years, and meeting new ones!

On a closing note, I wasn't the only one hard at work. The men managed to get their spring planting underway. There were many long days, as they tried to take advantage of the beautiful weather we had all week. Before the rain arrived last night, they managed to plant some heritage open-pollinated corn and some oats. Lots more to go...We'll all catch our breath while it rains and be back at it as soon as the sun starts shining. Remember, if you ate today, you can thank a farmer (even if it's you!)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Very Productive Saturday

This week, I received my highly anticipated new cookbooks, "More-With-Less Cookbook", and "Extending The Table" . Both are chockful of simple, nutritious recipes, using basic ingredients, and the second has recipes from all over the world, from Argentina to Zimbabwe. Aside from delicious culinary delights, both books discuss the need to be selective in what we eat - basically to eat fresh, eat local and eat organic, when possible.

The two recipes I made were English muffins and Pita bread, two baked goods that are usually purchased, rather than baked from scratch at home. Well, the English muffins were a snap ! Once the dough is kneaded, and has risen, you roll and cut it into muffins, then coat them with cornmeal. And, yay! I got to use cornmeal that was made from our own heritage corn. The interesting part was that rather than being baked, Engish muffins are cooked on a hot griddle (or in my case, cast iron skillet). I confess right now, I couldn't resist. As soon as one had cooled enough, I cut it in half and slathered it with homemade strawberry jam...heaven :D

Next was the pita bread, which was also cooked differently. After the dough has risen and the bread is shaped and rolled, the bread is cooked on very hot (ie.450 F) cookie sheets for about 4 minutes. It puffs up, gets flipped and baked another 3 minutes or so. I think my cookie sheets were not preheated enough (as mentioned in the recipe) and not all of the pita breads really puffed up. Nonetheless, they all have a "pocket" and can be stuffed as a sandwich or used as a base for mini pizzas.

I actually started out my baking with the standard 3 loaves of whole grain bread I bake every week. The flour is a different mix every time I make it, but usually includes spelt flour, corn flour, ground flax seeds and whole pumpkin seeds, as well as some white flour. I mixed some grated cheddar cheese into one of them for some cheese bread to enjoy with the mushroom soup I made for lunch. Yummy!

To work up an appetite, I went outside to see how progress was being made on our new growing hoop house. Ralph and our nephew, Matthew, were hard at work getting it set up. It was larger than I thought it would be, but when I started thinking of the 100+ tomato seedlings I have growing on our windowsills, I realized that Ralph was right in installing the full size (which will be 60 feet long and 20 feet wide, when completed). The area between the hoop house and the bush will be quite a microclimate and heat sink, perfect for the melons and cucumbers I will plant there. Still lots to do before it will be ready for the plants, but I can hardly wait!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Eat Local, Eat In Season

I had a more forceful title in mind, but didn't want to scare away any readers if it was obvious I would be getting onto my soapbox ;) What I also could add would be "Food Stores, Please Stop Mis-Labelling Food!!!"

For many months, since our somewhat short-growing season here in Ontario ended, my family has had to listen to me complaining about stores mis-labelling produce. Specifically, it is the country of origin that they have been getting wrong. I can appreciate that it is not always possible to buy local (ie. Ontario) or even on a larger scale, Canadian, produce year round. However, I do want to have the choice to decide whether I want to purchase produce, and I want that choice to be based on accurate labelling.

An example would be something as simple as fresh pears. Today at the grocery store, there was a special on "produce of USA" pears. I was happy to start bagging some up, until I saw the little sticker that indicated they were from Chile. Elsewhere in the same bin were more pears with labels from South Africa. Sorry, but all the pears in my bag went back into the bin. I can justify buying pears from the USA, but to have travelled as far as Chile or South Africa? I'll just eat some of the canned Ontario pears I prepared last summer (not as crunchy, but a good substitute).

This mis-labelling happens time and time again, even when it is pointed out to the store owners. I was once told that if there is a sale on, and there isn't enough produce from the feature country of origin available, the stores are allowed to substitute with produce from elsewhere. I have no problem with that. Just let me know that's what you're doing, by changing your signage! It's getting to the point where I don't even look at the price sign, but look for the telltale stickers. Last week, asparagus marked as "produce of Peru" actually came from Mexico, and red peppers marked as "produce of Canada" came from Spain. I would really like to see some sort of reprimanding or fining happening at the store, or even chain, level. I know, I know, "caveat emptor", ie. buyer beware, but why bother with signs if they aren't even accurate?, I'm stepping down from my soapbox and cooling off.....

Eating locally and eating in season is a much happier subject. I really feel that we, as consumers, have been spoiled rotten by having virtually any food (produce) available to us year round. Not only have we been spoiled, but we are enabling and justifying the thousands of miles many of these foodstuffs are travelling to make it to our grocery stores,and eventually, to our tables. Now before you accuse me of being naive, or teaching me about the "global" economy, I will point out that I am aware of all of that. Lately, there has been such an emphasis on everything "green", I am really surprised that it hasn't been extended to our food supply, too.

Let's face it, being able to eat fresh asparagus in March, or fresh peaches and grapes in the cold of February is quite delightful - if you choose to. Of course, it all depends on where you live. If you are in California, or any southern climate, you are more likely to be able to buy many of this produce virtually year round. But for us here in Southern Ontario, I suggest we start to eat in season. That means asparagus is enjoyed and eaten with gusto in May and June, strawberries by the end of June, and peaches and grapes in late summer. If you take the time and effort to put some of this food away for the winter, either frozen, canned or dehydrated, then you can also enjoy it out of season.

And what about enjoying the foods that ARE available in the winter months, as our parents did. Up here in Canada, winter means meals based around hearty root vegetables such as beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots, rutabagas and turnips, as well as red and green cabbage. I won't be a hypocrite and say I never veer out of season...I enjoy my citrus fruits (but mainly buy them in the winter months, when they are in season in the States), and I also buy boxed organic greens (spinach and spring greens) that have probably travelled a significant distance. But I do try to balance those purchases by eating locally, and in season.

Last summer, I sold a fabulous cookbook at the farmer's market, called "Simply in Season". I use it almost every week, as it is chock full of nutritious and delicious recipes, using produce as it is available in every season. This year, I will also be selling "Saving the Seasons", which gives instructions for preserving foods in many different ways, to enjoy throughout the year. This means that we can put away food from our own gardens, but to also take advantage of the bounty that is available within our community. Last year, I purchased raspberries, blueberries, peaches and pears, and froze or canned them. We are still enjoying all of this delicious Ontario produce in our pancakes, smoothies and baking. Yes, it's alot of work, but oh, so rewarding in January!

I feel so much better, getting this all of my chest, thank you....I think I'll go help my daughter make some smoothies for desert, using organic local yogurt and some yummy frozen Ontario berries!