I will quietly celebrate my one year anniversary working on the farm later this month. Maybe I’ll eat lunch in the middle of a huge field of sunflowers. I’m tempted to comment on how quickly the time has passed, but as I get older all things seem to fly by. A Korean friend once said in unconventional English, “Time is so past.” He meant to say “fast”, but I like his version better.
Josh and I were coaching his son’s baseball team last summer when he asked if I might like to join the TapRoot Team. I said yes without really knowing what that meant. I had initial concerns at first. I had never been employed by friends before, and lacked all farm experience. I argued that I was skinny and weak. Almost one year in and I haven’t been fired yet, so either things are going well, or Josh is too kind to give me the axe.
The TapRoot Team and the day to day operations are real marvels. Everyone involved in sorting out each day is not only critical to the farm’s success, they are also an amazing group of people. We’re a big team, but it’s also a very big farm. There are a mindboggling number of things that have to happen each day. And each day is different. Everyone contributes until it is done. That may be the secret. It really is a pleasure to play a small part in the bigger picture. Input and contributions are always encouraged. I love how excited some of us can get when we think of a new way to do something better, or as we share stories of our day to day with each other. There is always time for laughter and support. I see why the word “team” gets thrown around so much.
As a rule, I am eternally stressed out. It is a fatal personality flaw. I worry that I won’t finish things on time, or well enough, or that someone else is overburdened, or that CSA shareholders will be unhappy with something they receive, or that I’m not doing my job, or whether or not something that hasn’t been done was my job, or that I will be late. I hate being late. Ideally, any work setting should be free of stress, but the very nature farming makes it difficult to do many things in advance, other than plan and prepare. The product is fresh, sometimes still warm from the field as it is prepared for shareholders, wholesale or market, which means that some things are last minute. Occasionally we have been known to chase the TapRoot truck down to put the last few things in the back. And I will admit that in my haste I have even driven away from the farm with the doors still wide open. The “down to the wire” reality on the farm has been the biggest challenge for me and my aforementioned stress issues. Before we can celebrate an accomplishment other things need doing. I have joked with Justine that each time we successfully get Jem away in the TapRoot van it reminds me of Star Wars and I have the urge to shout and cheer, “The first transport is away!”
As autumn approaches my mind always turns to school. I have been a teacher for 16 years. This past year was the first time since I was five years old that I did not return to a classroom in some capacity. My year on the farm has been a break from my “regular” life, if that’s a thing. Thankfully I have discovered that not having time to plan each day has also freed me from trying to plan ahead. It’s very liberating. It is much better to immerse yourself in the present. Besides, “time is so past.”
A special hello to everyone at Prospect, Emma’s and Fall River! Thank you so much for making me welcome in your communities.
Teri has mentioned to me a couple times about writing a blog post for the newsletter so here it goes.
For those of you who don't know, I'm usually the one behind the financial response emails or the quarterly statements. I've been with Taproot Farms for almost 2 years now and those two years have flown by faster than I can believe. In those two years record keeping responsibilities have shifted and systems have changed.
Just a few notes on the financial/payment topic.
I appreciate some of you switching to email transfers; they are working out great. For those of you who are using PayPal, cheque or cash; that works out great too.
In September I will be sending out quarterly statements. These statements are generated by our accounting software, Quickbooks, which is not connected to your online accounts in anyway other than Teri or myself entering data manually so if there are differences please do not be alarm. I am trying my best to make sure everything is as accurate as possible but there are things that do not get recorded correctly despite my/our best efforts.
While on the subject of things not being recorded properly, if you do notice something on your account that does not seem correct you are always more than welcome to email your questions/concerns to email@example.com I am in the office Monday to Friday 8am to noon so please be patient with me as it may take me a day to respond but I will get back to as soon as possible
While I'm noting things, things on the farm this year have just been beautiful. I am sure they always have been but this year I have vowed to truly slow down and enjoy everything it has to offer. Even my walks in from the drive way are refreshing. I get to look at the tunnels and the flowers, and I get to hear the pigs snorting away in the field. I think I have really just begun to realize how blessed I am to be part of such an amazing operation right here at home. We love to see people out on the farm so please come out an enjoy this beautiful slice of Annapolis Valley.
Last week, Josh let me know that the pickling cucumbers were ready, and we decided this year we will sell them as pickling packs, which include everything you need to make a batch of dill pickles.
One quick phone call to my Mom yesterday to get her recipe, and the smell of all that dill in the office made me decide to make a batch after work last night. So, if you want to do the same, here's what you'll need:
-8 quart jars
-8 lid flats and screw tops
-4 cups vinegar
-1 cup kosher or pickling salt
-A TapRoot Pickle Pack
The process is pretty simple. I used to make pickles for my Mom to sell every night in cucumber season, so I've gotten pretty efficient, and it took just 35 minutes last night to make 8 jars. For yourself, budget an hour of your time, with maybe a little extra for clean up.
Step 1: Sanitize the jars. I don't have any fancy equipment, and just put my jars open side down in a big roasting pan filled with water with the oven on about 350 degrees. A jar lifter is a huge help getting the jars back out and avoiding burns while doing so! See photo>>
Step 2: Make the brine. Mix 4 cups vinegar (I use regular vinegar, if you're using the pickling vinegar it is stronger and will require less vinegar and more water for this recipe), 12 cups water, and 1 cup salt in a pot. Bring to a boil and maintain heat so that it is just below a simmer (not boiling, still hot and steaming).
Step 3: Place the lid flats in another small pot of almost boiling water (This sanitizes them as well and softens the rubber so you get a good seal. Always use new flats, it's just a good practice, and saves the disappointment of seals not holding)
Step 4: Prepare the cucumbers, garlic, and dill while everything is heating up. The dill should be washed and divided into the amount you want in each jar (I use a stem or two and 1 flower head per jar). The garlic should be removed from it's paper wrapper (I put one clove per jar, some people like more, so depending on your taste). Both the stem end and the end of the cucumber should be trimmed off, and then they should be washed in cold water. Depending on how dirty they are, sometimes I scrub each one. Poke through any larger cucumbers with a sharp knife to help them pickle uniformly. All this trimming and scrubbing may seem like a lot of work, but it goes fast and is totally worth it (according to Mom and I, at least) in the final product.
Step 5: Start packing the jars. Remove the hot jar with a jar lifter (totally worth getting one, even if you never make pickles again, they are amazing!), and continuing to hold the jar with the lifter, put in dill and garlic (The signature Teri move is tying the dill in a loose knot, so it stays out of the way at the bottom). Start with larger cucumbers, lining them up along the bottom layer, and the smaller ones are great for packing in the top.
Step 6: Fill jar as much as you can with cucumbers, and then fill to the bottom of the jar rim with brine. Wipe the rim to ensure no excess brine is between the seal and the glass. Take out a flat from the hot water, place on top, and tighten screw lid to finger tight (you'll regret it if you tighten it too much at this point).
Step 7: You should process the full jars in a hot water bath just until the cucumbers turn from green to brownish green. So long as everything has been hot along the way, you shouldn't have any problems with seals. Place in a cooler place (basement, root cellar, etc) to seal jars. The flat will suck inwards and sometimes even make a "POP!" when they seal.
You can eat these right away as young dills, or store for a later time and more intense pickle flavour! I don't actually like eating pickles, but Mom's recipe is such a hit that each year she has cases upon cases of pre-orders, so I know it's a good one!
The TapRoot Pickle Pack was awesome. The perfect amount of everything for this recipe, the cucumbers are a great size, and there's the variety you need in sizing for making dills (some big ones, some small ones, and everything in between).
Just found out that one of our members makes laundry powder, picked some up for myself, and wanted to let you know about it, too!
Handcrafted Laundry Products
Whether you’re trying to reduce your exposure to unnecessary chemicals, lessen your footprint on the earth or just save money these laundry products may be for you. Dionne Warr creates handcrafted laundry products that are both environmentally and people friendly.
Laundry Powder is available in your choice of three scents -- tea tree & lavender, citrus or unscented. The base of each batch of laundry powder is Dionne's own soap, handcrafted from coconut oil, RSPO palm oil, lye and essential oils (the unscented soap is free of essential oils). Each loaf of soap is grated and mixed with baking soda, washing soda, borax and Oxyclean. For a regular load, one tablespoon is all you need to keep your clothes looking and smelling clean!
Stain Removal Bars are also available. Simply wet the bar and your soiled article of clothing and rub them together until you create suds. Once you've soaped up your soiled clothing it can be laundered right away or saved until you're ready to do a load. After all, there are no harsh chemicals that require your immediate attention.
At present there are two lightly scented options for Linen & Room Spray, citrus and lavender. Many people like to spray their pillows for a fresh scent, but it can be used for so much more than that! Use it as a chemical-free version of Febreeze. Use it as a room spray to eliminate those not so fresh scents. Keep it in your fridge and spritz yourself when you need a refreshing pick me up!
Dionne’s dryer balls are handcrafted from 100% wool. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, if you toss three to five balls in your dryer with your wet laundry, you'll reduce your drying time by 30-50% as well as reduce the amount of static created in the dryer! And what's even better? If you have an essential oil that you like, you can add a few drops to your dryer balls. Then when you toss your dryer balls into the dryer, it will add a lovely scent to your whole load of laundry without the chemicals of dryer sheets!
I've been doing some meat inventory this morning and sorting out the pork we got last week. We got four pigs back from Reid's Meats late last week, and since it was late in the day, Tim and I just had time to label it and get it into the freezer.
Today though, I have some time to sort out what we have and organize for next weeks meat shares. Once the pigs are at the butchers, I call in with what we want it cut into. I usually get roasts, but this time I decided to get all the roasts cut into steaks. So we have fresh ham steaks, shoulder steaks, ground pork, pork chops, hocks, and spare ribs. Enough to fill one whole chest freezer (med size), and probably that will give us pork for two meat shares.
You only get a few ribs back from four pigs and so we'll be putting those on as add on's. They range from 2lbs packages to 4-5lbs. I wanted to share a rib recipe that is quite delicious. It's called 12345 spare ribs, and growing up it was the rib recipe that my dad would always make. He presented it in a covered dish and would serve it with white rice (which is so good with some of the rib sauce on it), gingered carrots, and a salad. This recipe does have quite a bit of sugar in it. So what I do is really enjoy it in moderation and make it once or twice a year.
12345 Spare Ribs
2 pounds pork ribs (spare ribs or country-style, cut into chunks)
1 tablespoon sherry
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons tamari
5 tablespoons water
In a large wide-mouthed heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, combine the rice wine, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and water. Add the spareribs and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
If the meat dries out and starts to burn, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time. The ribs are ready when the meat is tender and glossed with a sticky, reddish-brown glaze and the liquid has been absorbed. Serve with freshly steamed rice and a vegetable side dish.
If there’s still a lot of liquid at the end of the cooking time (this can happen if the meat contains a lot of water), remove the meat and raise the heat to high. Cook until the liquid turns into a thick, sticky sauce. Add the ribs back into the pot and toss to coat. You can also broil the ribs on high for 3 to 4 minutes to create a nice burnished crust while you reduce the sauce..