Late summer, in pictures

It’s been a bustling summer here at the farm. It’s been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to post to the blog in over two months, apparently. But it’s been a productive summer, with flourishing gardens aided by months of hot weather, and a new guest cabin called the Summer Shack. We’ve also been able to spend plenty of time with friends and family to savour the fruits of our labour. Else, really, what’s the point?

Probably the most riotous week here—only in the nicest sense, of course—was in late August when our good friend Adam arrived, with friends in tow, for his second seasonal visit to Snow Lake Keep. Adam visited us last summer (and even blogged about it), and he now lives in Peterborough, Ontario. This year he brought along with him his exuberant roommate Bradley, and Cameron, his intriguing friend from Montreal. I suppose that’s when the debauchery began.

Adam ZinzanBradley Boyle

Cameron StiffFarmer An

Farmer PaulLaire Taverner

Deryk and Laire made the finishing touches on the Summer Shack just in time for these wild and wonderful guests.

Summer ShackSummer Shack steps

Summer Shack deckSummer Shack inside

Now, it wasn’t all debauchery while they were here. They happily offered to help Laire muck out the barn, which appears to have been much fun for all.

Cam coming back from hauling shitAdam holding Kitten-Kaboodle

Laire with his pitchfork

At one point during the week, Cam was lucky enough to convince Laire to get a haircut. Adam kept busy building us a beautiful sliding door for our bedroom. Meanwhile, Bradley used his unrivaled talent as a pro photographer to document the week in pictures.

Cam getting a LairecutLucky Cam

Adam cutting boards for the doorChopping door boardsMeasure twice, cut once!

But more than anything – and as is typical here at Snow Lake – the week seemed to be centred around food. At this time of year, the gardens are bursting with ingredients, and those ingredients needed to get used! Our guests were all huge fans of good local, organic food, each of them in their own way participating in some kind of food or farming endeavour back home. So, many amazing meals were prepared, every day, it seemed.

Breakfast!Chopping veggies

Making shish kababs, with chèvre curd draining on the right

Barbecuing rainbows

Sliced pattypansBradley tried his hand at flower arrangement

Burger night: goat patties and portabello patties with a side of roasted beets

Making pastaIt was pretty hot, so clothing was pretty optional

Homemade fettuccine

Cheesecake was a standard menu item

Many communal meals were had

To top the week off, the boys helped with market prep, and visited the Annapolis Royal farmers’ market.

Helping out with market prep

Rodney and Laire at marketPretty Rodney

Paul and Rodney being cute

And then they posed goodbye.

Adam, Cam, and Bradley send-off

The same day of their departure, Laire’s adorable son, Noam, and Noam’s awesome mom, Shamie, came from Toronto to visit the farm for the first time. These city kids might have felt a little out of their element in this off-grid, roughing-it kind of environment, but it seems like they had a pretty good time all the same.

Noam trying out the pond chairsPapa and son picking beetsNoam trying fresh-picked broccoli for the first time

noam-peering-behind-lunch

Noam excited by melonsNoam feeding the chickensNoam builds a makeshift practice skateboard

Noam and Papa

We’ve actually had even more visitors since those two left, but I’m pretty sure this blog post is long enough.

Now it’s quiet, everyone has gone back home, and we’re back to the good ol’ fabulous five. See y’all very soon.

How to get addicted to garlic scapes

Happy summer, everyone. It’s been quite the good growing season this year, a welcome contrast to the last one. With all the heat and sunshine lately, things have been taking off. Deryk went around the garden the other day and took pictures of how things are doing, and some of the tricks we use to maximize yields in a small space. Click below to check out the public photo album on Facebook. His captions tell the story.

BroccoliBaby pattypansChard and kale companionsGolden russet apples forming

Garlic scapes are on the latest things that we’ve been reaping from the gardens. For those of you who haven’t heard, garlic scapes are the immature flower stalks of the garlic plant. They are deep green, succulent, and crisp, and they carry that famously pungent garlic flavour—with their own twist. And twisted they come, coiled like snakes. We farmers pick off the scapes, both to direct more of the plant’s growth into the bulb, and to satisfy those early summer cravings of this delightful delicacy.

We brought our first harvest of scapes to the market today, but we’ll have more next week. On Wednesday, An is going to try out the Wednesday Market at Annapolis Royal, which runs from 10am to 2pm. And they don’t sell out that day, you can expect us to have them again next Saturday.

Here is a recipe for a creamy, nutty garlic scape dip that a friend shared with me and Laire when we had our urban farm in Nelson a few years back. We loved it so much that we’d make a new double batch every week until all our scapes were used up. It was a hit with everyone—even fussy 9-year-olds. Surprisingly addictive, we had it at parties, on camping trips, and during our lazy summer afternoons at our favourite beach. Try it with crackers, tortilla chips, veggie sticks, or experiment!

Creamy, Nutty Garlic Scape Dip

Garlic scape dip

Serves 4 to 6.

  • a dozen (1 bunch) garlic scapes
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds
  • 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (or experiment with another hard cheese)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • a few tbsp. sour cream and/or mayonnaise
  1. Wash the garlic scapes and cut off the flower tips so you are left with just the crisp, curly stem part. Chop them coarsely.
  2. Add the scapes, almonds, sunflower seeds, and parmesan cheese to the food processor. Process for a minute or so. Then add the olive oil and pulse until you have a pesto-like consistency.
  3. Put the “pesto” into a small bowl and mix in the Greek yogurt.
  4. Finally, mix in a few tablespoons sour cream and/or mayonnaise. You can vary these to your tastes. I like a bit of both.

This dip keeps well in the fridge for 4-5 days, but there’s a pretty good chance you’ll finish it on day 1 or 2.

Suddenly building a cabin, and how to cook fiddleheads… again!

So, lots is going on here rather quickly these days. It’s actually quite wonderful. Last week, a friend and past visitor of the farm, Laurence, returned here to stay for most of the summer. Laurence is close with An, and so is bunking in An’s woodshed for the time being. They seem happy there for now, but it would be nice to be able to offer them a space of their own, considering the length of their stay.

We’d already had plans to build a guest cabin for the very purpose of providing a private space to anyone who might want to stay at the farm. Because currently, visitors are forced either to camp or be hosted by another resident. Laurence’s arrival has spurred us on to make it happen a little sooner!

So led by Deryk’s building mastery, a group of us here have started to build this little cabin (currently dubbed the Summer Shack) as of yesterday. I can’t say I have contributed anything more than on the promotional side myself, but I think I have some valid excuses (read: I’m busy). Besides, it turns out a rather small group can accomplish a lot in two days:

An working away on the frame

We sited the Summer Shack in the forest just below the Meadow (formerly known as the Hayfield), not far from Snow Brook. It’s a beautiful little spot, but rather thick with black flies at the moment. An is well prepared, though:

An well protected from blackflies

And here is An spectacularly showcasing two days’ work:

An featuring the Hermitage

Hope you enjoyed that.

Now last week, many of our customers at the market were asking how we cook fiddleheads. Some folks haven’t had the best luck preparing them – either undercooking them and getting indigestion, or overcooking them and finding them too soft and mushy. I guess it does takes a little practice, because I’ve definitely eaten them both undercooked and overcooked – and neither way is ideal!

Now, I can’t speak for Rodney, Deryk, An, or Laurence, but I know the way that Laire and I love to prepare fiddleheads. I actually blogged our recipe a year ago, turns out! So I’ll just include a link to it:

FiddleheadsForaging for fresh food from the forest floor!
How’s that for a tongue twister? At this week’s Saturday market, like the last one, we will have (among other things) an abundance of foraged fiddleheads picked from ostrich ferns, now bursting out of creek floodlands and the forest floor (we won’t tell you exactly where!)…

Hope this helps some of our customers out!

Oh, and two more things: The Summer Market in Annapolis Royal starts this Saturday, and we’ll have lots of fiddleheads! Also, tomorrow (Friday) is our first Farm-Gate Friday of the season, from 4-6pm. Get a leg up on the selection, and a tour of the farm if you like!

Spring update!

So it’s spring. The spring peepers, robins, and blackflies have all made this abundantly clear here for some time now. It’s been a nice spring up here on the mountain. Rather cool but not overly wet. So long as there’s sunshine, the greenhouses and solar panels could hardly care less about the temperature.

And by gods, the greenhouses sure have been pumping out some badass greens lately:

SpinachSpinach and other greens

More salad greens

Salad greensRed oakleaf lettuce

Radish, too. But you’ll have to come to the Annapolis Royal Winter Market tomorrow to see (and hopefully buy) those brightly coloured jewels. Tomorrow is the last Winter Market of the season, as next week – the 21st – we return to our spot at the Summer Market!

The outside gardens are also growing quite happily, with many of our beds in cold frames. The garlic is all doing great, and we’ve got carrots, beets, parsnips, peas, beans, kale, chard, potatoes, and more salad greens, spinach, and radish planted.

Garlic in full swing

And thanks to Laire’s maniacal efforts last fall, he and I have lots of tulips and daffodils in bloom all around our front yard! Such a wicked landscaper, that one.

Tulips abloomDaffodils littering the paths

Daffodils abloom along brook

You might be wondering what we’ve been up to lately. Well, unfortunately, we didn’t end up getting any new baby goats that we were all counting on here. We basically built a new barn for them, perhaps you’ve seen it? But then the goat kids just decided to not exist. That is, our billygoat turned out to be shooting blanks. None of our goats had actually been bred, as much as we managed to convince ourselves otherwise over the winter. This was a bit of a disappointment, mostly because baby goats are super cute and we were all planning on spending all spring cuddling with them for days on end.

No, actually, because it would have been great to get all that extra milk to make some hard cheeses and such. I even spent the winter getting rather obsessed with a certain style of raw milk cheesemaking through a wonderful book, The Art of Natural Cheesemaking. I’ve been practicing over the winter and become rather good at making various styles of fresh chèvre using a kefir starter culture. We still have enough milk on the go for me to keep that up – Mocha and Notch continue to yield milk since they gave birth last year – but it’ll be harder to squeeze a wheel of alpine or cheddar out of those old girls.

But we did end up with surprise kittens! And who doesn’t like kittens? Well, apparently they don’t like us. The kittens were born in the barn loft by our new feral barn cat, Lucky. Hopefully one day soon Lucky will be away hunting and we can sneak in some playtime with her babies!

We went for our first picking of fiddleheads yesterday. ‘Tis the season to forage for fiddleheads on the forest floor. We’ll go back next week when more of them have emerged, but we still did quite well. It’s lovely little spot we like to go picking at. There’s bloodroot in bloom everywhere.

Foraging for fiddleheads in the forestBloodroot in bloom

We’ll have lots of fiddleheads at the market tomorrow!

So really, why wouldn’t you come to market tomorrow? I mean, besides the thunderstorms? See you tomorrow!

Homesteader’s wildcrafted sugar

This spring we’ve seen what may be one of the best maple syrup seasons in years. The forecast for this season was that it would be a short one, considering how early it started and how little snow was on the ground. However, the weather has been rather perfect for the last couple months, and we’ve been getting sap runs virtually every week since we tapped back in February. We saw our peak run only last week. This is in stark contrast to last year, when the farm probably had the worst season ever.

Path to sugarbushPath to sugarbush

Shown above is the trail we walk to get to the mature sugarbush we have on site. It’s actually been a mostly snow-free season here (the opposite of last year, when we had four or more feet of snow in most places); I took the above shots after one of the few snowfalls we had.

We collect sap in reused 4-litre water jugs as a means of both saving money and keeping the plastic out of landfills and the downcycling industry for a little while longer. They work very well for sap. They obviously don’t have the same longevity as galvanized sap buckets – over time little holes form as a result of handling and UV degradation – but so long as we can get them for free (which, mostly, we do), it makes a lot of sense.

Recycled jugs for collecting sapTwo-tap tree

Many of our taps are the traditional metal taps, which we’ve acquired over the years from various sources. However, when we run short, we have simple homemade taps that Deryk carves out of branches of the right diameter – just sticks with a hole in the middle for the sap to run through. They seem to work just as well as the metal taps. On collection days, we take a walk through the sugarbush, emptying the sap from the jugs into 4- and 5-gallon buckets.

Homemade sap tapEmptying jugs into buckets

Now, until we build an evaporator (maybe based on a rocket stove), the only means we have for boiling down sap is on our wood-fired cookstoves. There are three active households on the property with wood stoves that are running anyway, for heat and daily cooking. So each time we collect sap we try to cram it all into pots on our respective stoves.

Fresh sap heating on stove

The sap boiling does make for an extra-warm, extra-humid environment indoors. Thankfully, we have windows we can open and layers we can strip off, as needed.

Boiling sap ready for testing

After 2-4 days of simmering and boiling (depending on the amount of sap collected), we end up with something that’s dark and very sweet – increasingly akin to syrup. The volume of syrup often seems shockingly less than you expect… but such is the nature of maple syrup! A sap-to-syrup ratio of 40:1 is typical. The best way to test the syrup’s readiness is with a candy thermometer – when the liquid reaches 104ºC, it’s syrup.

Unfortunately, all the candy thermometers on the property have bit the dust, so there’s another cool way to test: the apron test. To test, dip a spoon or spatula into the boiling sap, then pull it out and watch how the liquid drips. If it drips as individual drops, the sap isn’t boiled down enough yet:

Drip test showing single drops - not readyDrip test still showing single drops

When the syrup aprons off the spoon – that is, drips off in a sheet – that’s when it’s ready to be bottled:

Syrup runs off spatula in a sheet - ready!Drip test confirmed - syrup is ready!

If you boil past the syrup stage, the syrup gets too thick and may crystallize in the jar. But if you don’t boil it enough, it will not preserve properly (it could ferment).

Before bottling, and while the syrup is still very hot, we pass the syrup through a sieve made out of layered scraps of wool sweaters to clarify it and reduce the amount of sediment that collects. Felted wool would be even better. Commercial filters are made either out of wool or synthetic materials, but for the home syrupmaker, that’s not necessary; old wool sweaters work like a charm.

Filtering syrup through old wool sweater

Then I bottle the syrup in bottles that have been sitting in hot or boiling water. It’s not really necessary to sterilize your bottles. If you don’t, a thin layer of harmless mould may form on the top surface of the syrup over the course of its storage, but you can just skim that off. It’s good to have your bottles hot, however, to prevent breakage due to the temperature difference when they are filled with hot syrup.

Old liquor bottles work great for maple syrup. Deryk’s favourite choice is Kraken Rum bottles since they have cute little handles. I just used an old scotch bottle. Ta-da!

Finished syrup

Building our timber-frame barn

As some of you may already know, we’ve been pretty busy the last couple months building a proper barn for the community – a central place to keep our goats, their feed, their hay, and their water year-round. (And maybe, someday, a place to keep other animals.) This will be a major improvement, because currently the goats are crowded in one small barn, their feed is stored outside, their hay is split between another temporary shed and a giant tarped pile in the driveway, and their water… well, often it’s hauled by the bucketful from home. In the middle of winter with 8-foot snowbanks, that’s not a particularly fun chore. And with potentially four mama goats kidding next March, the little old barn they’re currently in now just won’t cut it!

So we’ve been pushing hard to get the new barn built and ready to accept its residents before this coming winter’s heavy snow. And it’s coming together nicely, even if we’re a little behind schedule. The weather has been pretty gracious.

I figured you might be interested how we’re building this thing. Well, it’s getting built more or less the same way all the structures on this property have been built – slipform stone masonry for its foundation, berm wall, and buttresses, and timber-frame construction for the rest. Conceptually it’s really quite simple. In practice, it can be a little finicky sometimes, but maybe that’s just how construction is in general. We just let Deryk figure out all the hard parts, and he tells us what to do. Seems to work out pretty well.

We picked a site for the barn that was fairly central relative to current and proposed pastureland, and mostly uphill from the gardens since much of what comes out of the barn (i.e., manure) will need to be wheelbarrowed to the gardens eventually. The site also needed to have a sharp downhill slope in it, so that we could drive into the rear of the hayloft from the the lane while still being able to walk the goats directly out to pasture from the lower level.

The site we chose is right next to what we call the Hayfield, and close to the pond. The pond could serve as an extra/emergency water source for the animals, too. But the barn would have a cistern built into in the poured concrete foundation, supplied by rainwater – the same as it is in all the other houses on the property.

The site started out as forest, and so we had to do some cutting and then excavating before it was ready to build anything on. Then we built simple forms for the footings, filled them with concrete, and stuck our first lengths of rebar into them. Footings are the concrete pads you pour to create a level surface capable of supporting the loads you expect them to bear. Deryk has done this a million times before, so he knows how to figure out how big they need to be.

Site before excavation

Footing formsFootings after being poured

Then we set in place forms on top of the footings for the first and every subsequent level of slipform masonry. I explained how all this works in my last post where I talked about the wood shed extension on our house. We’ve gotten quite good at it as a team, I daresay. An really has a knack for making tight fits. I’ll say no more about that.

First level of slipformsFilling slipform walls as a team

TeamworkAlmost done slipforming

And then after all the forms were off, the walls looked like this!

The finished masonry walls

I didn’t mention how we built the cistern, mostly because I wasn’t there for that part and missed taking any pictures of the process, but I did see how we did the root cellar, which is similar. The root cellar was a bit of an afterthought in the design of the barn: We had a bunch of space to fill in the floor, but instead of filling it with dirt, we decided to leave it hollow so that we could store big bags of root veggies to feed the animals over the winter. We lined the base of it with gravel, then built concrete walls around the cavity using slipforms, and then created a structure out of two-by-fours and plywood to support a concrete floor above it. Before we poured the floor we reinforced the surface with a grid pattern of rebar, which is needed to support the weight of people and animals walking all over it.

Getting the root cellar floor ready for pouring

The next step was to parge and tar the outside of the berm and stem walls to protect the concrete from the threat of water seepage. If water gets into tiny cracks in the concrete and freezes, it creates bigger cracks in the concrete and over time threatens its structural integrity; tarring protects against this. When that was done we had the backhoe guy come back and move tons of gravel, soil and sand back against the berm and stem walls, and do some other landscaping while he was at it.

Tarring the berm wallStem wall tarred

Backhoe backfillingBerm wall backfilled

Now it was time to put up the timbers! Deryk and Rodney got the first level of sills and posts up pretty quickly, and the next day we got most of the ground floor posts and beams up. Finished that and started laying out the loft decking afterwards. This stuff can happen pretty fast (if the weather cooperates); it’s like putting together a 3D jigsaw puzzle. When everything’s in place and level and square, all the timber joints get pegged together tight with oak pegs that Deryk has carved beforehand.

Stem wall backfilledRoughing out the loft deck

While Deryk was busy carving the rafters and collars (lots of them), we finished cutting and nailing down the loft decking. We also got the sheathing on front of the barn done. And today with the rafters all ready to go, as a team we put up the trusses. As I mentioned earlier, timber-frame work can be a little finicky; timbers can warp a little as they dry, causing bowing and twists that can make it quite difficult to get them to fit together just right. We just let Deryk make the necessary tweaks to tenons or shoulders or whatever until he’s satisfied. The trusses all get pegged before they are raised into place.

Tweaking collarPegging rafter to collar

Raising a trussGo team

And finally, the barn is taking shape!

Trusses in placeBraced trusses

Braced trussesTime for a break

Next tasks include framing up the dormer, attaching hurricane braces and roof strapping, and by next week putting on the steel roof! Exciting, especially for those of us who aren’t afraid of heights. We’ll be posting more barn updates on our Facebook page.

Building a wood shed using slipform stone masonry

Back in November, Laire and I discovered that we would eventually move into Thor’s Den, a beautiful, uninhabited dwelling residing at the Keep that needed a little love and a little work to finish its construction.

Laire, my in-house architect, decided we needed to add a separate bedroom, as the home only came with a sleeping space in the loft. He also thought that the wood shed, which was on the south end of the house, should instead be on the opposite end, adjacent the driveway, so that you could drive a truckful of firewood right up to it. So we would convert the existing wood shed to a bedroom, and add a new wood shed to the north end. We consulted with Deryk, and he was game. Which was great, because we had no friggin’ clue how we’d do any of it without him.

Converting the old wood shed to a bedroom wasn’t all that hard. Before we got there, the shed had been used to house a couple goats for a while. Our billygoat liked to sharpen his horns on the concrete wall, and the walls and floor were probably well infused with his scent. So we did a little cleaning first. We like to get things “broom-clean” around here. Then we added an insulated floor and insulation on the walls and ceiling, and we shut the room in with windows and a door. Trim went on, then cedar shingles, and we’re now working on the drywall. Now, all of this took a helluva lot longer to do than it did for me to type those few sentences. But from the outside, you can see we’ve made some progress!

Thor's Den with goat in wood shedWood shed turning into bedroom

Laire shingling bedroom Bedroom close to done

Thor’s Den is a very solid structure whose walls are mostly stone and reinforced concrete, built using a technique called slipform stone masonry. More than just charming in appearance, these walls have enough strength to support the weight of the hill that is bermed against the back of the home, which greatly helps to moderate indoor temperatures year-round.

But to add a new wood shed, we’d have to extend this concrete wall, since this extension would still need to support that hillside in behind it. So we got a pal to dig the dirt all out for us, right down to ledge. That was step 1. Easy peasy.

Next, we had to pour the footing. That required building some pretty clever forms, because around here, ledge is rarely just flat. It’s all kinds of crazy ancient mountain shapes. So piece by piece, we had to build some pretty intricate forms out of various pieces of wood to contain the concrete that would become the footing. I let Deryk figure out the math mostly. He just got me to hold things, hammer things, or cut things, which I did gladly. In the end, we had concrete that became one with the ledge. I don’t think a strong wind is going to blow this wall down easily.

Footing forms along uneven ledge

Pouring the footing Concrete becoming one with ledge!

Then we attached slipforms to the footing forms to start filling up with rock and more concrete. Slipforms are just frames made from 2x4s with plywood on one side. You can make them whatever sizes you need and reuse them. It’s important to brace them to make sure they stay square and level, and also that they don’t burst open from the weight of the concrete and rock they’re meant to contain.

When you’ve done a couple levels of forms, you can remove the forms on the lower level and reuse them for the next level up. Sometimes they’re a little tricky to take off, especially when you have PVC drainpipes passing tightly through them. But as you can see below, Laire was all smiles.

Our buddy Wayne got involved with this project, mixing all the concrete for us whenever we needed it and helping us assemble and disassemble forms. He’s been a huge help.

Pouring the foundation using slipforms

Wayne and Deryk preparing the last level of forms Removing the first forms

And there’s the finished wall!

The finished wall after removing forms

Now I’ve neglected to mention all kinds of critical details of how this wall got built, like how the slipforms were properly braced and wired together, how we criss-crossed the entire structure with reinforcing rebar at particular intervals, how we fit the stones around the rebar and made sure there was still enough concrete in between opposing stones so that our wall didn’t fall apart, how we had to get the concrete a particular thickness or runniness depending on what stage we were at, how we even got some of those giant rocks lifted into place in the first place, and how I repeatedly held up the entire process because I’m too finicky and I can’t help getting lost in the details.

Oh, and obviously, that we’re not actually done building the wood shed. We’ve only just done the wall. The floor is next. And then the timber frame. Then the roof. There’s lots of steps in building things. Lots.

But I don’t have time to share any more details right now because it’s harvest day tomorrow, and we also have giant rubbermaids of blueberries to preserve. Man, I’m such a slacker!

Savouring summer abundance with a Chard, Choy, Cheese & Egg Casserole

It’s a bit crazy how fast things are growing at this time of year. It feels like little more than a week ago when I was transplanting the bok choy seedlings into the greenhouse, and already they’ve multiplied a hundred times in size. The livestock is as productive as ever, too, with a steady flow goat’s milk and our chickens and muscovy ducks laying all but too regularly. What’s a poor homesteader to do?? Why, bake a Chard, Choy, Cheese & Egg Casserole, of course!

This hearty dish is a delicious way to use up an abundance of greens, eggs, and cheese, and it’s as easy as pie.

  • 6 duck eggs (or 8 chicken eggs)
  • 1¼ cups whole-grain flour
  • 2-3 cups cottage cheese, ricotta, chèvre, or other soft curd cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2-3 cups any hard cheese, shredded (e.g., cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss)
  • ½ bunch rainbow chard, chopped
  • ½ head bok choy, chopped
  • handful of toasted sunflower seeds (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF and grease a large casserole.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and flour.
  3. Stir in all cheeses, and mix in chopped chard and bok choy.
  4. Mush up the mixture with a wooden spoon, or get right in there with your hands. You want it mushy but not runny.
  5. Pour mixture into greased casserole. If desired, sprinkle the top with toasted sunflower seeds.
  6. Bake at 350ºF for 45-55 minutes.

Enjoy right out of the oven. Tastes just as good as leftovers, too!

Now, the best part is, if you come to Farm-Gate Friday today between 4 and 6pm, you can pick up most of what you need for this recipe right here fresh from the farm. Or if you can’t make it today, come to market in Annapolis Royal tomorrow morning and pick up what you need there. See you soon!

The cheeses made at Snow Lake Keep

‘Tis the season of abundance. With week after week of warm summer weather comes the prolific growth of every vegetable we have in the ground. As if the gardens aren’t enough to keep up with, add livestock to the mix – livestock with udders – and you find yourself spending every spare moment just keeping all this goodness from spoiling! Time to get creative. What better way to preserve fresh goat’s milk than to turn it into delicious cheeses?

Soft curd

Deryk and Rodney have had practice making cheese from goat’s milk for years now. They start by making a simple Soft Curd – an acid-coagulated cheese that’s very mild in flavour. It’s great on bread, added to salads, or crumbled on top of a dish of hot pasta. It also makes for a good substitute for a fresh mozzarella.

Scarborough Fair

Deryk takes a lump of this fresh curd and crumbles it into chopped parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme – a classic herb combination described in the lyrics of a famous folk song. He calls his delicious herbed curd, appropriately, Scarborough Fair. This, too, is fantastic on a slice of fresh baguette.

Feta

Now how about an aged cheese for long-term storage? These two are fresh cheeses and probably won’t keep for more than a couple weeks in the fridge. Well, get this: All you have to do is take a lump of the soft curd, drop it into some brine, and allow it to sit for a few weeks—and presto! You’ve got a wonderful Feta that will keep for months on end, becoming harder and sharper the longer it ages. These boys are more than just pretty to look at!

Now, what about that cheese that most of us think of when we hear the words “goat’s cheese?” Chèvre, of course: that soft, spreadable cheese that’s got a wonderful goaty flavour.

Herbed chèvre

Well, yours truly has taken a crack at a Herbed Chèvre this summer, and I’ve received some pretty good feedback already. The seasonal herbs this week were garlic scapes, parsley, basil, thyme, and marjoram. I’m pretty excited about this chèvre and expect to be making it on a regular basis!

Meanwhile, I’m still currently trying to master goat’s milk brie, and a genuine fresh goat’s milk mozzarella. If I ever get those right, you’ll be the first to know!

Verdure verdi condite alla perfezione—or killer rainbow chard!

Laire and I are big fans of Jamie Oliver’s approach to cooking a side of greens, from his beautiful cookbook Jamie’s Italy. We do this with our gorgeous stalks of rainbow chard, kale, beet greens, and summer squash, and man! what a meal. We can’t get enough of the stuff, often finishing the greens before anything else on our plates.

It’s so simple, and I’m excited to share Jamie’s advice with you (in my own words).

Verdure verdi condite alla perfezione
Dressed up, perfectly cooked greens

I like how Jamie prefaces the recipe: “… in Italy, huge amounts of vegetables and greens are served as an antipasto just to get the tastebuds going. It’s because of this that the Italians are a damn sight healthier than us. So listen up. Let’s be like them and big up the greens. Cook them nicely, dress them with care and you’ll be laughing.” That just gets my mouth watering…

What you’ll need:

  • large pot of salted water
  • a very healthy bunch of greens (chard, spinach, kale, baby summer squash, broccoli, asparagus – whatever’s local and in season!)
  • 2-3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 3-6 tbsp. good quality vegetable oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, or a locally made alternative like Hillcreek Family Farm’s non-GMO canola or camelina oil (for sale at D’Aubin Family Meats in Bridgetown)
  • salt and pepper
  • minced garlic or garlic scapes, or one finely chopped chili pepper (optional)

Get the pot of water to a boil with the lid on. If you’re cooking chard or kale, chop up the stalks from the leaves first, then drop them into the boiling water. Then coarsely chop the leaves and after about a minute, drop them into the water, too. Boil them for 1-2 minutes. To tell if it’s done you can take a piece out and taste it, but the trick is to not overcook!

So cook them with your full attention (Jamie’s words), then drain them well into a colander and lay them on a clean kitchen towel to let the steam escape and soak up excess moisture. While still warm put them in a bowl and dress them with the vinegar or lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper. Add your garlic or chopped fresh chili for some heat and colour.

As Jamie recommends, try to get into the habit of this! It’s so delicious, good for you, a great way to use up what’s in season, and you won’t get tired of it.

Perfectly cooked greens