1. Good lookin' market table. 2. Pac Choi. 3. Exacting retribution on Paynter's Fruit Market. 4. Sugar pumpkin.
Goodbye, Ian. Your work ethic, your enthusiasm, your conversationalist talents, your perennial supply of IGA cookies for coffee time: all will be missed. We wish you the best for your next adventure. We also wish your Subaru gets you to Ontario without quitting.
1. Hanging onions to cure.
2. Ian and the Bear have a staredown. The stakes: who gets the Italian Prune Plums. Ian won.
Ian took these. He takes almost all of the photos. He's real good at it, no?
September 4: I've been keeping a journal of my farming foibles for my readers this year, and most of it is true!
September 7: The epilogue to my September 2nd journal entry about Billy the Kid and growing large pumpkins is that Billy shot me down. The 65 pounder I submitted to the Peachland Fall Fair was a marble to Billy's softball. His came in at 160 lb. Deep down I knew I had no chance. Redemption, sort of: for the second year running, a veggie-creature submitted by farm staff-this year, Ian and Ryan and Steph--fetched a blue ribbon and a Best-In-Show. Way to go, you three; you sure showed those arrogant ten year olds who thought they could beat you.
September 13: The sudden need to replace our scale's batteries at market led to social and financial catastrophe. Ryan being the better salesman, I left him to tend the stall and headed up the street to seek out some replacement portable energy.
The first thing I learned: Main Street in Penticton is not the cornucopia of Sunday morning battery merchants of bygone days. I suppose it's linked to the general decline in religiousity in recent years. What Baby Boomer, after all, can't remember returning from church, back of the station wagon, joining brothers, sisters in pleading with dad to stop for some double A's? Maybe even a 9 volt, on special occasions. Dad always pretending not to hear, turning in at the last second, to cheers from the kids. Mom never indulging in more than a triple A for herself, seemingly restrained, but knowing, in the back of her mind, that little George would be unlikely to finish his whole four-pack. We lie to ourselves more than anyone else, don't we?
Times have changed, and Main Street's windows are filled with books and shoes and fabrics. Nary a C Cell in site. Moral decay, folks. Moral decay.
I had almost given up when I encountered the Pharmasave, filled with equal parts hope and dread. Halfway chance they'd have the D Cells I needed, but at what cost? You don't go to Pharmasave for batteries unless you're desperate. I know it, they know it. For my purposes the store might well have been called Enerspend.
What should have been a simple process veered into awkwardness when a clerk an aisle over asked me if I needed help finding anything. My answer was a rambling explanation of my farmers' market scale failure and my long quest to find some D's. I wish I had looked up before giving it, since I discovered, when I finally did, that the clerk had been talking to the pregnant woman in a neighbouring aisle. Had she laughed at my blunder it would have been fine, but instead she acted as if I had just availed myself, right in front of her, of a strong need to pee, staring at me with some mixture of pity, wonder, and disgust.
I found the batteries, eventually. Eight of them cost $28, or 1/10th the cost of my fancy scale. I returned to market, clearly defeated by Enerspend, but also inspired. Were an errant, emaciated rabbit to approach my stall looking for carrots, I would quickly put the the price up to $10/bunch, because the poor sucker would pay it.
1. Ugly Russian Blue. 2. We had to harvest the apples earlier than ideal because the place is crawling with bears. 3. Guess whose sunflowers won a Best in Show Ribbon at the Fall Fair? 4. Ryan and Steph and Ian also took home a Best in Show for their veggie man.
Photos by Ian.
This one's very simple and pretty tasty. You've got leeks and potatoes in your bags this week so I thought I'd include this, though there are plenty of other great takes on this soup out there.
2 quarts water
2 tsp salt
I lb potatoes, peeled, quartered, and sliced
1 lb leeks, split, cleaned, finely sliced
3 tbspn unsalted butter
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley or chives to garnish
Bring water to rapid boil in a large saucepan. Add salt, potatoes, leeks. Cover and cook at gentle boil until potatoes begin to fall apart, about 35 to 40 minutes. Crush into small pieces with spoon or fork against the side of saucepan. Remove from heat.
Add butter and pour into individual bowls. Garnish with parsley or chives.
Not everyone knows what to do with Swiss Chard, which included in this week's veggie bag as a bunch of young leaves. I've found that Martha Stewart's site has some useful slideshows featuring multiple recipes for a given veggie; here you can link to the one for Chard.
Above: Ryan picks for the year's first apples. Tomatoes. Flowers. Mr. Eggplant.
August 23: Haven't updated the ol' farm journal in a while. I've been doing so for the sake of That Portion of Posterity Interested In Hapless Veggie Production.
August 24: There is a Facebook thing happening lately where people are posting about what they're grateful for. I'm way too cynical and grumpy to do that. Plus, I mostly like to save my FB posts for radish selfies. If I were to jump on that wagon though, Gratitude #1 would definitely have to be for eggplant, that most overlooked and misunderstood nightshade. Properly cooked eggplant eases the pain. Give it a second chance, folks. Eggplant would die for your sins if it were called to do so. Also, Bulk Barn.
September 1: Just returned after a week--a week!--off for summer vacation. Never have Vanessa and I had the audacity to attempt such a thing in August. Never could we have attempted it without a stellar farm crew. After a season of learning the ropes on a middling market garden operation, Ian and Ryan got to take a stab at being a neurotic mess for seven days. You know the farm's been in good hands when you return to hear that your replacements sold produce to a buyer you hadn't even thought to approach. For cash! It's in the cupholder of the van, Jordan.
What do farmers do on summer vacation, no one asked? These ones hiked to a hut at 9300 feet in Glacier National Park, before a regrettable stop at Canyon Hot Springs, home of Revelstoke's largest public bath tub, before a flight to a wedding in Muskoka. I have nothing sarcastic to say about Muskoka. It's lovely.
September 2: My pumpkins are getting big. Sufficiently so, in fact, that they failed to escape the wandering eyes of a customer--a stranger to me--who dropped by about ten days ago. Ostensibly he was there for some carrots, which I sold him. That's when he started asking about the giants in my garden. I explained that I was fixing to take down the guy who won the giant pumpkin category at last year's Peachland Fall Fair.
There's a scene in Young Guns--a classic Western to Gen X and the Millenials--when Brat Packer Emilio Estevez's Billy the Kid feigns wide-eyed admiration toward a pompous coxcomb in a bar who brags about his intention to capture and kill the infamous outlaw. Billy goads him on--What does he look like? Can I touch the gun you're going to kill him with?--before revealing his identity, chillingly, by whistling in the manner the coxcomb had just ascribed to Billy the Kid. Then Billy shoots him dead.
I hadn't thought about that scene in a long time until my encounter with this stranger, who, after hearing me ramble on about my intentions, and about the finer points of growing Big Orange, casually informed me that he, in fact, was the winner of last year's giant pumpkin category at the Peachland Fall Fair. Then he smiled and went on his way. I'm not sure if he noticed the tremble that had developed in my trowel hand.
My pumpkins are big, but his was a monster. Whether Billy will succeed in shooting me down, though, remains to be seen. And, indeed, you can see it. The showdown happens at the community centre this weekend. Fittingly, the theme chosen for this year's fair is Western Flair. Hope to see y'all there.
This is Vanessa and I enroute to Yoho. For the first time in four years of farming in Peachland, we're taking a summer vacation. A week off! This is entirely owing to our awesome farm help... Ryan and Ian will be delivering your veggies this week. If you want to leave jujubes or other treats for them outside your door, please feel free! Lord knows we don't feed then very well. At any rate, the newsletter is terrible this week because vacation! Vacation! Vacation!
Above: 1. Received a surprise invite up to Joy Road Catering to enjoy a feast being filmed for a Slow Food Canada project. We accpeted. A lovely evening with good friends, wine, and grub. Thanks Cam and Dana! That's TH Wine's By-Hand White there.
3. Saving arugula seed.
4. Cippolini Onion.
5. The whole crew went out for Chinese food one night. Twas delicious, though 3 of the 4 of us had...problems afterward. Symptoms were summarized on the board. Jordan escaped unscathed. All agreed we'd do it all over again. So tasty.
8. Salad Greens.
Thanks to Vanessa and Ian for the shots.
Well, less of a recipe, more of an idea. Last night Vanessa put together a poor farmer's Salad Nicoise using a bed of arugula, one of our Persian cukes, our tomatoes and scallions, and some eggs and cheese and tuna. Google a recipe if you want some dressing ideas.
August 7: Fire at Drought Hill! Or as I call it, The Furthest I Can Throw An Unsold Zucchini From My Front Deck. That's how close we were to the initial flames, though, owing to the buffering effect of 97C, we never felt anything like the threat that we felt from the fire two years ago, save for maybe those first few uninformed minutes. About those minutes: I had missed the early cues, having assumed the sirens I heard were for, I don't know, a dignitary's cavalcade, or maybe the Kelowna Rockets having scored a goal up on the highway. It was Torbin, our German farm-guest, who pointed out the plume of smoke and the suddenly-obvious commotion.
It's crises like this that often separate the wheat from the chaff. I immediately thought about the one neighbour on the fire's side of the highway, yet my response was to run up to the highway to get a better sense of the situation. Terrible, Jordan; it's terrible. In establishing this, I had wasted valuable minutes and was now far away from my car. On the bright side, I was called Sir for the first time in months when an RCMP constable asked me to get the heck away from there.
Torbin and the farm's owner, Joe, meanwhile, tossed some shovels in Joe's truck and roared up the wash-boarded, circuitous driveway to our neighbour's house to make sure she and her dogs were safe. They were. Emergency responders were on scene, refused Joe's offer to help fight the fire, and sent him back down just in time to have his beloved Ford doused with retardant from the first pass of the air tanker. I saw it all from my vantage on the highway, where I was also being useful...as tits on a bull.
I can't stress enough the rare treat, and bizarre circumstances, afforded by the curious geographical relationship among the fire, the farm, and the shelter of the highway between. We were so close to it; yet, never in any great danger, no evacuation was ordered. We were thus treated to a better air show than I might ever pay an admission for. The air tankers, the water bombers, the helicopters--all skimmed the tips of the farm's treetops, and one even landed in our hay field, as they fought the blaze. I was due to host a dinner party that night, and proceeded with it. It went off without a hitch, save for the pilots' engines drowning out all my best carrot-harvesting stories. They saved the farm though, so I guess we're even.
August 9: Fire's out. A little hazy, but otherwise back to normal. I'm not a very patriotic guy, but watching the firefighting apparatus spring to life to put out the fire made me proud of the society I live in. I'm never sure how to strike the right balance between gratitude for, and healthy criticism of, one's governmental institutions, but when you can point to a blaze a few hundred feet away as the reason for turning away some tourists who showed up unannounced for a tour, but really it's because you're inside baking a peach pie and you're trying to keep the pastry as cold as possible before it hits the oven, well, I think that calls for some unbridled gratitude for those institutions, and the people that comprise them.
August 10: Clarice is getting bigger. Clarice is the Black Widow that Ryan found clinging to a head of lettuce he had harvested (thank goodness he found it!). Ryan, perhaps driven by a stirring of his paternal instincts, deposited Clarice in an unused wash sink in our processing tent. She's made a home there, and we've been feeding her grasshoppers ever since. You can see some photos and video of Clarice at thehomesteadorganicfarm.ca/blog.
Where normal ol' yellow jackets are concerned, we usually try to live and let live, because they aren't very aggressive and can be helpful as beneficial predators in the garden. But when we found a nest inside the door of our garbage shed, Jordan felt the need to take action. The wasps won that round, but Jordan later prevailed.
Some notes about what's in your bags this week.
All photos by Ian. 1. Ian's happy because we had just pulled the last of the second cut of hay off the field. It was sweaty work. We were glad to be through it.
2. Apricots, Sunshine Farm. We were down for a birthday party for friend Anna, and were treated to an excellent tour by owner-farmer John Alcock, pictured. The guy is a plant wizard. Later in the tour we got to see a flowering turmeric plant in his greenhouse.
4. Last year for my birthday, Vanessa and her parents bought me business magnets to spruce up the van. This year, they bought me another to replace the one that blew off during a storm, never to be seen again by these eyes. Somewhere between Westbank and Kamloops, someone's freezer is advertising our farm to no one in particular.