Saturday, April 30, 2011

Freetown's Annie Oakley

Shot my first gun today.  I won't tell you what it was, so that I can maintain some credibility with you gun aficionados out there, but it was still exciting.  I am now not so critical of the number of guns in my husband's possession, although really, you can only shoot one at a time right?  Please note however, that my newfound appreciation of long guns in NO WAY affects my political position.  (That's for you, Dad.) 


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Conquering Culinary Conundrums

So pretty much anytime that I brag to our customers about our lamb, I'm lying through my teeth.  Not that our lamb isn't amazing, but as I've admitted here before it's not my favorite food.  Until now.  I roasted my first leg of lamb for Easter supper and it was some of the best meat I've eaten.  My parents surprised me with a great visit for the day and as Mom watched me prepping it, I think she was more than skeptical as to my methods.  I was following a recipe that used the classic garlic and rosemary combo and Mom couldn't resist questioning the use of 'all those trees'.  It did look rather green in the end, but roasted down nicely and flavored the lamb just right.  And best of all, all those 'trees' scented the air so that I couldn't smell the lamb cooking, which is the key to really enjoying it I think (but don't tell my customers that). 
Anyway, a year late, I made my 2010 New Year's resolution come true (Learn to Love Lamb).  Better late than never!

Speaking of lamb, I dropped off my biggest lamb to a new restaurant in Charlottetown (so new in fact that it doesn't even have a website yet).  It's going to be called Daniel B Brickhouse with Chef Ilona Daniel at the helm.  She's a gorgeous and vibrant chef who creates food that makes you melt.  Anyway, we can't wait to see the new place and taste some of her newest creations.  It was such a great treat to ship an ENTIRE lamb to a customer and not have to worry about cuts and details.  She even took the head, which is a first time for me.  We are so fortunate to have some great chefs on the Island who source local, organic product and create a real culinary experience for everyone and anyone. Thanks Ilona!!!!

When I went to pick up the lamb from our local butcher, the other two that he was cutting were not ready, so I finally got my chance to watch them being cut up and learn a bit more about what it is that I'm offering.  Since I had my inquisitive little girl with me I decided this was a perfect opportunity to make sure she was really making the connection between livestock and food.  I am so concerned about the disconnect that just seems to be growing between people and food, let alone kids and food.  A neighbour who keeps free-range pigs tells her kids that they simply TRADE their pigs for bacon.  It makes me wince to hear some of the questions I get from people that I'm more than happy to answer, but disappointed that I have to.  Anyway, I had nothing to fear as she watched them bring the whole carcass from the cooler and kept a close and rapt eye on the different parts as they went through the band saw.  As he was cutting the shank from the leg, she said, "Is that the lamb heel?"  I was a very proud mother at that moment.  The men milling around the shop didn't quite know what to think, but I was so glad to be able to give her such an important education.  As I believe, the most important and perhaps best part of living on a farm is the appreciation of life and death. 

Lastly, I have been perfecting my pizza skills for the past few years and it's now a staple in this house. It seems that we have it once a week, although somehow it's always a treat.  It's definitely one of my best dishes and this week it got even better.  I start with a homemade, 20 minute dough (you can get away with 10 minutes if you're in a rush) made with 100% Speerville organic flour (probably from PEI wheat).  Then I have pizza-sized servings of my home made sauce in the freezer, ready to go.  On top of that I throw whatever I have on hand in a frying pan.  Mostly it's Nova Scotia onions, Freetown mushrooms, frozen green peppers from my garden, (and occasionally some organic baby spinach if the kids have been low on greens that day).  This week I got pepperoni from our local free-range pig guy and some PEI organic 3 yr old cheddar at the Summerside Farmer's Market.  Once all the veggies and meat sizzle for a few minutes to soften them up just a touch, they go on the pie, are topped with the cheese, dashed with dried oregano and hit the oven.  20 minutes later, we're hoeing in and the way the kids are eating lately, there's none left for breakfast the next morning anymore.    

So there's my culinary connections for the week.  From lamb heads to organic cheddar, it's been a great past week.  With the sun that was here yesterday, there's only more great food to come!  My garlic is poking out of its straw and the weeds are spreading nicely, so it must soon be garden time!

One last culinary adventure was this birthday cake for Wilson's big #2.  I LOVE the Bulk Barn.  They have great little chocolate candies that look like pebbles, and black sugar that looks like asphalt.  Secretly this cake is also making a statement about urban sprawl.  haha.

And just like our chubby Islander Senator, Mike Duffy (under dead shark eye's command of course), here's a wink for the end, for Mama.
 Hope you're spending some of these glorious evenings sitting on the front porch listening to the spring peepers.  Did you know they're only as big as a thumbnail?  Quite a racket for such a wee thing.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chicken and Cow questions.

Question of the day: Why did the chicken make the funny noise when it breathed?  No really.  Why?  One of our hens seems to have gotten into something that caught in its throat so now everytime it breathes, it wheezes, or rather, clucks...It's hard to explain but it is certainly strange.  I've felt up and down the windpipe and hung it upside down, but the poor lady just keeps wheeze-clucking away.  And the other mean old hens apparently have no tolerance for it.  Even the internet, full of overzealous, crazy chicken owners doesn't have anything to offer me.  Advice?

Everytime I go out to see the cow I say, "I'm worried about Rosie." And Mark everytime says, "Well, get the vet or your brother or somebody if you're so worried."  And she's still producing milk and eating and seemingly happy, but I don't feel like she looks so good.  She's a jersey so she's supposed to be a bag of bones, but she's not shiny like she used to be.  And I know it's spring and cows shed their winter coat, but she's REALLY shedding, in big clumps.  I think the culprit is probably that big calf, Poppy beside her that is really too big to still be in with her since we're milking her.  Thoughts from the cattle owners out there?
Brown gold: the compost pile waiting to be spread this week.

 Apparently the extra fun part of spreading the compost- the adventure of getting back the lane each time.

 Here are my soy lovers enjoying some chocolate tofu mousse.  And you can cut out the mental gagging right now because I made it for Mark, hid the evidence and he had NO idea it was anything other than regular chocolate mousse.  It really is delicious and the fastest dessert you will EVER make.  A new Bernard family favorite around here. 

 Here's one of my second batch lambs, happily lazing in the hay in the feeder/walkway.  A good indicator that it's spring is the bedding getting so thick that the sheep have to bend down to eat. haha.  The lambs spend most of the day up in the feeder, which they shouldn't even be able to reach if the barn wasn't full of four months of bedding and uneaten hay. 

Thayne is finally big enough to enjoy his jolly jumper and excersaucer and his older siblings are enjoying being able to 'play' with him now.  This last shot shows the fruits of their labour and was quickly followed by a scattering of kids yelling, "Thayne PUKED!!!"  It never gets old apparently.

It didn't bother my happy-go-lucky guy any though.  Growing up so fast.

In an effort to create a marriage, I got a laptop so Mark could use the computer all he wanted.  I'm still figuring it all out and it's taking up preciousposting time, so bear with me!

Hope this finds you ordering a few seeds for a garden, maybe even watering some starter plants. (I've finally admitted defeat with this sunless house and have given up trying to start plants and am looking forward to buying my tomatoes and peppers from Jen Campbell this year.  Ah, but with the promise of snow tomorrow, spring is not REALLY here yet is it?  You can always be sure that the day after Mark drops off his snowblowing bills for the year, some snow comes along for a laugh.) 


Friday, April 15, 2011

My True Colours Shining Through.

Please note: The opinions reflected in this post do not represent the opinions of Barnyard Organics
 or its employees.  Just me.

I love politics.  I don't shy away from the fact that someday, maybe, in a far away land, I wouldn't mind throwing in my hat in some capacity.  I grew up in a family that loved to discuss/argue/promote politics and never shied away from showing thier respective political colours.  In our house, it was the Tory blue that generally ruled the roost.  I know a couple of my brothers, if not most, still hold onto to that political heritage with white knuckles.  I think I have voted for every available party at some point in my voting life, but, like most adults have started to align with one, specifically based on party values.  What I've come to realize in the last couple of elections and in this one in particular, it has unfortunately become less about the party I support, and more about the party I do not.  I don't love the idea of strategic voting, but for this election I will be casting a vote for the candidate that stands the best chance of beating a Conservative candidate.
Besides following my intuition (that my mother always said counted for more than anything else) that causes me to shiver at Stephen Harper's dead shark eyes (ok...that's a bit petty, but not untrue!) and besides all the recent parliamentary gaffs that the Conservatives have headed up and besides all of the other issues that make me cringe, here are a mere two reasons to consider casting a vote against a Harper gov't. 

1) Bill 474 would have supported Canadian farmers by requiring that “an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted.”  This isn't about conventional farmers or organic farmers.  This isn't about yields or efficiencies.  This is simply about due diligence and science.  A child could tell you that before trying something for the first time, it's a good idea to check it out a little further.  What can be achieved by foregoing the step that sees the potential for harm investigated prior to permitting a highly controversial product?  The fact that this is such a basic concept makes me very concerned that the big-ag lobbying groups have a strong hold over the Conservative policy makers.  The bill isn't even asking the gov't to stop GMO's or reconsider their existence in the Canadian market.  The bill is simply saying that export markets (read: Europe, Asia where GMOs are a no-no) should be considered before GMO's are permitted.  And the vote on the bill was over a year AFTER the GMO fiasco in the flax markets.  So we already have one perfect example of the repercussions of ignoring export markets and the harm for Canadian agriculture in general.  The Conservatives held a united front in voting this bill down.  On behalf of Canadian farmers, thank you so much for such carefully considered insight into what is best for agriculture and our food system.  (choke, cough, barf.)

2) Citing budgets and lack of benefits, the Harper Gov't (as he likes it to be called) made the infinitely unwise decision to close the prison farms across Canada.  The only further explanation that was given, was Vic Toews (public safety minister at the time) citing that less than 1% of prisoners find work in agriculture after release.  (Apparently this isn't enough, despite the fact that anyone being able to find work in agriculture these days is a miracle given the state of it.) But that's hardly the point.  What Mr. Toews failed to report was how many prisoners landed jobs using skills gained from their farm experience- such as mechanical repair, operating large machinery, inventory tracking, teamwork, punctuality and a basic work ethic — that they picked up on the prison farms.  Not to mention the numerous psychological studies have proven the rehabilitation capabilities of livestock  for convicted criminals who learn patience and compassion, (ignore the previous post regarding hockey sticks and beef cows..haha) not to mention obligations and necessity when it comes to timely chores like milking and feeding.  The economics behind the decision are far from transparent and according to numerous sources don't actually work due to the fact that the cost of losing the production of food at the prisons will cost far more than maintaining the farms in the long run.

These are just two reasons to reconsider the leadership and decision making behind the current Conservative administration.  Nevermind all the other things that make me crazy, like the general lack of respect for Parliament,  the proroguing,  resisting proportional representation, the spending at the G20, the women's funding cuts, the environmental degradation and continued decline as they ignore the implications of climate change,  the 'regional complexes'/super prisons, and my least favorite move to eliminate funding for political parties, Stephen Harper is not the answer to the problems of agriculture, let alone, the rest of the country.  A degree in economics does not a leader make. 

The dead shark eyes don't help either.  hehehe.

I hope this finds you anticipating an exciting night on May 2.  Despite missing many things about home, there is something to be said for unsure ridings and the anticipation of a good race.  Wayne Easter may have held this one for 18 years, but he is being given a run this time.  Or at least that's what we're being made to think.  Oh well, he can count on my strategic vote and if PEI's general resistance to change can be counted on, he's safe.  Here's hoping!  As a point of interest however, the Green candidate here last time around, received the second highest amount of votes of any Green candidate across the country.   Is this riding possibly tired of drinking nitrate-contaminated water or watching asthma rates climb in a pesticide ridden environment?  Is there a message being sent about chemical and fertilizer use in the potato belt?   Too bad it's not being received by anyone in power.  The time will come.  And soon, I predict.

Now, I'm off to sit back and see what sort of comments I get from 'back home'.  If this isn't enough to bring out a comment from my Dad, I don't know what is.  haha.



Thursday, April 7, 2011


 Although there's still lots of snow around the edges and todays sun was very deceiving, spring is undoubtably on its way.  I finally managed to get the camera over to the barn for this shot of the latest crop of lambs, only to have my batteries calve out immediately after. 
Everything else is pretty quiet around here.  We finished up our certification application paperwork so that is away, which is always a nice job to have taken care of.  Mark and Wendell dug out the grain drill today while the frost is still in the ground to start tinkering with it.  We're looking at some new nutrient sources this year and are considering some fish fertlizer as one option.  I've always considered it a nutrient source for market gardeners or small scale operations but we've recently discovered some ways and products that seem like a good option for us to add some unique micronutrients and a good crop boost. 
Thayne has given us a couple long nights this week and my foggy, dry contact lenses are telling me that I need some sleep, so I'll keep this short.
I'm concluding this one with some shots of our church being torn down.  Summerside Presbyterian is building a new church and a big crowd came out to see the old being torn down.  I have to admit it was pretty cool and I was really glad that we bundled up the kids to go in and see it.  Wilson was pretty amazed by the big machines and Lucy loved the crash of the roof coming in. 


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lessons in Organics

Here's my presentation that I did at the Local M.E.A.L.  Please keep in mind that it followed the Pecha Kucha format of 20 slides for 20 seconds each. For some reason the editor chose to show more of me speaking rather than all my slides, but the message is still pretty clear.   Basically I was trying to encourage people to see that there exists some serious differences between so-called 'natural' and 'organic'.  This has been a real bee in my bonnet as of lately when it seems that everyone is on the 'natural' bandwagon, which means absolutely nothing.  There are no natural regulations.  Conventional agri-food realizes that and sees a huge opportunity to take a regular product, slap a green label on it and put it beside organics at a cheaper price.
On a more local level, my main competition in marketing my meat is our 'natural' neighbours and fellow farmers who for the most part are giving their livestock a very natural way of life.  I just wanted to show some of the differences that sets organics apart from natural.  That said, I have every respect for farmers who are raising ethical, natural products and getting a fair dollar for them.  Just don't say they are the same as mine. Harumph.  So there.

A Local M.E.A.L. - Sally Bernard from nick battist on Vimeo.

If you feel like watching- enjoy!  My mother will enjoy seeing how my french 'heritage' shows through as I'm speaking with my hands.
Erm....forgot to mention that everyone in my family is actually featured in the first slide.  Forgot to get their permission I guess. haha.