Thursday, August 27, 2009

Food preservation

In this season we, at Joybilee Farm, are working furiously to preserve the bountiful food harvest before rot or winter come. In Southern B.C., Canada, where we live, we are blessed with abundant fruits and vegetables close by -- within a two hour drive in any direction. The fruit orchards of the Okanagan are just over 1 hour away. The tomatoes, peppers and other veggies are just a half hour away in Grand Forks. Friends and family visiting the Fraser Valley -- a 6 hour drive away -- bring back blueberries, too. So during August and the first half of September, we work together as a family to put by veggies and fruit.

I don't do as much canning as I used to. We hate pickles. We hardly use relishes or chutneys. So my canning is minimal -- limited to food that we actually eat like jams, tomatoe sauce, whole tomatoes, salsa, borcht (a vegetable soup), and apple sauce or apple cider. Other fruit is dried in our dehydrator or frozen for fruit smoothies in the winter. Vegetable are mostly frozen by blanching in boiling water, plunging in cold water and then freezing on a baking sheet, so that they can be poured out of a freezer bag to use.

Over the years I've streamlined the food preservation to foods that I would buy in the store if I didn't put them by for winter.

By preserving food when its in season, we save lots of cash on groceries throughout the year. We maximize the nutrition in the food we eat. And we avoid food additives, common in commercially prepared foods. We increase the variety in our diet year round. Plus its good for the environment when we eat local, in season foods and we keep our carbon footprint small. We also decrease the necessary trips to the store and have no fear of snow or avalanche that might keep us farm bound for a few weeks in winter.

The added bonus comes with family togetherness, as we all help to get the food into the dehydrator or canner -- peeling, slicing or whatever each fruit or vegetable demands.

If you think that your family is too small to warrant preserving food for the winter, you may be missing out on a lot of fun, satisfaction, and nutrition. A single adult needs about 2 cups of fruits and vegetables per day or over 300 lbs. in a year. When packaged loosely in freezer bags or glass jars, that food is easy to mete out in serving sizes.

Here's a great way to eat your harvest of frozen fruit --

Fruit Smoothie -- 2 servings

2 cups of milk, preferably raw
1 raw egg
1/2 cup frozen fruit (blue berries, strawberries, peaches, mangoes, etc.)
1 tbsp. honey or maple syrup (or to taste)
1/4 c. ground flax seed (optional)
Blend together in a blender until thick and well mixed. Drink immediately.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fall is in the air

The day temperatures are cooler already and we had frost in the garden the last two days. Sarah and I harvested some new potatoes, coreopsis flowers, red heart radishes and diakon radishes. The carrots are still puny and the broccoli is not even near flowering. Still waiting for the zucchini to come along and haven't had many beans yet -- just lots of flowers. We pulled up the pea plants on the weekend and put the last of the peas in the freezer.

The dye pots are going strong with golden rod, and woad. There are so many woad leaves that we can't keep up. 2 kg. of woad leaves will dye 500 grams of wool to a medium blue shade -- after about 3 dips in the vat -- 20 minutes each. Then the colour is exhausted.

Sarah is beginning to loose steam with her science fair project on woad-indigo. She has about 60 woad extractions to do this phase and is less than half way. Sarah feels that the regional science fair committee doesn't like her because she is homeschooled. So she has lost heart to compete with her project. She wants to continue the research, but she doesn't want to enter the science fairs with her project because it feels bad even when she wins medals at the national level -- due to the negative vibes.

Jobs left to get ready for winter:

Clean out the barns
Bring in wood for the winter
Bring home 1,000 hay bales
Create product for the Christmas Craft Fairs
Preserve the garden harvest
Install the wood burning cook stove
Organize the homeschooling assignments for September
Purchase the school books

No pictures today.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Robin's Brother

Robin's brother, John Rutherford Dalziel, had a bicycle accident last Tuesday evening, while riding with his wife to a friends house. John is now in Vancouver General Hospital, with a broken neck and a damaged spinal cord. He is a quadrapaligic. In an instant his life has changed, and ours with him.

John now needs assistance to breath, to eat but not to think. His mind is quick, and although he cannot make a sound, he can still talk by moving his lips, nodding or shaking his head and clicking with his tongue.

John has always been a staunch example to us of Christian discipline, godliness and faith. And now our faith and his is being tested in a furnace of affliction. John is still an example to us -- with his trust in God's good providence, even in the face of suffering.

A blog is being kept by John's nephews and nieces to keep friends and family informed of John's progress in healing.

Update: There is hope that John may regain some mobility in time and with much work. His spinal cord was damaged but not severed, so as the nerves regenerate there may be improvement in his condition.

Day by Day

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counsellor and Pow'r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E'er to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till with Christ the Lord I stand.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Chapatis with Flax -- Recipe

These make a great substitute for tortillas and can be made up in 20 minutes -- less time than it takes to run to the store.

You will need a gas burner -- a camp stove or barbeque flame will work, and a flat pan or griddle. Everything should be preheated to high before you start to cook the chapatis.

Makes 15 large or 20 small flat breads for about $1.25cnd

3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup freshly ground flax meal
1 tsp. salt
2 cups of water, enough to make a stiff dough

Mix together and knead until smooth and elastic. Kneading by hand gives a better texture than kneading with a mixer. Divide into 15 (or 20) round balls. Place in a plastic bag to keep from drying out. Now forget about them for about 30 to 60 minutes, while you do something else.

Preheat your griddle or pan to high. It should be so hot that a drop of water will dance on the surface.

Roll thinly, 1/8th inch thick, on floured board or counter. To keep them round, turn dough a quarter turn after each roll. Place each one, as soon as it is rolled, on very hot, ungreased, griddle or pan. Cook a few minutes on each side of bread, until bread begins to puff and gets brown flecks. Its important to cook each side -- but not too crisp. This gives structure to the dough so that it can puff dramatically at the next stage of cooking.

Immediately place over gas flame burner -- directly on the flame. Bread will puff dramatically. Cook only a few seconds on each side to puff the bread. Use tongs to flip it. A metal spatula may damage the crust. If this is done correctly the flat bread will puff like a pita. If it doesn't puff completely it will still be delicious. The puffing makes the bread light.

Cover finished chapatis with a towel to keep them warm. Serve warm.

Leftovers will store well in a plastic bag in fridge or freezer. To serve reheat briefly on a hot griddle and serve warm, like a tortilla. These can be used like tortillas in quesadillas or enchiladas. Or serve with tatziki or hummus.

2nd Annual Linen Festival is a happy memory

42 people enjoyed the 2nd Annual Linen Festival at Joybilee Farm on Saturday. Randy Cowan was here, from Crop Fibers Canada (Saskatchewan) and gave several very informative talks about growing flax, different kinds of retting, and offered us a wealth of handouts, recipes and brochures. Two Grand Forks area farmers attended and took home enough fiber flax seed to grow an acre. Many others took home enough seed for a 20 x 20 plot (1 kg. when planted for fiber production or 500 grams when planted for seed production.)

Joybilee Farm now has four varieties of fiber flax seed to test -- two are white flowered and two are blue flowered. Although this seed originated in Europe, it was grown in Saskatchewan.

I learned much more about linen and flax. I learned that there is no such thing as a dual purpose flax -- since the seeding rates for fiber production and for seed production are different. When seeded for seed production, the stems are thicker and the resulting fibers are coarser. When seeded for fiber production the stems are finer and longer but the resulting seed yield is less. Randy recommended that when growing flax for fiber production, a second plot for seed production be planted, so that there is enough seed for another year's crop, when both are combined. Oil seed flax can be grown for linen production when it is planted thickly (1 kg. seed for a 20 x 20 plot). Linen fibers should be 50 cm long. Fibers that are shorter are considered tow fibers.

I learned that I wasn't retting my linen flax long enough. I learned that I need to soak the flax for a day, then empty the bathtub and refill. Then rett it past the slimy, bubbling, stinky stage until the outer core breaks easily from the stem. The first soaking begins the breaking of the outer fiber and begins the retting process. The second soaking deals with the lingons and pectins that hold the fibers together in the outer core.

I learned that there is an easy test to see if your flax is retted enough. Take a 6 inch piece of stem. Break it and place it in a test tube. Put on a lid and shake it vigorously. If the outer fiber separates easily from the inner linen fiber, then the flax is retted enough. This test saves you having to dry the fiber and test break it. Randy also provided me with samples for field retting so that I can compare my retted flax to see if its finished retting.

I learned that linoleum is made from flax. And most of the world's linoleum is made from Canadian flax.

I learned that Canada is the world's producer of flax -- mostly as oil seed. And that 80% of this flax is grown in Saskatchewan -- mostly oil seed flax. Most of the fiber from this production is burned in the field -- incurring baling costs to the farmer as well as being a major source of air pollution. But oil seed flax is a very good source of linen tow fibers -- with many uses. Much of the world's textile linen is now "cottonized" (chopped in to small bits to be carded with cotton) which reduces its production costs, allowing it to be processed with cotton equipment. However,when linen is cottonized it loses many of its distinctive qualities -- especially its durability and wearability.

I learned that China is now the world's producer of linen fabric. There are no mills in Canada capable of processing linen. There is a project in Saskatchewan to set up a mill capable of processing this luxury fiber -- a project looking for venture capital. Talk to Randy at Crop Fibers Canada if you are interested.

I learned that flax seed has many health benefits -- prevents cancer, levels blood sugar, and helps prevent high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. That both the fresh oil and the seed are beneficial, largely due to their antioxidant properties. Flax tastes great in baked goods and can be added to many foods. Its also a great addition to pet food -- especially when your pets are following a natural rearing diet. Flax improves coat condition and adds minerals and vitimins.

I learned that Value Village is a great source for shirts made with 100% linen. And you can find it by feel. Linen has an uneven weave structure, with slubby texture, making it easy to spot on the racks. Most people don't want them because they need to be ironed. But linen improves with washing so don't let a few wrinkles deter you from wearing this luxurious fiber.

A big thank you to Randy Cowan for traveling all the way from Saskatchewan to enhance the 2nd Annual Joybilee Farm Linen Festival. We were all enriched by your vast knowledge of linen and your generous sharing. Randy has promised to come back in 2010 to the 3rd Annual Linen Festival on August 7th at Joybilee Farm.

Thanks also to Dave and Connie Carlson. Connie's organization of the volunteers for the day, allowed for everything to go smoothly and without incident. Dave's entertaining us with his hammock knotting gave variety to the spinning circle.

Thanks to Ruth, our WWOOFer from Israel, for helping out with the admissions and directing traffic for the day. And for helping with the clean up afterward. We valued your assistance and it made the day go more smoothly.

Thank you to Miranda and Ian for organizing the food and providing us with refreshing smoothies, chia and mochas on ice.

Thanks to our visitors for supporting us -- Denise from Arrow Lakes, Jan from Edmonton, the family from New Zealand, Evelyn from Roberts Creek and many others. It was great to share our enthusiasm for Linen with you.

Requests were made to make the linen festival a weekend event with camping on the farm. Arrivals would be on Friday night, with organized festivities on Saturday and a brunch on Sunday before every one headed home. If you would find this appealing let me know so we can begin to plan for next year.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Linen Festival Countdown -- Linen Tow Paper

Tomorrow is the 2nd Annual Linen Festival at Joybilee Farm. The Port-a-Potty arrives today in anticipation of many people converging on Joybilee Farm on Saturday at 10am. We cleaned house and cleaned the yard over the last three days. Still more to do but we are essentially ready.

The Weekender, The Grand Forks Gazette, and The Boundary Creek Times Mountaineer all published stories about the Linen Festival in their papers last week and this. Robin had people come to him at the Farmer's Market and say, "See you Saturday. I wouldn't miss it." CBC radio 2 played our public service announcement 2 weeks ago. And we' ve been advertising on the web for weeks.

The man that prays for rain and then prepares his fields is the man with faith that God will answer his prayer. So we have prepared the fields, so to speak.


Linen paper is easy to make from the linen tow that is the waste after combing out the line linen for spinning. The technique is very similiar to felting or making silk fusion/silk paper. So if you've made felt or silk paper before -- linen paper is easier -- no agitation and no textile medium needed.

You need:
Clean linen tow -- remove all the shive and chaff that you can because the hard stems will prevent the paper from binding together. The more clean tow that you can incorporate, the finer and more stable your paper will be. For an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper you need a lot of linen tow -- 200 grams. Once you have the technique mastered you can add other fibers, too, like silk threads, petals, seeds, shredded paper, etc. Add these other fibers sparingly so that the integrity of the paper is not compromised.

A fiberglass window screen cut to size. It should be 2 inches taller than your want your paper to be and twice as wide plus 2 inches. You will fold the screen over the linen tow to enable you to wet it out.

A sponge to dampen the paper and to blot up excess water.

Water in a spray bottle.

An iron, pressing cloth and ironing board or protected surface.

A wooden or marble rolling pin.

Begin by opening the window screen and lay out one layer of flax tow, being careful to cover the screen by laying the tow in one direction, very similiar to laying out wool fibers in preparation for felting. Leave a one inch area free all around the window screen. This will allow your paper to spread once it is wetted out.

Add a second layer of flax tow perpendicular to the first layer. Cover the first layer completely.

Add a third layer of flax tow perpendicular to the second layer and in the same direction as the first layer.

Fold over the window screen to cover the flax tow completely.

Using a spray bottle, wet out the flax paper, through the screen using plain water. Make sure the paper is thoroughly wet. Turn the screen over and dampen the other side as well.

Work the water through all layers with your hands. Roll the screen containing the linen paper with your rolling pin to press the fibers in place. Use your sponge to wipe up excess water. Turn over and repeat on the opposite side. Lift the linen paper from the screen to make sure that it doesn't stick to the screen then replace it.

Once you are satisfied that your linen paper is thoroughly wet, leave to drip and dry in the sun for a few hours until it is just damp.

Leaving it on one side of the screen but opening the folded screen for ironing, press the linen paper with a hot iron, set on linen. Use a pressing cloth. The cloth will change colour due to the pectin still in the flax tow. Press thoroughly on one side, flip the paper over and press the other side.

Allow the paper to thoroughly dry.

Beautiful linen paper ready for your application -- This high quality homemade paper would make beautiful cards, boxes, or the inset for a screen. Add flax seeds, flax flower petals, daisy petals for texture and colour.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Flax in Canadian History

"We can no longer, with justice to ourselves, remain dependent on a foreign nation for articles, which home skill and capital can manufacture equally well. The growing wants of our home population must be met by the produce of our own soil and the skill of our own artisans...

...Considering our present mercantile position, it becomes the duty of every man who has a piece of ground suitable, to sow some flax. He would, by so doing, not only adopt the best crop to bring remuneration to himself, but also give encouragement to those who by a large investment in capital are endeavoring to create home manufacture." -- The Canadian Farmer, Vol III, No. 14 (1866).

Written at the time of the American Civil War, when cotton was scarce and cotton prices were high. "The irony was that flax grew well in parts of Ontario and the fibre could be turned into cloth, thread and twine, but there was no market for it. In 1859 all the flax that was scutched was exported to the United States." Farmers consistently lost money when growing flax for export. Once mills were developed in Canada for processing the flax fiber into cloth, production of flax increased, manufacture of linen increased and farmers continued to lose money on the crop. (Mavis Atton, "Flax Culture from flower to fabric", (Ginger Press: 1988) p. 16-18.)

Today flax is grown as an oil seed crop -- mostly on the prairies. And the straw -- rich as it is in linen fiber -- has become a problem. It doesn't decompose easily into soil humus. It damages equipment when it is left in the field or turned under. It must either be burned in the field or utilized as a fiber. Again flax researchers and farmers are meeting to discuss ways to increase the value of the crop, while dealing with the fiber. Yet the majority of the worlds linen cloth is being manufactured in China.

It is our hope, that the discussion will be meaningful and that the farmer will gain, while linen cloth -- a very special fabric -- will once again be available for clothing and home textiles.

Come to the 2nd Annual Linen Festival at Joybilee Farm, this Saturday, and join in the discussion.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Linen Field Harvest

The flax field is nigh unto harvest. The flax is 2/3 rds yellow and some of it is all yellow. I started harvesting the ripest stalks from the field yesterday. There will still be lots for Saturday at the linen festival.

I noticed that the stalks that are closer together are finer than the stalks on the outside of the field -- the fiber should be finer, too. It is a lovely site, to see the flax ready to harvest.

Saturday is the linen festival at Joybilee Farm. We are hearing from a lot of people who say they are coming. Randy Cowan from Plant Fibers Canada is going to be here to talk about fiber from flax and the research that they are doing in Saskatchewan. Connie and Dave Carlson, of Ft. MacLeod, Alberta, will be here -- just having fun. Ruth is our WWOOFer from Israel and she will be helping out at the festival.

Today Ruth helped me to pull up the flax stalks by the roots so that we could bundle them and stand them up in the field to dry. This year's flax looks fine and long. It will be a very good harvest, in spite of the hail storm a month ago that bent some of the stems.

See how beautiful a field of ripe fiber flax is.

Flax is, in theory, ripe exactly 100 days after planting. I wonder why every thing is ripe at the same time -- this week I am harvesting garlic, peas, dyers Marguerite, and suey choy cabbages. There isn't enough time to get it all done. Is there?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Joybilee Farm profiled by Noreen Crone-Findlay

I received an email from Noreen last week asking for an interview for her blog, Hankering for Yarn. What fun? Noreen asked some deep questions. It was fun and took a few days between chores and dye pots to give honest answers.
Read the article.