It’s been too long

So, two seasons later…

Looks like I’ve been neglecting this blog for a little bit too long. Yes, winter’s actually been pretty busy for all of us here, but that alone probably isn’t a great excuse for me not to post. I could have taken a couple hours one day. So my apologies. Here’s a summary of what’s been happening lately, and upcoming projects here at Snow Lake Keep.

Houses going up, waaaay up

An and Rodney are each building their own houses this summer, and that is very exciting. They will both have concrete foundations, with built-in rainwater-fed cisterns, and employ timber-frame construction (same as the barn and the other houses here). The timber logs have already been felled and are awaiting milling in the mill-yard, which begins next week.

An, who just became a full member of Snow Lake Keep this past equinox (woo-hoo!), picked a house site on the right side of the lane after you pass the mill-yard and workshop:

An's house lot cleared of saplings and brush

Excavator preparing An's home site

An's freshly dug home site

To clear their site and acquire their building materials (and winter’s fuelwood), An’s sure been getting some practice with the ol’ chainsaw:

Lumberjack An on their timber log

An's firewood is really piling up

Wesley hauls timber logs out of the forest

The spot that Rodney picked out for his house is perched up on the bank, on your left as you approach the mill-yard, directly above what’s currently one of our goat pastures. You can’t tell from these pictures, but he scored one of the best ocean views on the property.

The road to Rodney's house site

Rodney's house site getting excavated

While we had the excavator here, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to dig another pond, below the current one. We’ll show you pictures of the end result once it’s all filled up and looking fine.

Back-hoe digging a hole for our second pond

An makes a friend and gets busy with fur and potatoes

In January we welcomed An’s new partner, Jeremy, to Snow Lake Keep. Jeremy’s helping out on the farm in all kinds of ways, and has been a big help to An, too. Together they’ve been coming up with house designs, tanning hides, and now, selling latkes (potato pancakes) at the Saturday market in Annapolis. Expect to see them at our booth at the summer market, too!

An and their new partner in crime, Jeremy

An and Jeremy keeping busy with hides

An's beard seamlessly blends into ginger cowhide

Chef An set up with latkes at the winter market

Rodney spends time with draft horses

Over the winter Rodney has been spending a lot of time with draft horses owned by our neighbours, Sally and Howard. Rodney, with our friend Rick’s help, has been getting to know the horses and getting some practice training them to wear harnesses and pull small loads. Eventually, Rodney would like to see us start using draft horses to haul logs out of the forest so that we don’t need to rely solely on a tractor to do that work. Horses do much less damage to the land, are not directly dependent on polluting fossil fuels to operate, and have much more interesting personalities.

Rick leading Captain in harness

Rodney convincing Captain to pull him in the dark

Deryk’s keeping busy

Deryk has a lot on the go this year, from planting his new blueberry field to helping build the two houses on the farm as well as construction and carpentry projects off-farm. For the blueberries, he cleared a spot in the forest just down from the chicken run, where he’s already begun to lay down brush to start his hugelkultur beds:

Hugel-beds started in Deryk's new blueberry field

Upholstery, coding, and cabin building

Laire got a part-time job doing upholstery with our neighbour, L.G., at her shop down the road, Cottage Upholstery. I’ve gotten pretty busy doing website development for various clients over the winter. At home, Laire and I finally finished building our bathroom and have managed to tackle a few other interior carpentry projects as well. We’ve got plans to build a little A-frame bunky in our backyard this spring, called Triangulaire. Our good friend Adam is supposed to come back to the farm in May, and will hopefully spend the summer here. We’re hoping he’ll help us build Triangulaire, as it’ll give us another spot to accommodate guests, like Adam!

Maple syrup, baby goats, and cheese!

We tapped all our trees for sap some time ago, and have gotten some good sap days, but the yield hasn’t been anywhere near as good as last year’s. It’s just been too cold, for the most part. Still, we’re doing our best.

Maple syrup getting bottled

Probably the most exciting development, recently, is the addition of four new baby goats – Prue, True, Lunch, and Rug. I think they’re best described through pictures and a video.

Cocoa's baby Prue

True, Prue's brother

Prue up close

Cocoa's babies True and Prue

Lunch looks like a puppy

Sissiboo's baby boy, Rug

Mocha with her boy, Lunch

Rug up close

Now, kidding season isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, sadly. The birthing process alone can be stressful, especially for those of us with little to no experience. Baby goats sometimes don’t figure out how to latch onto their mother’s teat soon enough on their own, and that was the case with Delia’s kid, Latchie. A few of us took on the task to help her learn how to drink her mother’s milk. After a couple days, we felt that she’d finally figured it out, and Latchie was doing it on her own.

But then one day, when nobody was around the barn for a few hours, Latchie managed to squeeze through a surprisingly tiny opening in the gate of Delia’s pen. She couldn’t figure out how to get back in. Cam, who was visiting, and I found her huddled up in the corner trying to stay warm. We did whatever we thought we could to try and save her. Cam spent a while feeding her Delia’s milk with a syringe, first in the barn then up at the house. But, she was probably too far gone already, and she didn’t make it.

Tragedies like this one can happen on the farm. But, move on we must.

With four of our does now lactating like crazy, we’ve suddenly got lots of milk to deal with. So we’re getting busy again making cheese, yogurt, and soon, butter. Here’s a new cheese I’ve been experimenting with, called Valançay. It’s a soft chèvre curd, normally formed into pyramid shapes (except I don’t have cheese forms of that shape, so these will have to do), then coated in ash and aged in a cheese cave (root cellar, in our case) for a few weeks. It starts off looking like this:

Valençay from above

Valençay, in progress

Over time, it starts to look like this (at least on our farm it does, where the common blue-cheese mold, penicillium roqueforti, must be particularly abundant):

It got pretty good reviews by those who ate it, even though it doesn’t have that nice pure white rind that it’s “supposed” to.

See you at market!

As usual, we’ll be at the Annapolis Royal Farmers’ Market when it opens on Saturday, May 20th. Until then, catch An and Jeremy at the Winter Farmers’ Market and savour some of their hot, delicious, locally sourced potato latkes!

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 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!