Farm Days: Hello June

Farm Days: Hello June! An update on Happiness By The Acre family farm

 

Winter vanished in days, and then so did April and May!

As usual spring in Alberta is a flurry of activity. We’ve been busy planting out the market gardens, building mobile chicken coops, fixing watering systems, setting up irrigation, and getting corrals set up. We’ve got 25 laying hens in the gawky pullet stage, and cows on the way in the next week or so. A flurry of activity! Thankfully we have our hired hand, Lachlan, who has been an absolute work horse while Marcus runs around wrangling paperwork to parts sourcing.

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Friday Fun Facts

Friday Fun Facts: Marcus ~ Daddy, Hubby, Farmer Geek Blogger

 

About time for another round of Friday Fun Facts, where you get to learn a little bit more about our contributors. Today Marcus shares his past jobs with you. Past employment does not, by any means, define you, but it is an interesting way to see where you have been at different stages in life. I always find it fascinating to learn where people have worked!

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Welcome Spring! FREE Printable Postcards

Welcome Spring! With free flower postcard printables

 

It’s officially the first day of SPRING!! And even if we have snow on the ground {or possibly more in the forecast} the idea that spring has arrived on the calendar is always welcome here in Alberta! To celebrate, I’ve put together a little collaboration with our farm biz, Happiness By The Acre. Download a FREE set of postcard printables featuring our farm fresh flowers! Print them on white card stock and you’re set to send some happy mail to friends.

 

Happiness By The Acre Flower Postcards ~ Download & Print

Welcome Spring! With free flower postcard printables

 

Happiness By The Acre Postcard Backs ~ Download & Print

Welcome Spring! With free flower postcard printables

*Each post card measures 4″x 6″. Once you print the flower postcard fronts, run the paper through again to print the postcard backs or simply fill in the back by hand, then cut.

 

Wishing you fresh air, warm sun & thawing dirt!

Friday Fun Facts

Friday Fun Facts: Farmer, Father, Dungeon Master - Getting to know Marcus

Time for another installment of our Friday Fun Facts series and I’m super excited to include hubby, Marcus! He will be joining the blog crew over the coming months to share about our very first chicken flock {YES, chickens} and some other helpful farming/homesteading/growing posts. But most importantly, we welcome him to bring a “dad’s perspective” to this whole parenting thing! First, let’s get to know him a little bit more…

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Farm Days: We’re Hiring!

Wanted: Garden Gnome to work on a small Alberta farm

It’s true! On our farm biz side of life, we are HIRING! We are currently looking for a student*, or garden gnome, interested in working on our farm. We deliver product to Calgary and the surrounding area, as well as are opening a trust-based on-farm store in 2018.

Primary job duties will revolve around the market garden and orchard. A great deal of the job is weed identification and manual removal; but plenty of opportunities for general labour, washing and bagging vegetables, and chasing cows or chickens will present themselves.

Pop by the website for more info!

And if you’re just interested in visiting our farm or coming out for the day to lend a hand, definitely contact us! We’d love to hear from you!

*This is a grant supported job for students. Highschool or postsecondary. Trades and vocational schools work fine too, as does upgrading

Busiest Little Helper

Things have been busy, busy, busy. You can probably tell by this poor neglected blog. Sammy is getting dragged along from chore to chore. And even though his hands are little, he sure has been a BIG help. He might enjoy some more time to play with his trucks or go to the park, but I think he feels pretty proud every time he gets to help out the grown-ups in his life. I sometimes can’t believe the number of things he is learning to do at such an early age (hello, he’s only 2.5 years old)! I can imagine him living on our farm more & more. And maybe, I’m starting to picture my own life on the farm a bit more too.

Always plenty of plants that need watering every day in the veggie garden.
Always plenty of plants that need watering every day in the veggie garden.
Sammy LOVED helping grandpa cut the grass out at the cabin.
Sammy LOVED helping grandpa cut the grass out at the cabin.
My boys washing veggies together for the YYC Growers CSA.
My boys washing veggies together for the YYC Growers CSA.
His favourite thing so far to wash are radishes and carrots. Good thing there were too, since there were about 130 carrots to wash this past week for the Happiness By the Acre CSA. He was a super trooper! No complaints, just kept washing and admiring each carrot.
His favourite thing so far to wash are radishes and carrots. Good thing there were too, since there were about 130 carrots to wash this past week for the Happiness By the Acre CSA. He was a super trooper! No complaints, just kept washing and admiring each carrot.
He's even pretty gentle washing the salad greens for the Happiness By the Acre CSA.
He’s even pretty gentle washing the salad greens for the Happiness By the Acre CSA.
Sam was super helpful crushing the tomatoes for the big pot of sauce we made. This is our first batch of tomato sauce for the season and the first time I've ever canned it instead of freezing. More batches still to make with my little helper.
Sam was super helpful crushing the tomatoes for the big pot of sauce we made. This is our first batch of tomato sauce for the season and the first time I’ve ever canned it instead of freezing. More batches still to make with my little helper.

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.

Happy Trails

Alberta farm t-shirts by Ole Originials

Last month we had the pleasure of taking part in the Alberta Open Farm Days by visiting Trail’s End ranch (just south of Nanton). The ranch we’ve been buying our “happy cow” beef from for the past few years, A7 Ranche, recently partnered with Trail’s End. We thought it was the perfect opportunity to check things out. Of course, Sam loved watching all the animals, especially the chickens. He spent the morning running from one critter to the next (and then he spent the entire drive home “clucking” in the back seat). It was nice to meet Rachel & Tyler, and see their home. They’re hip to the social media, so we’ve also been enjoying following things at the ranch on Facebook. We’ve even been invited back down to take a better look at the pastures and beef operation on the main ranch, which we are tickled about. We’re getting ourselves, Sam include, exposed bit by bit to this business of farming. Do check out our main farm blog for Happiness by the Acre, where hubby Marcus has been taking on the role of blogger. Until we have our own critters to take pics of, you just have to settle for a little photo tour of Trail’s End ranch 😉

Chicken watching
My boys doing a little chicken flock watching

Hen at Trail's End ranch

Trail's End ranch cattle

Trail's End ranch cattle 2

Sam & Marcus at Trail's End ranch
Future farmer? I sure hope so.