Farm Days: Planning

Farm Days: Planning - Small Farm Life in Alberta - Organic Flower Farm

 

Farmers talk about an “off season” and a “growing season”. And yes, it’s true that there is an “off season” of sorts, I’m finding with each year that our off season is still busy. Busy planning & prepping for the next growing season. In part, it might be because we have been starting our small farm from the ground up. Quite literally. There was nothing already in place to begin our farm except for the land. Not even perimeter fencing or a road. And don’t get us started on the soil itself…

{Read More}

(more…)

Local Food Movement

150 Faces of YYC Growers ~ Local Food Movement

Ever heard of urban farming? What about the local food movement? There’s been a lot going on to increase awareness about eating local and supporting local producers & makers. Hubby and I are proud to a part of YYC Growers and Distributors through our small farm business, Happiness By The Acre. YYC Growers is a farmer/producer owned cooperative here in Calgary, with the vision for sustainable food that is delicious, healthy, fresh and supports community issues like environmental footprints, food security & food democracy.

{Read More}

(more…)

DIY Dino Terrariums

DIY Dino Terrariums ~ Succulent Terrarium Tutorial ~ Kid's Dino Birthday Party

This was the second year in a row that Sam requested a Dino themed birthday party and when you’re kiddo is turning FIVE, you smile & embrace all the fun! Which for me, means diving into all the Dino Pinterest projects I’m constantly pinning.

I grew up in the age of birthday favors, but struggle a bit with them now as a mama. In the past, it has just been candy. This year, I really wanted something the kiddos could keep & enjoy. From that the Dino Terrariums started to take shape. I opted for spending more money on the favors, but made them serve dual duty as a party craft too.

{Read More}

(more…)

In the Garden: Garden Planning

Gardening Planning ~ Blog post by Bubblegum Sass ~ Garden journals from Taproot Magazine
Seeds from West Coast Seeds and garden journals from Taproot Magazine

There might still be the occasional snowflake falling from the sky these days, but it is time to turn some attention to garden planning & prep. My hubby is truly the brains behind the operation, while I lend my hands & time to the work in the spring, summer & fall. He comes up with our garden plan each year, while he plans out the other yards for his urban farming business. Even the seeds for our own garden get lumped into orders for Happiness By The Acre.

(more…)

How Grows the Rest?

Yes, indeed, the How Grows It? post was really just part one of our yard. Here’s the remainder. I’ve saved the herbs for last. Some we enjoy fresh and others we simply dry for use throughout the year. In fact, last year, we dried so much sage that we’re still using it (and we put sage in lots of recipes). So here’s a peek at the rest of the garden:

Lovely, lovely dill! I've been enjoying the dill the most this year, on grilled cheese sandwiches, in salads, in mac'n cheese, in salad dressings, etc. So tasty!
Lovely, lovely dill! I’ve been enjoying the dill the most this year, on grilled cheese sandwiches, in salads, in mac’n cheese, in salad dressings, etc. So tasty!
Bunches and bunches of chives!
Bunches and bunches of chives!
Minty, minty, mint!
Minty, minty, mint!
First time growing oregano since we moved back from B.C. Doing pretty good so far.
First time growing oregano since we moved back from B.C. Doing pretty good so far.
Our sage container, not doing as well this year as last, but not too bad.
Our sage container, not doing as well this year as last, but not too bad.
Thyme plants doing well!
Thyme plants doing well!

How Grows It?

Time for a little garden tour! Of course, I can’t keep up with documenting the growing out there, so these photos are at least a week old, but you’ll get the general idea of how things are going.

First a peek at how it all started this spring. Here are our three main garden beds in May, after the first planting.
First a peek at how it all started this spring. Here are our three main garden beds in May, after the first planting.
Here are the main beds back at the beginning of June. Some bits of life starting to sprout up here & there.
Here are the main beds back at the beginning of June. Some bits of life starting to sprout up here & there.
Here are the main beds in full swing now. A green jungle with lots of yummy food being produced. What a difference a month makes!
Here are the main beds in full swing now. A green jungle with lots of yummy food being produced. What a difference a month makes!
Climbing beans are journeying up the trellis with a few blossoms.
Climbing beans are journeying up the trellis with a few blossoms.
Pea blossoms are so pretty. We've taken a few bowls of tasty sweet peas and snow peas into the house (and into our bellies) since this photo was taken.
Pea blossoms are so pretty. We’ve taken a few bowls of tasty sweet peas and snow peas into the house (and into our bellies) since this photo was taken.
Carrot jungle
Carrot jungle
Green onions needing some serious eating. Poor fellas have been a little neglected.
Green onions needing some serious eating. Poor fellas have been a little neglected.
Loaded with tomatoes! So juicy and sweet!
Loaded with tomatoes! So juicy and sweet!
Our precious broccoli. Or broccolini to be more precise. Lots being harvested off of these each week, and we've even begun to pull off the leaves and dehydrate them for our "super green" powder.
Our precious broccoli. Or broccolini to be more precise. Lots being harvested off of these each week, and we’ve even begun to pull off the leaves and dehydrate them for our “super green” powder.
Squash beauties with the cutest little squash and biggest blossoms right now! I always enjoy watching these gals grow.
Squash beauties with the cutest little squash and biggest blossoms right now! I always enjoy watching these gals grow.

From Weed To Yummy

Confession: Our backyard is a sea of dandelions.

They’ve taken over any area that we left as lawn. In past years, we tried pulling, mowing, even spraying them with vinegar (we refuse to spray any chemicals). This year, I’ve given up and I’m treating them like just another crop to harvest.

Dandelions are such a cheerful thing to harvest.
Dandelions are such a cheerful thing to harvest.

Here’s some tips I’ve found handy so far:

  • If using the greens, harvest fresh or no more than a day before. They keep in the fridge, but they really are best eaten as soon as possible.
  • When preparing to de-petal the dandelions, pick them no more than a couple hours prior. They are easiest to de-petal when the blossom is big and open. Dandelion blossoms tend to close up and wilt very quickly. In general, I pick a big bowl of blossoms right before making dinner and then 2-3 hours later, after Sam heads to bed, I get comfy on the couch & start to de-petal the blossoms. You can still de-petal dandelions even after they close up, but it’s just a trickier task.
  • Dandelion petals can be frozen! Once you de-petal the blossoms, pop them into a freezer bag or container (I measured out 1 cup bags). This makes life easier when you want to tackle bigger dandelion projects (like dandelion wine) or if you only have a small crop of dandelions and therefore have to combine multiple harvest days to accumulate enough petals.
  • I tried washing the dandelion blossoms, letting them dry, and then de-petaling. It was kind of a fail. Now I don’t even worry about washing the blossoms to de-petal them. You can clean off any bugs you come across while you de-petal each one. Our yard is chemical free, and pet-free, so I just don’t worry about it. I do wash the greens in cold water after I harvest them (just treat them like any other salad greens).
  • I choose to wear rubber gloves while de-petaling. Besides my struggle with eczema on my hands, I just don’t love the sticky, &  yellow stain mess that is involved with de-petaling. Even with pumice soap, it’s tricky stuff to get off. Then again, I spend a couple hours at a time de-petaling, so maybe if you’re only doing small batches, it wouldn’t be so bad 😉
  • Fact: Children love to play with dandelions. They are an easy crop to teach kids to harvest. Sam has really enjoyed helping me pull off blossoms. Even got him de-petaling for a little bit one afternoon. So dandelion harvest time can definitely be a kid friendly task.
Dandelion petals ready to be frozen.
Dandelion petals ready to be frozen.

There are lots of interesting things to make out of dandelions. There’s a good collection of ideas & recipes on The Prairie Homestead blog. I started out simple, just making come dandelion green salads. There’s really no end of possibilities when it comes to salad combinations. Just think of some of your favourite salads or dressings, and add or substitute dandelion greens. For example, I love broccoli salad, but there’s no broccoli ready to harvest in the backyard, so I used dandelion greens instead, added my usual raisins, nuts, and cream dressing. Viola! I tend to like adding sweet things to salads made with dandelion greens, just to cut the slight bitterness of the leaves. I’m thinking strawberries and sunflower seeds next time around or maybe a sweet rhubarb dressing. Just have fun experimenting with it!

Dandelion green salad with fresh chives, raisins and pumpkin seeds. I made a simple creamy dressing of mayo, vinegar & a touch of sugar.
Dandelion green salad with fresh chives, raisins and pumpkin seeds. I made a simple creamy dressing of mayo, vinegar & a touch of sugar.
Dandelion green salad with fresh chives. I simmered dried apricots and prunes with coconut oil and a bit of water to form the dressing. Sooooo tasty!
Dandelion green salad with fresh chives. I simmered dried apricots and prunes with coconut oil and a bit of water to form the dressing. Sooooo tasty!

There are several things I want to try making with the dandelion blossoms and petals, including syrup, fried blossoms, and wine (if I’m super ambitious one week). We made dandelion cookies this week from some of the fresh petals. They were yummy and a hit with Sam. I used a recipe from the Dinner For Everyone blog. Since they are basically oatmeal cookies with dandelion petals, I want to try adding raisins to them next time around.

Cookies made from dandelion petals. Yummy, but next time I'm going to add some raisins.
Cookies made from dandelion petals. Yummy, but next time I’m going to add some raisins.

Have you ever done anything with dandelion greens or blossoms? Would love to hear about it! Also, should let you know that if you happen to be one of those lucky folks who don’t suffer from dandelion invasions in your yard (or don’t have a yard), chances are you can purchase dandelion greens from your local urban farmer or grocery store. Here in Calgary, you can check out the YYC Growers & Distributors booth at some of their upcoming farmers’ markets. Some of the greens you purchase from them might just be from our yard.

Twenty-Four Whole Months

Two. Two. TWO!!! Seriously?!?!? The baby years seem like a distant memory now. We’re neck deep in the toddler moments these days & all the extra patience, love, & creativity required to parent our little man. A LOT has happened in Sammy’s development since my last post in August. I’m really not sure I’ll be able to capture it here. My brain is kind of mushy on all the details. It’s been enough just keeping up with him! Let’s try some quick bullet point highlights:

– He’s running, climbing, walking, jumping, dancing, crawling (he calls it turtle-foot), racing, chasing, sledding, and shoveling. Does he stop moving? Only just long enough to zone out & watch some of his tv shows on Netflix, or cuddle up for story time, or sleep in his crib.

Sam sledding at cabin

Sam sledding at cabin 2

– Sam is still all over the place with food & eating. Most meals feel like a battle & we rejoice when he eats something, anything, really. And then some days or weeks, he doesn’t stop eating. The food thing feels like the biggest roller coaster.

– Current fave foods include yogurt (still), milk, cheese, raisins, bunny crackers, butter, smoothies, pizza, mac & cheese, eggs & toast.

– Sam still loves spending time sorting, absolutely anything. And you can keep him happy as long as you let him help you with whatever task you’re doing. He’s great with laundry, emptying the dishwasher, rinsing dishes at the sink, vacuuming, and sweeping.

– When’s he’s not helping us, he keeps busy with all his tools, building blocks, Duplo, trucks, crayons, stickers, paints, building “fires” with wood, and books, books, books. Sam is quite the bookworm! Some days it feels like that’s what we spend most of our time doing. And it’s so adorable to listen to him read to himself! What a cutie.

– He’s totally an outdoors-type little fellow! Anything that has to do with the outside he loves, even in -20 winter conditions, he can’t wait to get outside & help daddy shovel snow. Although he’s not always crazy about the cold wind. Sam was an amazing helper with the garden last summer, watering, weeding, & harvesting! He helped put the veggies beds “to rest” in the fall, raked leaves, and hauled & stacked endless amounts of firewood (at home & the cabin). He adores carrying, stacking, & piling wood, and pretends to split wood (like his daddy with an axe… Sam uses his hammer or another piece of wood) and he has taken to building fires in the middle of our living room. Pray, he doesn’t learn to use matches or a lighter for a billion years! He enjoys the process of stacking paper and wood “just-so” to make the perfect little fire (in his mind), then blows on it to get it going. He even leaves it and then runs back later to add another log. Too darn smart!

Gosia reading to Sam

Gosia reading to Sam 2

– Sam’s language skills have exploded in the past two months!! I still can’t believe how quickly he picks up, not only new words, but entire sentences! He learns at least one new word everyday. You have to be so careful when you talk around him now. I find myself having to decide how to say some things, so that a) he will understand clearly what I mean and b) so that it is repeatable. We’ve had some fail moments that we’re not-so proud of. Sammy was pretty good at dropping the “f” word for a while, but he’s seems to have forgotten it finally. Lesson learned by all of us. We’re starting to work on “please”, “thank you”, “I’m sorry” and other necessary manners.

– Sam’s current fave shows are Caillou (still), Curious George, Magic School Bus, How to Train Your Dragon, and Pound Puppies. He also spent a lot of time over the month of December watching the claymation version of Rudolph, and Mickey’s Christmas. Since Sam wakes up around 5:00/5:30am, he starts his day with some Netflix time (after cuddles) so that mom & dad have a chance to wake up a bit. Then he gets to watch a couple of his shows after nap time (he’s officially down to just one nap these days).

Sammy relxing at the cabin

Sammy relxing at the cabin

Sammy relxing at the cabin

– We’ve started doing a bit of potty training, but like most things, we’re letting Sam lead the whole process. If he’s interested in being on the potty one day, and then not so much the next day, that’s fine. We understand what a big adjustment it is for him (and us). At first he would barely sit on his potty, but then we grew smart and offered him a book to read (duh). That was the trick. Now, if he’s interested in trying to use his potty, he will be content to sit and read and wait for something to happen. Sometimes he actually “goes”, sometimes he doesn’t. At least he has learned to relax on it.

– Sam loves going to the zoo, Butterfield Acres (when it’s open), the cabin, and Grandma & Grandpa’s house. Let’s face it, he loves anything to do with Grandma & Grandpa! He usually gets to spend one day a week there and asks about them everyday.

– His sleep went super crazy wonky in the early fall, right around the time he weaned himself (Yep, he just decided one night that he didn’t want to nurse before bed. The next night, the same thing. He hasn’t nursed since.) I think he must have been going through some huge development stage. His vocabulary skills were just starting to take off, he went through a growth spurt & weaned himself. It was just a whole new time of personal awareness for him. And with all of that, came lack of sleep (for all of us). Once we survived our road trip to Colorado, we had to do a little sleep re-training with him. It wasn’t too bad. It’s never as bad as you think it will be (in my mind anyway) and it completely saved our sanity & got Sam back on track for the restful sleep he desperately needed. I’m sure we’ll go through more of these stages in the coming years.

And that, is as much of the past six months as I can remember. What a blur it is! I can’t wait to see the little boy he’s going to grow into this year!