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The Monday TapRoot Van Breakdown

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Hi folks, as I was driving back from the city yesterday I was thinking I should write a blog post about the day to give you a little insight as to what kind of things can happen and how we problem solve them on the farm.

Yesterday Jem and I and the Blue Team from Applewick's were making shares in the warehouse.  Meagan was right on schedule and left the farm at about 2:30.  At 2:58, my cell phone rang.  It was Meagan, saying the van had no power and she was pulled over on the side of the highway.  I immediately dropped what I was doing and gave Patricia a heads up and then called Andrew Bishop at Noggins to see what vehicles we could borrow.  Andrew is Patricia's dad, and he's an efficiency expert and great problem solver.  While I sorted that out, Meagan called our mechanic to see if they had any advice and then our wholesale delivery that we do on the way to reschedule it for the drive home (saving us some time on the way there).  Meagan was stuck at exit 11, only a couple kms away from Noggins, and so Andrew dropped whatever he was doing and headed over with the truck and trailer.

After popping in the office to send a quick email and facebook message to the Monday Hawthorn members, anticipating that we would likely be late for the CSA pickup, Patricia and I headed over at 3:10 to meet Meagan.  By the time we arrived, Andrew and the two guys he brought with him had nearly everything (shares, flowers, eggs, wholesale order, add ons) neatly loaded into the trailer.  We had to switch drivers as Meagan has never driven the Noggins trailer before, so I grabbed the list from Meagan and was moving on the road again at 3:29 pm.  As I found out, Hawthorn is exactly 61 minutes away from Exit 11, and I pulled up right on the nose of 4:30 pm, the start of the pickup!  I was stoked to unexpectedly get to see all the friendly faces at Hawthorn-- Not what I had planned for my Monday afternoon, but a great surprise nonetheless!

Thanks to the patient members, who braved the constant line up yesterday to pick up their shares.  There are 90 members at Hawthorn who pickup in a 1-hour window, which I realized yesterday is too many!  We will do our best to try to have Meagan arrive 15 minutes early from now on, but it's not always possible unfortunately. 

It ended up being a fuel filter needing replacement on the van.  Our van is serviced every 8-10 weeks as it uses a synthetic oil and thankfully only requires a service every 12,000 kms.  We put on over 1200 kms per week with deliveries alone.  On Friday, the van was 200 kms away from needing a service, which means it was only about 200 kms over by Monday and had a scheduled appointment for Friday-- As Patricia said: "It didn't want to wait until Friday!".  It's both annoying and a relief that it was such an easy fix-- Meagan and I do our best to keep the van running smoothly and making sure its regular maintenance is up-to-date, as it is a very critical piece of farm equipment.  The van is already zipping around the farm this morning, getting ready to go to the city this afternoon.

A big thank you to Andrew and crew at Noggins for their help yesterday!  Something I love about my job is that there are often moments that require quick problem solving, even on a day that seems to be running smoothly -- You never know what might pop up!  Great to see everyone yesterday, and I hope you have a great week!

 



Sunday Fridge Foraging

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I'm a little ashamed to admit that though we grow amazing, delicious, and wonderful veggies here at the farm, Jon and I don't always do the best at getting them into our bellies.  Due to a lot of the same issues that I'm sure some of you members experience, too-- We forget to pick up our share, we aren't home to cook, I can't eat most veggies raw and Jon can't eat most fruit raw-- so quickly grabbing a snack is a hurdle sometimes-- and various other excuses, often that I am too lazy to cook and we live right behind a chinese restaurant and a pizza place, and after a long day at 9 pm it's easier to pick up the phone than a pot.

At any rate, this weekend we had two shares worth of veggies in the fridge and I was determined to make lunch so that I would actually eat lunch.  I skip breakfast and lunch most days (I KNOW-- terrible, but I have some digestive issues I need to sort out, and right now I do better totally avoiding food rather than eating the wrong foods and getting a crippling stomachache-- the "wrong" foods for me appearing to be a long list of delicious vegetables that I love-- Poo!!). 

So, I roasted a smoked ham, I cooked up a bunch of potatoes, I cut my losses with the over mature beans and yellow broccoli which hit the compost, and the rest I turned into two pasta dishes which made enough meals for Jon and I to eat lunch for the week.  One is Salmontail River Sausages, zucchini, and corn, and the other is everything else that was in the fridge: Basil, bean, tomatoes, celery, fennel, jalapeno, parmesan, bacon.  Both delicious, but I do think I will avoid corn from now on, as it doesn't make my belly feel good.  :(

Paired with pasta (or rice would be great, too), these were an easy lunch solution for us this week, and minimal effort.  I didn't use a recipe, just my choice of what flavours I wanted together and bacon.  Lots of bacon.  (Not kidding: all of this was cooked in bacon fat.  Jon and I work hard enough that eating bacon fat is okay!)

We tried both flavours on Sunday night, topped with some arugula from our salad mix patch:

Members, I'd love to hear some of YOUR fridge forages and how you make things work.  I love picking up little tips to make life and managing the fridge easier-- I'm sure we all do!  What are your secrets? 

 



Summer Pickling!

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I can probably count the number of times we had store-bought jam, pickles or salsa in the fridge in my house growing up on one hand; every summer my family (just my mother and I as I got older and more interested in food preservation, and my brother got less interested) would go picking a variety of berries - strawberries and raspberries mostly - and and then make dozens of jars of jam both to eat and give away. When we moved into a house with a yard that allowed for it we started growing tomatoes, cucumbers, dill and (for the first time this year!) garlic for making our own homemade pickles and salsa. Since becoming an employee of TapRoot and after not being able to garden at all this year save for a small flower box and grow bag of tomatoes, I decided to do my pickling with produce from our lovely farm :).

This year at TapRoot we currently have two different pickling packs available (for dilly beans or cucumbers, as well as bulk cucumbers for bread and butter pickles) and hopefully more variety coming soon! I got myself one of each of the pickling packs and grabbed a couple of zukes and carrots that I had in my fridge from the weeks shares to make a couple jars of "mixed" pickles.

 
First assemble all your ingredients, I used:
  • One dilly cucumber pickling pack containing 10 pounds cucumbers, two heads of garlic and a bunch of dill
  • One dilly bean pack containing the same, replacing the cucumbers with 5 lbs of yellow beans
  • 10 small carrots  *
  • One green and one yellow zucchini *
  • Dried cayenne peppers *
  • Red pepper flakes *
  • Mixed peppercorns *
  • Fresh thyme and basil *
  • Bernardin pickle crisp - my mom and I use this because we highly value crispy pickles. Mushy = yucky and usually if they're not crispy we end up tossing them anyways.
*These are all optional - I wanted to make some pretty mixed pickle jars for Christmas gifts*
 
Next we sanitized the jars
There's a couple ways to sanitize your jars - we used our canning pot of boiling water since we had it out already for processing. 
While the jars sanitized we scrubbed the cucumbers and let them sit in cold icy water which is supposed to help them retain their crispiness. We also washed and trimmed the beans and prepped the rest of the veggies.
 
Put our spices in the jars
We use a dill flower and a good little bundle of the leaves - some people use the stem but we don't usually.
For four jars of the beans I used a whole dried cayenne pepper (Thanks, Teri!) and for the other four I used 1/2 tsp of multicoloured peppercorns and 1/4 tsp of dried red pepper flakes.
For my mixed pickles I also did half with cayennes, half with peppers and flakes and I also added fresh thyme and basil from the garden. I put one whole (or two pieces depending on their size) garlic clove in every jar.
 
Packed in the veggies
 Some of my beans are a bit long - you want them trimmed to the neck of the jar. You pack in your veggies so there is no wiggle room, but do not crush the beans or other veg! 
 
Poured in the brine, placed the sanitized snap lids and rings on and processed the jars for ten minutes.
 I use a 1:1 ratio of vinegar:water for my brine. You can make a milder brine, even a sweet one for the mixed pickles but I love super salty-vinegary pickles. After pouring in the brine you want to tap it on the counter or poke around the veg with a skewer/chop stick to ensure there are no air bubbles. 
 
 


Some Cucumber Recipes

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I expressed some concern over the dozen or so cucumbers in my crisper at home right now, and asked everyone yesterday while we were making shares to give me some suggestions.  Here they are, my favourite being a simple sliced cucumber served with salt and vinegar-- Sounds like this is a pretty common way to enjoy them around here: I had no idea!  Reaching out for recipes always yields some gems and good tips!


Cucumber Blueberry Smoothie - From Jem

2 cups garden cucumbers peeled, seeded and cut into chunks.
1 cup low fat vanilla yoghurt
1 cup frozen blueberries
1-2 tbls honey or agave nectar
1 tbls  lemon juice.
Place all in blender and blend until smooth.


Crispy Cucumbers and Tomatoes in Dill Dressing - From Jem

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill weed
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cucumbers, sliced
1 cup sliced red onion
2 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges

Directions
In a large bowl, mix the vinegar, sugar, salt, dill, pepper, and oil. Add cucumbers, onion, and tomatoes. Toss, and let stand at least 15 minutes before serving.
 


Tangy, Refreshing, Salt and Vinegar Cucumbers - Suggested by Trish and Ronnie

  • 1 cucumber
  • ice cold water ( I use the filtered water from my fridge)
  • vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Peel and slice the cucumber. Place in a bowl that is large enough to cover the cucumber with the water.

Cover the cucumber with water.

Add a large splash of vinegar, and the salt

Place the bowl in the fridge and let sit at least 15 minutes, preferably 1/2 hour.

Taste the cucumbers and add more vinegar or salt depending on your taste. Marinate a little longer, drain and enjoy.


Easy Tzatziki Recipe - Suggested by Meagan
 
Ingredients
1 cup Greek whole milk yogurt
1 English cucumber, seeded, finely grated and drained
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Directions
In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and dill. Season with salt and pepper. Chill.

For some extra flavor, add some olive oil and some coarsely chopped fresh mint. Serve with crudities at your next party. Brush a pita with some olive oil and sprinkle za'atar on top. Bake in the oven until crispy and serve.

It's also pickling season!  Check out Meagan's first TapRoot blog post ever about her Summer Pickling last week, as she made friends with our Dill Pickle Pack as well as our new Dilly Bean Pickling Pack (both listed in Add ons/Products under "Preserving Packs".  Meagan and I are working on coming up with a few more preserving packs as the season progresses and more produce become available, due to great feedback from members and popular demand!



New to the Add Ons Section!

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New to the add on shelf this morning: A kitty!  Actually, this kitty (Samson Salad Mix) has been commuting with me to work since last Sunday when Jon and I found him in the salad patch.  He was very sick when we found him, but has now had worm and flea treatment and is on antibiotics as well for a nasty respiratory infection.  He's doing much better now and is actually a bit of a troublemaker, like all kittens should be!

He is about 4 months old, and though we are already in love with him, Jon and I are not allowed to have cats at the house we rent and so for now he is planned to be an office kitty.  There are a lot of mice in the CSA office, so he will have an important job on the farm.  The newest addition to the TapRoot Team! 

I am also open to the idea of someone adopting him to a loving home-- He is adorable and very very friendly, and loves being around people.  However as he was a stray, he comes with a list of ailments and likely also has feline leukemia, so the vet said he may have a short life.  It will be a good one-- as, if Teri Jenkins has one weakness in life (I have a lot more than one!), it's orange kitties!

For now, he's content curled up on the shelf next to the Camelina and Canola Oil.  :) :)