We deliver right to your house every Wednesday night. If you want to be on our regular Tuesday morning email, drop me a note. You’ll get a list of everything we have available that day, order deadline is noon Wednesday. Also included is an interesting story to go along with my boring oats.

 

We will be back to the Lansdowne Farmers’ Market on the first Sunday in May. Rodney will be there with his grilled cheese empire and Mary will be replacing me serving up oats only and tons of soap. We will pre-mill some flour for you if you order, but Mary hates our finicky grinder and thus I will be doing flour orders before-hand.

Our big water project:

We are planing to bring some of our artesian spring water to market. I could list a thousand reasons why it is better for you than city or bottled water but won’t. I would love to hear from you if you are interested in this project. We have purchased a trailer, seen here:

http://www.bluming.com/projects/draftcaddy.htm

It will be stored in stainless and copper kegs, chilled quickly after loading, delivered fresh that morning, kept cool and on tap.

Instead of beer, it will be water.

This is really pushing our limit of understanding what the customer wants. The water industry is a confusing one. I really want your input and will gladly pay your time by trading soap, maple syrup, oats or whatever, but I want your input. I need your input. Please, if you are concerned about water, plastic waste, and access to good water, I want to hear from you. Please drop me a note. I would love to bounce ideas back and forth on this. It is a major undertaking. We have being doing extensive testing at various laboratories quantifying why our water is so good. I have even enlisted the aid of a dowser to better understand the freshness aspects of our water. All I can guarantee is that within 18 years, you’ll be as tall and strong as me. Guaranteed.

I will come to meet with you anytime, to chat, debate, bounce ideas. Bottled water needs a shake up, we want to do it. Now. Serious.

All the buzz words,

artesian

spring

gravity flow

structured

very alkaline

untreated

raw

gluten free

no bottles, bulk to your container

cold

warm

copper infused

many more,

 

 

 


 

 

 

Grain


Grain growing is our primary farming activity. We strive to grow as many types of grain as possible. We have successfully sourced seed, planted, cultivated, harvested and cleaned: oats, barley, hard red spring wheat, hard winter wheat, soft spring wheat, winter wheat, corn for grits, durum wheat, Red Fife wheat, buckwheat, silver hull buckwheat, Polish wheat, fall and spring rye, triticale, yellow and brown mustard, and flax. We are attempting to grow sorghum, pearl millet, amaranth, and quinoa. There are so many errors that can be made in the whole process that our failure rate is much higher than it should be.

Without chemical fertilizer and sprays, our yields are generally 40% of conventional. Another factor in the lower yield is our lack of tile drainage. This may be a larger factor. This seems low but is generally the norm compared to actual yields. I always read of organic yields of close to conventional but when you look at the actual data, they are inline with ours. We do lose more yield after cleaning and dehulling, luckily we are able to feed this loss to our pigs and chickens. We try to follow the biodynamic calendar in our planting, cultivating, and harvesting. What is amazing (some chalk it up to farmer IQ) is that the days that are best in terms of conditions, and my general feeling/desire to get out there, corresponds favourably with the calendar. Sometimes I even test myself by looking at the calendar after I decide to “get out there” and it normally is correct. For the moment I’m chalking it up to luck.

To beat the weeds, we clean our own seed or use certified organic seed. If neither is available, we have to use untreated conventional seed. We cultivate twice, one week apart immediately before planting. Then we drill the seed in both directions at 75% the recommended seed rate (resulting in a 50% seeding rate above the recommended rate).  A great improvement this year was the purchase of my mentor’s larger seed drill with double discs and an attached sprocket packer. Twice as wide and twice as good a job is how I describe it. Grain emergence this year was perfectly uniform and only took half the time. This year, I did not plant in both directions, but still planted at 50 percent over the recommended rate. After planting I place an old storm window on the ground. This speeds the germination and emergence of the seed. The day I see sprouts emerge, is the day I pony harrow the fields. Generally the seeds are two days ahead under the glass. This has occurred in as few as 4 days (late in the season when the ground is warm) to as many as 16 days, early in the year. We plant oats first after cleaning the drill very well. We follow with all the others, simply vacuuming the drill between seeds.  At the three-leaf stage we pony harrow again. At the four-leaf stage we pony harrow again at right angles to the second. These two final cultivations almost leave the field destroyed. In actual fact, most of the plants are merely slightly buried. Two weeks later, all is well again and there is almost no impact on the plants, perhaps only two days behind test areas where no cultivation was done. The real impact comes when the uncultivated test areas are eventually taken over by weeds, while the cultivated areas normally have the weeds beat. I use a pony harrow because I cannot afford a Lely or Einbock tine weeder. A proper tine weeder would do a better job and perhaps only two passes would be necessary. During the third cultivation, I drag three lawn seeders attached to the pony harrow to broadcast inoculated double cut red clover. We do this to fix nitrogen in the soil. We normally cut it for hay the next year once, then cut to mulch two more times.

Despite all this extra work and expense (seed, fuel, depreciation, wear, labour, plant injury, etc) we still have to swath our grain. Years ago, everything was swathed, but since sprays eradicated weeds, combining can now be done with a direct cut head. This year I direct cut some Red Fife wheat, but the grain was too wet and got musty. We’ll be swathing everything from now on! We swath about a week before our neighbours combine (direct cut), which is on the second day of a dry spell. We try to combine several days later, but generally it rains and we have to combine two days into the next dry spell. This allows any weeds to dry down. This makes for easier combining (cleaner sample due to better sieving, scalping, and scour cleaning) and less staining of the grain by green weed seeds. At all cost we try not to have to rake the swath, but occasionally we have to. This year, I raked a durum wheat field five times and still had an OK yield. Unfortunately it was too high in fusarium – a waste of time indeed. I have always borrowed a gyro type rake, for the least amount of damage, but have found that it does not allow a soaking wet sheath of grain to fluff up and this year we purchased a swath turner which should help in merely rolling the swath over.

We try to keep the combine pickup slightly off the ground to prevent the picking up of dirt and stones. We do lose some yield here but unfortunately do not have a destoner to clean out small stones. We are now commissioning a new gravity table (new to us, but actually 65 year old wooden table) purchased at an auction in Nebraska. Hopefully it will remove the last remaining stones, which our cleaner cannot remove.

Our combine is in very good condition and we clean it out end to end (about 2 days’ work) before the harvest. Oats are always harvested first, allowing us to keep our oats free from contamination from other grains left over in the combine. Since doing this our oats have consistently tested less than 10 ppm of gluten. We use the EZ Gluten test on the first bucket of oats, testing at the market opening, you are welcome to witness the test, just call or email me, so I can tell you the rough time that we will be setting up at that particular market.

We try to winnow out some of the chaff using the wind when unloading by placing the spout near the edge of a wooden box (about a 7 foot fall). We only use a gravity box for our oats, spelt and wheat. Our harvest requirements of all the other grains are less than one tonne per year. If the grain is slightly wet, we screw our aeration fan to a port on the bottom edge of a box and run it for several dry days. If the moisture level is above the safe level for aerating alone, we are in a real jamb. In an emergency we have to spread the crop out on a very large black tarp in the sun for two days, covering it at night or for rain and dew. Anyone out there know of a one tonne grain dryer? Everything is run quickly through the cleaner before storage in their wooden boxes. Each week we clean only enough for the market until early winter, when we have enough time to clean the rest of the grain. Depending upon the grain we try to grow enough for minimum two years’ market supply. This is not necessary in normal grain farming, but for us if we have a crop failure in oats or wheat, we are out of business. Producer based farmers’ markets demand that all products for sale are our own and thus I cannot purchase grain from somewhere else if I have a failure. This necessitates that we take huge (not normally economical) steps to ensure we do not have a crop failure. This year I planted seven varieties of hard red spring wheat at two different planting dates (two weeks apart). Normal flour mills simply import from somewhere else if there is a crop failure in their local area. Because we store in aerated wooden bins, our crop can last for many years.

We clean our grain by passing the grain once through a Plessisville 150 Forano Seed Cleaner. Life before this cleaner was slow.  We have been averaging 60 days per year cleaning, this year we finished in 3.  Mind you it took two months of nights to get it all together and working. We also cascaded the output of the cleaner into a very old Carter Disc.  This disc sorts grain according to length. The most remarkable thing is that it removes the vetch seeds(our most common wheat). We now have 11 bags of cleanings  separating out “unwanted stuff” from our finished grain. The pigs pick though all our cleanings. We’ll keep our old Hance, for small lots. Separating two grains from each other is very difficult and we avoid it at all cost. To ensure clean plots, we vacuum out the seed drill between grain changes, clean the combine out between different grains and discard (to the pigs) the initial pass after changing grains. This is all especially important when combining very small plots such as our flax, mustard, quinoa, and amaranth. Here are some pics

Augers and elevators are difficult to clean out.  Luckily, at our size, we do it all by bucket, this allows us to keep everything clean. Our new cleaner has two elevator legs that are very easy to vacuum out. We have a separate small cleaner, dehuller and roller for the oats.  This allows us to test gluten free so far.

To be frank, we do waste a lot of effort and yield to produce a premium product using the basic equipment we have. We do our best with the equipment we can afford. It can be discouraging but to sell a person flour they cannot purchase anywhere else locally is quite rewarding.

I comb the net every morning from 4:30 to 5:30 looking for certain pieces of equipment at auctions and in various classifieds. In the past year. We sell most of our grain for $1 per cup. Bulk costs are less than half of small serving sizes. We sell 5 gallon buckets or by the tote (totes must be ordered before the season).

If there is ever a type of grain that you feel we should grow please make us aware of it. If anyone knows of a source of seed as well, that would be appreciated. We limit wholesale sales to guarantee we maintain enough supply for the retail market. Generally, cups are $1, buckets are $75 retail, and bulk is half again. For spelt and “oats like rice” we charge more for buckets, $75. We are currently supplying our existing wholesale customers, and are accepting new wholesale orders for the fall. If you are interested, wholesale orders are due by March  for fall delivery next year.

Eggs


We try to raise the best eggs we can.  We try to copy “Joel”.  If you want to learn more watch this great ted talk:

Eggs cannot be reserved.  We offer them first come, first serve, starting at noon on Sundays at our store.  If you want to bring your kids, they can always collect their own. They can only be picked up at the farm, no deliveries, not our choice, just the silly rules.

Many farmers’ market are allowing an “eggs on the table” policy. They are adopting the notion that farmers’ markets are a natural extension of the farm gate.  Please patronize markets that allow this.  Currently in Ottawa, only the Ottawa Organic Market allows this.  It is up to you, demand the best eggs and you’ll get them, till then shop the Price Club and the garbage/grocery store.

 

A recent article in Mother Earth News reported on tests done on “pastured” eggs vs. factory farm eggs. Here are some of the ways in which a pastured egg is healthier:

  • 1⁄3 less cholesterol
  • 1⁄4 less saturated fat
  • 2⁄3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene

With respect to vitamin D, many of us do not get enough of because we don’t spend enough time outdoors, and even when we do we use sunscreen that blocks vitamin D production. Eggs are one of the few food sources of naturally occurring vitamin D. The tests showed that pastured eggs have anywhere between 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D as typical supermarket eggs.

Don’t be duped by the term “free range”. 50 000 birds in one shed with no windows and fluorescent lights is no pretty sight or smell. Good food, sunlight, clean water and grass is what makes a good chicken and thus a good egg. Yolks shoud be dark orange and sit up like half a golf ball. Eggs should be able to poach like in the old days.

Raising pastured hens for eggs and meat birds requires a lot more work, thus the price, taste, and nutritional difference.

As a final sobering note, our hens live for 2 years, twice the life of normal. They end their days quickly as we turn them into stewing hens. Most hens’ lives are terminated by introducing a poisonous gas into the barn. They die in their own manure.

We vote 3 times a day for the food system we want, please exercise that choice. Our food system is the result of choices we make every day, don’t blame the government, it is our choice. Food is the most democratic decision of all, exercise it.

Art & Furniture


In the winter, we build funky contemporary furniture.  We build what we feel our materials are best suited for. Sorry we do not build custom furniture to your specs.

 

 

 

 

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Maple Syrup


This year we only tapped about 300 trees.  Remember the big wet snow we got?  Well we made half our trail the night before, but left the other half.  As a result we could only get around half of our trees.  We tried many times but could not complete the loop, kept getting stuck.  Luckily it was a bumper crop.

We have light, medium and our speciality, crazy dark. We have it all bottled in the store, half and whole litre bottles. $14 and $25 each.

 

Organics


We consider ourselves to be non-certified organic farmers employing many biodynamic principles. We feed our pigs and chickens from several sources. Firstly they get a mixture of our own grains, which do not meet human testing standards as well as cleanings from our milling and dehulling. Secondly, we supplement the protein of our grains by adding lots of sprouted barley mash from a local brewery.  Thirdly, we are also adding some powdered whey from a nearby dairy. Finally, we purchase some non GMO conventional complete ration to make up for all the other deficiencies from our other sources. One of the reasons we have the animals is to produce our own composted and well balanced manure for the grain fields.

By underseeding all our grains with double cut red clover after the third cultivation, we are able to keep nitrogen-fixating legumes in our crop rotation. We normally take off one cut of hay for the animals and cut two more times, leaving the second and third cuts for mulch (natural fertilizer).  From a predator point of view, we are able to raise chickens on pasture, because our dog seeks out predators outside the pasture and the workhorse scares away anything inside the pasture. His barking, and her galloping feet are enough to scare even the most chicken loving hungry predators away.

 

Sustainability



Renewable Energy Equipment We Use

Twenty years ago we went off-grid and purchased our first three solar panels. From there we gradually increased the size of our system to the point where we now have roughly 3kW worth of solar photovoltaic (PV), one 600W wind generator (Whisper) on an 80-foot tower, one 6600W antique wind generator (Swiss-made Elektro). Half of our panels are mounted on a semi-manual tracker, which stands about 45-feet tall through the roof of our barn and rotates at half the speed of the hour hand on the clock (lots of gearing down). We have to reset it each night to face the east/morning sun. The drive motor is powered by a small, dedicated PV panel that only turns the panel when the sun is shining. We have a 2500W Trace sine wave 12V inverter. Our store runs off a Trace DR 2424 inverter.

We run computers, TV, toaster, fridge, two freezers, washing machine, lights, augers, grain cleaner, power tools, various kitchen appliances, water pump, and many other tools and equipment.

Beef


We have two Brown Swiss family dairy cows that we breed to a beef cow. We raise the calf for 14 months, normally butchering just before winter. At no time does the calf get grain, only grass and milk. We separate the calf and cow each night, allowing us to milk in the morning. This produces ample milk for us and a healthy, fast growing calf. Because we only raise one calf at a time, the meat is in very limited supply. To watch a dairy cow and her calf bond for a full year is amazing. Again here, the secret is good food, sunlight, and fresh air, three things absent in today’s food system.

Pork


We raise English Large Black Pigs because they eat grass without rooting up our pasture too much. We feed them whey and just enough of our grain to prevent them from rooting. They will definitely root if they are short on grain. The most important part of this breed is how docile they are. Our kids can scratch the sows and even the boar at any time.

Their meat is the best we have ever eaten. We did not eat store bought pork for 20 years, for obvious reasons. We mix up a ration similar to our chickens and feed them from a moveable feeder out on pasture. In the winter, this allows us to get them out of the barnyard, and out in the sun to eat. We are able to move the feeder to new pasture that helps prevent mud from accumulating around the feeder and barnyard.

At around 250 lbs they are taken to our local butcher for dressing. We are able to make pepperettes, sausages, hams, and bacon. We always have some in stock at our store for pick up. Our sausages and mostly-meat bacon were a huge hit at the market this year. There is a $20 fee per order for gluten-free sausages (the cost of the testing).

A confession must be made.  A good friend had a pink pig he raised the same way we raise ours and was looking for a good home for her.  I was very impressed by this gilt’s shape.  The muscles and in particular the hams were beautiful.  Unfortunately she would not get along with our herd.  I had hoped to cross breed one litter and see how they turned out.  There are some real genetic benefits to cross breeding.  Things got worse when the new pig could not stay with the herd and insisted in living outside the fence.  She began ripping up our yard and garden.  It  normally takes 5 minutes to load our pigs into our trailer, this pig took 4 weeks. Safe to say it made a mess.  We finally got her loaded and without hesitation, delivered her to the butcher for her “one bad day”.

The next week we got the meat back.  It was down right awful.  We questioned the butcher and he said it looked great.  What we didn’t realize is that, we had “store bought pork”. The colour was white, fat was tasteless, and it was dry. We had raised what we were running from.  The pork industry had bred all the “good” out of pork. Remember the whole “the other white meat” marketing.  Our pork is red like beef, and has fat with a taste like no other.  What were we thinking in attempting to cross breed this garbage with our heritage breed.  Sometimes, as humans, we just don’t think.

When buying meat ask the person selling it to you:

1) Did the meat come from a “downer”.

2) What breed and gender was the animal.

If you get a dull stare from the teenage kid standing at the meet counter, ask yourself, “What am I doing here?”

 

Boy life throws you some lessons when you least expect it.