Tag Archives: NaBloPoMo

If Only Fritzy Could Talk!

IMG_7991[1]Yesterday, after the eagle incident, I was a bit leery about leaving everyone unattended for fear the mighty hunter would return… Turns out, my instincts were right. I’m not exactly sure what happened at dusk, but here’s my best attempt at piecing together the crime based on the slim evidence I have available…

In the photo above (I was trying to sneak close enough to photograph the dogs making friends with the piglet… ) the dogs on the left are dying to play with the piglet, the piglet has discovered a spot where she can squeeze under the electric fence and has decided to help herself to a bit of mash I’ve put on the ground for the ducks to distract them while I prepare the hog meals. The duck is first on the scene for snacks and over there on the right is Fritz Frizzle. I have no idea where he is heading but he didn’t even slow down at the snack bar.

Several more photos in the series show him moseying on down the hill and disappearing somewhere down near the manure pile. Of course, I was paying no attention to where Fritzy was going because I was busy feeding everyone else and trying to get a good shot of the dog-swine conversation and it was only later that I studied the photos to see if I could spot him anywhere and thereby figure out when he was last known to be in one piece.

There are a whole slew of things that get done between the afternoon feed and the dusk bird round-up during which I mosey up and down the hill a few times myself, tucking various flocks into various secure houses so nobody gets eaten by owls or raccoons overnight. Usually, Fritzy hops up on the fence beside the gate and waits for me to pick him up and carry him into his secure pen. His girlfriend, Lucy, has a private dog-kennel apartment in the hay shed (how she wound up there is described in this post).

Usually, Fritzy is in position by the time I’m heading for the upper duck pen and I scoop him up on my way and herd any straggler ducks into bed with Fritzy tucked under my arm. Yesterday, he wasn’t in his usual spot. Nor was he in his second favourite spot, inside the tomato hoop house. I checked the hay shed in case he was mooning around trying to get Lucy’s attention. Searched high and low and could find him nowhere. I had the awful feeling that the eagle had returned and made off with my lovely little Fritzy…

I tried to console myself that the eagle was obviously hungry to be so brazen to snatch Fritzy and make off with him while I was around, but having witnessed the drake hunt I couldn’t rule out that possibility. Still needing to sprint up the road to close up the chicken pen in the leased field, I left his pen door open and tried not to feel too miserable.

I checked around again when I was feeding night hay, shining my flashlight under the bushes where he and Lucy had been during the eagle attack, thinking he might have hidden there, hoping I wouldn’t find a pile of feathers. Nothing.

This morning I did all the rounds, keeping an eye out for Fritz, just in case, though I had resigned myself to his sad demise. My breath caught at some point when I spotted a reddish brown pile of what I thought was feathers and turned out to be ancient maple leaves in the hog pen. I kept trying to shut off the endless loop of ‘Why him? Why one of my favourites? I should have let the eagle eat the drake – I have too many drakes and after a meal like that the eagle wouldn’t have needed to eat again for days…’

At the very end of the morning rounds I was kneeling down in the goat pen talking to King (one of the kashmir goats) when I heard a distinctive cough behind me. I turned around and there he was! Fritz Frizzle had returned! He looked terrible, like a middle aged man with a bad hairpiece who had been out on a wild bender. One eye was weepy and more closed than open and, strangest of all, his comb was missing! All that’s left is a fleshy stump!

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I can only imagine what happened… did the eagle think that all those wild and crazy feathers actually indicate the size of the bird? Maybe he had hold of feathers in one talon and poor Fritzy’s comb in the other? How far had they got before the eagle dropped my poor little rooster? Fritzy never hangs out in the goat pen – he was approaching from completely the wrong direction – coming downhill from the opposite end of the property from where he usually hangs out… Had he holed up under somebody’s car or deck or a handy log overnight and then started walking at dawn? Had it taken him five hours to get back home again?

Despite his nocturnal misadventures, he was not impressed when I scooped him up and put him into his pen with food and water. He perked up a bit when I delivered Lucy to him and by the end of the day, despite his rather oddly shaped head, he appeared to be completely fine. His eye was open and clear and he was sitting beside Lucy, chatting in that funny little voice of his.

What wouldn’t I give to know what on earth happened to Fritz Frizzle… Very, very glad he is back at home and safe and sound. I’ll keep him in for a couple of days to make sure he really, truly is ok and then… yeah. I’ll have to decide whether or not to let the two love birds back out again.

Meanwhile, WHEW!

Well, That Was Exciting! [And why was my phone in the truck???????]

Bald eagle making dastardly plans...

Bald eagle making dastardly plans…

I was at the back of the truck using the tailgate as a handy table on which to hack up soft pumpkins and squash to feed to the hogs, turkeys, ducks, and chickens when the roosters started up their ‘We’re all gonna’ die!!!!’ chorus. The turkeys took up the alarm cry and I turned around to see a bald eagle skimming along knee high in hot pursuit of one of my drakes! They were headed straight up the driveway toward me, the drake intent on escape, the eagle intent on lunch when the drake shot under the truck and the eagle, a bit surprised to see me, swooped up and over me and did a couple of slow, lazy loops just overhead. All of this happened in a few seconds and whether I could have whipped my phone out fast enough to capture the drama is unlikely, but I found myself slapping my empty butt pockets as I realized I had left the phone in the truck cab! The eagle circled overhead a couple more times as I scrambled into the cab, retrieved the phone and watched as the bird landed on a nearby tree branch.

We had a conversation, then – me explaining to the eagle that he was welcome to hunt rabbits and rats but if he wouldn’t mind leaving my birds alone I’d be most grateful. The eagle shrugged himself off the branch, circled once more, and then sailed off with nary a backward glance. It’s odd, actually, that he was going after a drake. The adult muscovy males are nearly the same size as an eagle and would put up a formidable fight. They have huge talons and are generally not bothered too much by predators (the smaller female ducks are another story…).

Time will tell whether the eagle was paying any attention to my pleas for mercy on behalf of the flock.

Artist vs Farmer

Artist: What are you doing?

Farmer: Photographing a rutabaga.

Artist: Cattle feed.

Later…

A rutabaga and a turnip disappear into an artist’s studio (which sounds like the start to a terrible joke but is actually what happened some time after Dad saw me taking photographs of root vegetables for yesterday’s blog post…). What came out of the studio was these two drawings:

Which goes to show you don’t need to wait for inspiration to show up in order to start drawing – you just need a couple of vegetables.

Seeing the two drawings, though, made me think of how easy it is to take a photograph and how hard it is to capture the essence of a thing. Somehow, artwork created by hand still has a fundamentally different feel to it than a photograph in terms of the way it captures the subject matter at hand.

I hasten to add that taking a good photograph isn’t easy at all and taking an exceptional image – well, one can wait a lifetime and still not capture the ultimate shot. But taking the time to sit down and craft by hand the likeness of something – that is, I think, a skill that we shouldn’t forget about or dismiss just because it has become so easy to capture visual data. I can’t put my finger on it, but there is some quality inherent in these sketches that is lacking in my photos posted yesterday. Running my photos through any number of tricky filters isn’t going to help. I feel very fortunate to live with an artist who has a studio full of brushes and paints and pencils and pens with nibs and bottles of ink… It never ceases to amaze me how Dad and I see and interpret the world differently, even when we are both looking at exactly the same thing.

And Now, Root Vegetables: The rutabaga vs the turnip

What is the difference, anyway?

What is the difference, anyway?

After yesterday’s topic of discussion (which has triggered quite the mind-bending conversation over in the comments) I feel the need to return to a subject that’s a tad easier to wrap my head around. What is the difference between a turnip and a rutabaga?

Rutabaga

Behold the Mighty Rutabaga

When I posed this question to Dad he muttered, “Swedes?” and then something about cattle feed. According to Wikipedia, it’s common in the north of England (Dad’s original stomping grounds) to call a rutabaga (aka the ‘swede’ – from ‘Swedish turnip’) a turnip. Dad’s reference to cattle feed is a standard comment delivered whenever I mention certain easily grown vegetables which, apparently, were  deemed unfit for human consumption by Brits during WWII. Kale, collards, turnips, and parsnips are the main culprits and if the Queen would never deign to eat cattle food, then why should he? 

Turnip

Turnip

Unfit for human consumption isn’t quite right – it seems to have been more that things were so bad during the war people were reduced to eating fodder more often consumed by cattle and hogs. Though Dad now eats collard greens, turnips, and rutabags, he draws the line at kale. Steamed, baked, or served up as chips- kale remains in the cattle feed bucket as far as he’s concerned, regardless of kale’s current status as a super food.

Back to the question at hand, what is the difference between turnips and rutabagas?

According to Niki Jabour’s very good book,
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live I’m not the only one a bit confused about the exact differences. Both are in the cabbage family with bulbous roots and the varieties I’m familiar with sport the same colour scheme (white toward the root end and pink blooming into a deep purple toward the greens end). Turnips, though, are smaller and rounder (Niki harvests hers 6-8 weeks after seeding). Rutabagas are BIG (they can be up to six inches across) and take much longer to mature. In both cases,  you can eat the greens (we harvested all manner of brassica greens last year and sold them in our early goody boxes as braising greens – delicious!)

Niki suggests sowing turnips in cold frames late in the winter and then continuing to sow out in the garden from late April through mid-August. Rutabagas, on the other hand, she treats as a once a year crop, planted in early summer and harvested in the fall after 3-4 months of growth. Turnips can be eaten raw (I’ve never tried this, but Dad remembers snacking on them as a child… though if he called Swedes (actually rutabagas) turnips, then I’m not entirely sure what he called a turnip…) Rutabagas are generally cooked first.

Turnip v rutabaga - discrimination test - which is which?

Turnip v rutabaga – discrimination test – which is which?

We’ve used baby greens in salads but like most of the brassica family, they soon develop quite a strong taste and, when fully mature, can be bitter. Coat in butter or olive oil and add your savoury seasoning of choice and then sautee with garlic and perhaps a few onions and yum! A tasty veggie side dish.

I just stumbled across a recipe for mashed rutabagas and carrots, which I plan to try soon to take advantage of the gorgeous organic carrots Liz has been growing down at the end of the road. So good! We’ve been using them in salads, smoothies, and roasted  – mashed with rutabagas sounds like a cool addition to the list of carrot prep options.

Daily prompt: Mirror, Mirror – Felfies, Selfies, and the long tradition of the self portrait

Daily Prompt: Mirror, Mirror  Look in the mirror. Does the person you see match the person you feel like on the inside? How much stock do you put in appearances? Photographers, artists, poets: show us MIRRORED.

Some of my favourite paintings done by my father are his self portraits (accomplished by spending many long hours looking into a mirror suspended just off the side near his easel). They are him, certainly, but they are not – they are studies in portraiture, the human face, and, when looked at as a series, a story of a life being lived. In an early self-portrait he is clean shaven with a neat mustache, in a more recent painting he sports a full beard (something which still catches me by surprise as Dad only started wearing a beard in his 70s…)

E. Colin Williams, ARCAThis piece was the last done before Dad grew his beard. What is striking to me about these drawings and paintings is they completely lack any ‘say cheese’ quality ubiquitous in snapshots taken during family gatherings, vacations, or when friends get together for an evening of fun. I suppose that’s partly the result of having to sit and stare at yourself long enough to actually do some sort of hand-crafted rendering. Grinning like an idiot for hours and hours would surely cramp cheek muscles and quickly transform a big smile into a pained grimace.

The selfie (a self-portrait typically taken with a hand-held device and often intended to be uploaded to a social media site) can be a grinning snapshot (there are plenty out there of people snapping self-portraits with an off kilter Eiffel Tower in the background) or have a ‘look at me and this cool thing I’m doing with this awesome other person!’ flavour, but there are also lots of selfies out there that explore who we are in our everyday lives. Felfies (self-portraits of farmers) are an example of self-portraits of farmers from around the world in their natural environments doing their thing.

This is my selfie nod to Depression Era photographer, Dorothea Lange.

In this New York Times piece, James Franco suggests the selfie is a way to introduce ourselves to the wide world and for celebrities to feed their hungry fans with an endless diet of glimpses into their private lives.

The selfie as an art form is emerging as a fascinating way to capture how we see ourselves, how others see us, and, perhaps, how we want others to see us.

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Selfie in Green

Staring Contest

Staring Contest with a Selfie

This article looks at the selfie as an art form and coincides with the opening of the National #Selfie Portrait Gallery. [Why, I wonder, are so many of the sample images included with the article taken in public washrooms?]

I have been working on a series of selfies that challenge cultural ideas of beauty and aging [don’t get me started… I could probably sustain a year of blogging relating to those issues]

In the end, will the selfie be an art form at which we roll our eyes?

Eye Roll Selfie

Or will it prove to be an uncanny way to uncover something about the self that lurks behind the cheesy smile of snapshots and only emerges when you spend some quiet time alone pointing your phone at your face…

[The Daily Prompt: Mirror, Mirror]

Alderley Grange Goody Box 2014

Today’s post is a guest post by my lovely daughter and hard-working CSA/Goody Box coordinator, Dani…

This year, we are offering several options for CSA subscribers.

This year, we are offering several options for CSA subscribers.

What the Heck is a CSA?

Community Supported Agriculture programs, often known as CSAs, are becoming increasingly popular for farmers and their customers, but many who haven’t been exposed to them before aren’t quite sure what they entail.

While there are as many options as there are CSAs, the general principle of all of these ‘box’ programs is the same. During the early spring months, members of the community sign up for the program, essentially making a commitment to purchase a certain amount of product from a farm in the upcoming year. The commitment they make is a financial one as well: shares are pre-purchased at the time of sign up, even though products don’t start arriving for up to five or six months.

Why the delay? For farmers, some of our highest costs come early in the spring. This is when we are building needed infrastructure, purchasing seeds, putting in amendments, buying or breeding livestock, and generally preparing for the year ahead. Unfortunately, it’s also when income opportunities are lowest, as there is generally very little available to sell at that time. By buying in to a CSA, customers provide invaluable capital for farmers to start the season. Customers have pre-paid during the months when we have the most product available, and when our costs also happen to be lower.

If a CSA is a large percentage of a farm’s sales, as it will be for the Alderley Grange this year, then knowing how many shares have been sold before it is time to plant, order, and plan is also extremely important and helps us to provide our customers with the best-possible products over the course of the season.

Goody Box Contents - SampleOn the other hand, customers go into the summer knowing they will receive local, in-season produce all season, and that they will have the opportunity to get to know their farmers and food producers well. It’s a great chance to learn what is in season at any given time and to learn some new flavours and recipes. CSAs tend to provide the classics—carrots and potatoes—and the unusual—lovage and edible flowers—which lends itself to a varied experience from week to week.

The average CSA tends to provide a box of vegetables each week. Sometimes these come with a recipe, and sometimes you have the chance to add something like a dozen eggs. Some larger farms, such as Essex Farm in New York State, are able to provide fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, grains, maple syrup, and more to over 200 members, while others offer far more limited choices designed to supplement your weekly trip to the store.

At the Alderley Grange, we fall somewhere in between, and are also passionate about making our Goody Boxes a fantastic—and unique—experience for our customers.

Our popular Lifestyle Box, the flagship offering in our CSA program, offers members six veggie items, a fruit item, a dozen eggs or a package of sausages on alternating weeks, a specialty item (in 2013 this included a cook book, herb scissors, goat’s milk soap, and more), a recipe, 10% off all additional items purchased at the Grange, and more.  ($37 week; $740 season)

Other options include our Veggie-only box ($24/week; $480/season), and based on popular demand, an ‘everything-else box’ for members who grow their own vegetable gardens but want to enjoy local protein and goodies ($27/week; $540/ season).

We are also excited to be starting a monthly protein box this year, which will run from June–December and includes 12–13 pounds of meat each month, as well as a whole turkey for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Members of this box can expect to enjoy pork, beef, lamb, turkey, duck, and some more unusual meats like bison or venison, knowing that everything they are consuming has been pasture-raised on organic feed, without any added hormones or antibiotics by small-scale growers here on the Island. ($160/month; $960/season).

Goody Box Alderley Grange

As much as possible, all box products come from us here at the Alderley Grange on the Saanich peninsula, but when we need to supplement from another farm, we make sure it is local, organic, ethical, and farmed with love. The bottom line is that our CSA customers get some of the best produce around, and have the opportunity to form a relationship with the source of some of their family’s food at the same time.

Registration is now open, so consider supporting local food and guaranteeing your weekly or monthly share of some truly amazing food and goodies!

Visit us on Facebook to find out more and sign up here: www.tinyurl.com/alderleygrangeorderform

[Note from Nikki: I will add a new CSA page here, too – check back in the next day or two to see if the link is up there at the top of the website… Also, if you are confused about the Alderley Grange vs Dark Creek Farm – Dark Creek Farm is the name of the farm and the Alderley Grange is the name of the farm stand. Corporate branding experts would no doubt be horrified that we have two names going on, but our customers are smart cookies and figure it out pretty quickly….]

Mark Your Calendars!

With apologies to distant readers, here’s a heads up re. some local farm-y events heading our way…

Egg Addling Workshop – (or interest to anyone dealing with the resident Canada Geese)
January 25, 2014, 9:30 – 4pm 
St Mary’s Anglican Church, 1973 Cultra Avenue, Saanichton
Free egg addling and permit training opportunity! Join us for information, addling training and support with completing permits related to resident, non-migratory geese. Workshop is free, but please RSVP 
 
Meet Your Maker Monday, January 27th, 2014
9:30am to 3:00pm
9:00-9:30am- Registration, Set-up & Coffee
Sannich Fairgrounds
1528 Stelly’s X-Road
Sannichton, BC
This event is a networking event for BC food producers and BC food buyers (not the general public.) Great opportunity for small producers to connect with local buyers (restaurants, wholesalers, grocery stores, etc.)
Registration is now open!
 

Islands Agricultural Show February 7-8, 2014

Celebrating the International Year of Family Farming
Cowichan Exhibition Park, Duncan, BC
Trade Show Hours: 8:30 am- 4:00 pm.
Trade show admission fee: $5.00 each for adults and children get in free
Conference registration includes admission to the trade show and Welcome Reception
 
SAVE ALR button
Family Day Rally to Save the Agricultural Land Reserve – February 10
http://farmlandprotection.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Feb10-Poster.pdf
Noon – BC Legislature Grounds
More info: Farmland Protection Coalition
 
 
Seeds, Glorious Seeds
February 15, 2014 Seedy Saturday – Victoria (**Note: Many communities organize a Seedy Saturday event at the beginning of the gardening season – have a google to see what’s happening in your area)
Saturday, February 15, 2014 
10am – 4pm 
Victoria Conference Centre, 720 Douglas Street
 $7 cash at the door
Under 16 free
  • Speaker Talks
  • Exhibitors (Enquiries at info@jamesbaymarket.com or voice message 250-381-5323)
  • Open-pollinated Seeds
  • Seedlings, Plants, Shrubs, Fruit Trees
  • Seed Exchange
  • Displays
  • Garden & Food Products
  • Books
  • Kids’ Activities
  • Master Gardeners
  • Chef Demonstrations
  • Seedy Cafe
  • ATM on Site
  • NEW: Gardening Book Exchange
  • NEW: School Scarecrow Contest
DFMA Banner
Vancouver Island direct Farm Market Association Spring Meeting –
February 20, 2014 
Oak Room, Main Hall, Saanich Fairground @ 7 pm. We are planning to invite several member farms who use social media tools to come and share their stories about how social media helps promote their farm or winery business.
 
Farmer 2 Farmer March 6, 2014
Thursday, March 6, 2014
9:00 am to 4:30 pm
Registration, coffee, meet ‘n’ greet 8:15 am
Saanich Fairgrounds
1528 Stelly’s Cross Road, Saanichton