A Day in the Life

Greens like kale are heat sensitive, and need to be harvested early in the day

Greens like kale are heat sensitive, and need to be harvested early in the day

Do you ever wonder what your Rootdown farmers do every day? Well, you probably have some idea, in the sense that we grow vegetables and bring them to you either at market, in the CSA, at local stores and restaurants, but what exactly occupies us for hours every day?

Well, for certain, it changes with the seasons. But at this time of year – mid-July, full high season – our days have established themselves in a solid rhythm of harvesting, processing, packing, and, when we have time left over, weeding.

Heat Sensitive Crops

Some of our crops are very heat sensitive, and need to be harvested early in the morning, preferably before the sun dries the dew, so those are always our priorities. These same crops also don’t store as well in the cooler, so they must be done as close to the time of delivery as possible.

These sensitive crops are the leafy greens, including our salad greens, kale, collards, lettuce heads, and chard. We harvest these from the field first thing in the morning, get them into the shade of our processing area, cool them down with water, and store them in the cooler as quickly as possible.

Some of these crops, such as lettuce heads, and others like radishes and spinach, do less well in the heat, and radishes and spinach are finished for the season, and lettuce will be struggling in the heat!

Speedy Growers

If left unsupervised, zucchinis can grow to enormous sizes!

If left unsupervised, zucchinis can grow to enormous sizes!

There are a few crops that grow very quickly in this weather, and need to be harvested every couple of days. With crops like zucchini and cucumbers, especially field cucumbers (a.k.a. pickling or snacking cukes), if we aren’t on top of collecting them, they can easily get oversized. And even with our frequent harvesting, a few will inevitably get overlooked in the jungle of the large, leafy plants, and we come across some giants with regularity.

Weeding in our Free Time

While the hot weather and sunshine is great for most of our crops, it is also good for the weeds, and if we don’t keep on top of them, weeds can easily overwhelm our pathways and rows. Weeds also take nutrients and water away from our crops, and so we try to keep on top of removing them, especially from slower growing crops like beets and carrots.

Beating the Heat

With the extreme heat of mid-July (37-39 degrees Celsius this week!), we the farmers, like the lettuce and spinach, can also struggle with the heat. We combat it by starting earlier, keeping coolers of cold water with us in the fields, and occasionally ending the days with a bit of ice cream.

Weeding is good, old-fashioned manual labour.

Weeding is good, old-fashioned manual labour.

 

Leave a comment »

Farm Friends – Lambs

The lambs hang out in their house

The lambs hang out in their house

In another introduction to our farm friends, in this instalment we introduce you to our resident lambs, Blacky and Pinky – you can see we’re creative in our naming, as one has a pink nose and one has a black nose! These lambs arrived to us at a couple of months of age, both male, and will be raised on the farm for personal meat production.

Sheep don’t need much from us except shelter, fresh grass, water, and a handful of oats each day. We move their fenced area about once per week to put them on fresh grass, and when they feel they have been on one patch for too long, they let us know by escaping and running around the farm in search of the tastiest dandelions and clover.

The lambs spend their days munching on grass, then sitting down in the shade to chew their cud. They spend all of their time side by side, because clearly the grass that the other one is eating is much better and must be taken from him!

Lambs, pigs, chickens, dogs and turkeys (stay tuned!)… our farm family is multi-faceted, sometimes needy, and always entertaining!

Oats time!

Oats time!

Leave a comment »

Recipes!

Our CSA members have had two of their weekly harvest boxes so far this season! One of the best, but also most daunting, aspects of getting a harvest box is being introduced to new and unfamiliar vegetables, or vegetables that you have a lot of and are not quite sure what to do with.
One thing we definitely don’t want is for vegetables to waste away in the refridgerator, unused and unloved, and eventually composted (please, oh please, don’t put it in the garbage!). So here are a few of our favourite recipes for some of the either less familiar or highly plentiful vegetables. Remember, especially early in the season, vegetables are young and tender and flavourful, so keeping it simple is best. And when in doubt, just chop everything up and stir fry with your favourite sauce!

collardsCollard Wraps
Collard leaves are highly nutritious, but their size and unfamiliarity makes them one item that you may be tempted to let waste away in the fridge. We had this one for lunch last week on the farm, and it was very tasty.

Insides

  • Cook a grain staple such as rice or quinoa
  • Mix in a few tasty vegetables and/or beans, such as small pieces of broccoli, garlic, onions, and stir fry in some oil.
  • Season with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs, such as parsley, if available, or dried herbs and spices such as sage, basil.
  • When all of it is cooked, mix together

Outsides

  • Cut out the thickest part of the stem. Depending on the size of the leaf, you may want to cut the leaf in half.
  • Steam collard leaves lightly, until soft but not falling apart.
  • Allow leaves to cool.
  • Using one collard leaf, take a spoonful or two of the inside mixture, place in the centre of the leaf, tuck in the sides and roll up, and place the roll on a platter.

Serving

Garlic Scape Pesto

Garlic scape

Garlic scape

Garlic scapes are the flowering top of the garlic plant, and has a milder garlic flavour.

Using a food processor or blender, combine the following:

  • 3-4 garlic scapes
  • 2 cups of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (can be replaced with water or stock for lighter pesto)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (or other nut such as peanuts)
  • Serve pesto on top of pasta, rice, salmon, chicken, in sandwiches, or anywhere else! A great way to add some flavour to any dish.

Crunchy-Top Cauliflower
While probably familiar from childhood, you may be wondering how to make this vegetable new and exciting. This recipe is one of my favourites.
Crunchy-Top Cauliflower recipe – Canadian Living

We’ll continue to post recipes for those difficult to use vegetables. Please feel free to comment with your favourite recipes, or requests for other recipes for certain veggies!

Leave a comment »

Whistler Farmers Market for 2014

Simone at our market stall

Simone at our market stall

Since opening day on June 16, Rootdown has had a booth at the Whistler Farmers Market. Every Sunday, two of us can be found at our booth near Portabello restaurant, selling a wide variety of produce freshly harvested from our farm.

Farmers’ Markets are a great place not only to sell our produce, but also to interact with a wide variety of people, some of whom are familiar with the farm, and others who are being introduced to us for the first time. Here are some of the questions that we frequently get asked at the market:

Are these vegetables organic?

Yes! Rootdown is a certified organic farm, and everything that we sell is completely organically grown. In order to maintain our status as a certified organic farm, we undergo an inspection every year to prove that our growing practices fit within the guidelines. We are also certified as a Salmon Safe farm.

Where is your farm? How far is it from here?

Rootdown is located on Pemberton Meadows Road, about 45km away from Whistler, about a 45 min drive. We bring our food to market with our truck and trailer, arriving at market around 7:30am.

My, what large veggies you have!

My, what large veggies you have!

How do these veggies get so big?!

Well, probably different from the average garden, the farm is our full time job! So we take great care of our plants, starting most of them inside a greenhouse as seedlings, with monitored temperature and watering. When they are the right size and strength, we transplant them into soil that has been tilled and amended with nutrients like compost and manure. From there, the plants are protected from insects if necessary with floating row cover, and watered, weeded and thinned as needed. We harvest our veggies as close as possible to the time when they will be delivered or sold, so they are fresh for our customers, and are cleaned and stored in our market cooler. We take great care of our vegetables so they taste and look fantastic!

What can I do with ________?

There may be some unfamiliar veggies on our market stand, and we are always happy to share our favourite recipes with you. Being fresh, local and organic, most of our vegetables are delicious with minimal interference, cooked with light seasonings or eaten raw in salads.

Here is a favourite kale chip recipe, adapted from Vegweb:
Wash one bunch of kale and tear into chip-sized pieces. In a blender, combine and blend the following ingredients:
• 3/4 cup nuts (cashews or almonds work great), soaked
• 1 or 2 green onions
• 2 cloves garlic or 1-2 garlic scapes
• 3 TB nutritional yeast
• 1 TB soy sauce
• 3 TB apple cider vinegar
• 1 TB lemon juice
• Water – enough to make the mixture liquid, but not too runny
Once all of these ingredients are blended together smoothly, pour over the kale in a large container with a lid, close the lid, and shake until all of the leaves are well coated.
To cook the chips, my preferred method is to use a dehydrator, which dries the chips but will not burn them. 2-4 hours at 124-140 degrees works well, just keep checking until they are nice and crispy. They can also be baked in the oven at a low temperature – the higher the temperature, the faster they will cook, but they can go from cooked to burnt in less than a minute, so you have to keep an eye on them!
It can be hard to maintain the crispiness of kale chips for more than a couple of days. Store in an airtight container to maintain freshness, but we usually find that we eat them all right away!

See you at market! Every Sunday 11am-4pm in Whistler village

Garlic scapes on display

Garlic scapes on display

Leave a comment »

First Harvest Box

Our first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box went out last Thursday to our members in Pemberton and Whistler. Even though it’s still early in the season, the box was packed full of great veggies, including broccoli, Napa cabbage, green onions, garlic scapes, radishes, lettuce, cilantro and Hakurei salad turnips.

Some of these veggies are pretty familiar, but others might be new for members and others buying these items from the market, so here are a few ideas to using them.

1st Harvest box of the 2014 season

1st Harvest box of the 2014 season

Garlic Scapes

These are the tender tops of the garlic plant, and can be used the same way you would use garlic, or sautéed with butter. A great use for them is to blend with fresh basil, olive oil, and a nut like pine nuts or peanuts.

Hakurei Turnips

These mild-tasting turnips are great in salads and sandwiches, or brushed with salt, pepper and olive oil and grilled. If you like your greens, you can sautée the turnip greens with butter and garlic.

For more information on Rootdown’s CSA program, see here.

Leave a comment »

Rootdown Piglets

Our 2014-06-07 15.46.38 (1)farm got some new residents last week! Our 20 piglets joined us last week and have been settling in nicely.

For the first week, they had a smaller run as they got used to their new home, and slowly adjusted to us, their farmer friends. But being adjusted to their home and the electric fence, we were able to expand their range to encompass a large swath of nearly 5 foot tall grasses and weeds. Although initially hesitant, it didn’t take them long to feel bold enough to explore, and soon the whole group practically disappeared into the tall grasses, merrily chomping away and particularly seeking out their preferred treat, horsetail.

This year’s batch of pigs are a Berkshire/Tamworth cross, but are more heavily weighted in the Berkshire than Tamworth. We have been wanting to try this breed out for a while, as it is a favourite of many chefs and is know for its exceptional flavour, it’s large loin-eye areas and thorough marbling of the meat.

Excitedly exploring their new grass

Excitedly exploring their new grass

Leave a comment »

Chicken Fun

Rootdown chickens feed time

Rootdown chickens feed time

Chickens are funny and rather dumb creatures, and a part of the daily life at Rootdown farm. We have about 45 hens and one rooster, and every morning, we let the chickens out of their mobile wooden coop onto pasture, where they feed on grass, bugs, and the balanced chicken feed we provide. When we let them out in the morning, they come tumbly out eagerly, practically climbing over each other to get into the sunlight and grass. The joy they clearly feel makes you glad that you’re able to provide them with this kind of lifestyle – access to the outdoors, to pasture, and to engage in their quirky chicken behaviours.

In return for our feed and care, the hens lay fantastic eggs for us, and also their poop provides nitrogen to the soil, which will in turn be beneficial when that land is used for cultivation in a year or two. Contrary to the uniform white eggs you can buy at the grocery store, our hens lay eggs of different colours – shades of white to brown – and are all different sizes and even shapes. Some are jumbo (so the carton doesn’t close!), some are small; some are “egg-shaped” while others are more round or oblong; some shells are smooth while others have wrinkles. The yolks in pastured chicken eggs are generally darker and firmer, demonstrating the healthy diet the hens get from their mixed food.

Chicken Escapades

Hen and rooster have escaped the enclosure and wander nearby

Hen and rooster have escaped the enclosure and wander nearby

Every week or so, we move the chicken coop to new pasture, so the field can recover and the flock can have access to fresh grass. When the chickens have been in one place for too long, they start escaping in greater numbers, and we find them wandering, albeit not too far.

On one recent chicken coop move, we had a longer distance to go, and unfortunately, one of our coops did not make the move! As we tried to turn, we heard a cracking sound, and to our surprise, one wheel bent entirely in half, while the other broke off, and the house had a minor crash, much to the concern of the 20 or so hens inside (don’t worry – there were no chicken injuries!). Luckily, each coop was built to house up to 50 hens, so we could house all of them in the remaining in-tact coop, but getting the hens from one coop to the other proved to be a challenge… We tried opening the coop door and carrying each hen to the fenced area where we’d set up the other coop, and for the most part, that worked. But generally, our chickens don’t much like being caught, and a few escaped our efforts and ran amok. Now picture three farmers, with pieces of plywood as portable barriers, trying to corral four rogue hens across the yard. If you imagine that no matter which way we went, the chickens outmaneuvered us and sent us running, not to mention sent us nearly to the ground laughing, you can understand why this was a bit of an adventure.

Eventually, we got all the flock together, and they are now happily residing in one chicken coop.

 

Broken chicken coop

Broken chicken coop

Comments (1) »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.