Wanna be our new neighbours?

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One of the great things about living here at Shalomstead is that we are part of Largo Farm. We are part of a larger community than just our little family (as lovely as that family is!)
In fact, if you’ve been following our adventure so far, you will know that we have a unique form of home tenancy and land sharing with our neighbours – we don’t actually own anything! We don’t pay rent, we don’t exchange labour for housing, and yet we are able to share together with our neighbours in the common life of this community. There’s no doubt about it: the land and the house we inhabit are the legal property of our neighbours, and we have no interest in “buying” it. But we have a unique form of sharing, which allows us to homestead in the community without having all the investment capital which it would have taken us to set up on our own. I know, it is unfamiliar. There are not many models for this type of land-sharing arrangement. Our community is pioneering a new way, for a new era.
Now, the great news is that our neighbour up the hill, a ten minute walk away, is also looking for someone to share her farm, in the same way we share with Judy, Tom, Johnny, and Josephine. Our neighbour’s name is Betty, and she is Judy’s sister. The photo above is a little glimpse of some of Betty’s homestead. She has beautiful gardens, a gorgeous barn-style house, and lots and lots of land. She is looking for someone to come and join her, hopefully a couple or young family. I’m copying Betty’s own description of what she is hoping for below. She is also open to exploring other options and possibilities.
If you don’t have money for land or housing, but really want to homestead on a beautiful bit of land, in an amazing little community, then this could be for you!
If you want to start the conversation, please contact Betty at bettydaniels@gmail.com
Here’s some of what Betty has to say:

Don’t Own Land, But Want to Start Farming?

I am looking for one or two families to share my farm in northwest Saskatchewan.

The People: My husband retired from farming in 2008 to work with our son near Saskatoon. Since then, we have rented the cropland and pasture to neighbours. I return to the farm in early April and remain until mid-October, during which time I tend our extensive gardens.
The land has been in my family since the 1930s. My husband and I moved there in the early 1970s. He operated a grain farm. I gardened and preserved food, taught English as a sessional instructor and, with my husband, founded a community theatre group.

The Land:
Approximately 130 acres of our home quarter is cultivated cropland. The remaining 30 acres are home to five natural ponds (two with year-round water), lots of birds and small mammals, two large vegetable gardens (including strawberries, raspberries, asparagus, currants and fruit trees), a 20 ft x 48 ft wood-heated greenhouse and one smaller greenhouse, a two-car garage, six grain bins, a solar cooker, poplar bluffs and plantings of mixed trees, some seeded grassland and a wood-heated 1800 sq foot cedar house surrounded by a landscaped garden and shelterbelt. The 30 acres could accommodate an additional family or two.

Our farmstead overlooks hills to the east and a lake to the south. The remaining four quarters are primarily cropland, although they include some native pasture as well as a number of ponds and poplar bluffs. The pasture includes access to a good dugout.

The Community: The farm is 5 km east of Cochin, a resort village with a growing population of retirees and people who commute to work in North Battleford. The village has a grocery store, a restaurant, a small library, a volunteer fire department, a Plus 40 club, two churches and Cochin Community Theatre.

We are a few km from Moosomin First Nation to the north and from the farms of two of my siblings to the south. My sister Judy and her husband Tom, with an adult daughter and son, operate a small mixed farm and community-shared agriculture garden. They share their farm with a younger family, Janice and Sean and their three children. The ten of us (plus my husband when he’s home) enjoy frequent potlucks and shared social events. We will soon be joined by my brother’s daughter Rachelle, who plans to return to her parents’ farm and take over operation of their seed business, Prairie Garden Seeds.

The Situation: Although Doug has created a new life working with our son, I want to maintain the family farm. I am therefore looking for one or two families to share the homestead and to farm the land.
I would provide:
shared use of the homestead, including gardens and greenhouses
shared use of our water truck (with 1400 gallon tank)
housing (either shared use of my four-bedroom house or alternative housing) for a one-year trial period
start-up costs for shared chickens and possibly dairy goats, and for an unheated grow-house
the opportunity to rent cropland and pasture

The Dream: Although the land has been farmed conventionally, I want to make a transition to sustainable agriculture. That would mean reducing fossil fuel inputs, eliminating agricultural chemicals, finding sustainable ways to maintain soil fertility, and diversifying the farm operation.

The Cost: For the sake of both parties, I would require a one-year trial period before either side made a commitment. During that year I would provide housing and shared use of the homestead in exchange for work. Since I would not expect any capital investment during that first year, rental of the cropland and pasture would be optional. (The renter would have to provide any necessary farm machinery and livestock.) There would be an opportunity to practice sweat equity in the construction of buildings for livestock, the seeding and fencing of pasture and other farm improvements. At the end of the year we would negotiate such details as long-term land tenure (perhaps via a Community Land Trust) and permanent housing.

The Requirements:
I would like to share my farm with a family of two adults (children of any age welcome), at least one of whom wants to farm and has farming experience.
I prefer people in their mid-thirties, or older—but would accept younger people.
Must be financially solvent, and able to join me in the spring of 2015.
Should visit the farm at least once (preferably more) before making any commitment.
Handyman and carpentry skills would be a major asset.
I would like a business plan, or written description of your proposed farm operation.
It is not necessary for one household to rent all of our land.

Interested? I’d love to have you come to the farm for a visit.
Betty Ternier Daniels

bettytdaniels@gmail.com

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Carpentry again

Seeing something that you have made with your own two hands give you an amazing feeling. For some people it’s knitting or sewing, but for me it’s woodworking. Although I still have so much to learn, I’m pleased with how much knowledge I’ve gained in the year. Just yesterday Johnny taught me how to use the table saw, something which I hadn’t used yet. It was nice to learn how to operate it, from starting the generator up, to the actual sawing, and I’m sure it will be a helpful skill in the years to come. That said, there is something especially pleasing about using hand tools. The turning of a screwdriver or the push and pull of a saw is very satisfying. Hand tools are generally safer too.
This fall I took on several carpentry projects for Christmas and birthday presents (I can’t say what they are of course!) and I’m thoroughly enjoying the work. Apart from that, I’ve been designing myself a tiny (8′ x 12′) house. My eventual plan is to build and live in it until I get married and need a slightly bigger space. The design features a sleeping/storage loft, and an open concept main floor. As of now I have a rough draft sketched out, and more detailed drawings are on their way.
After becoming very interested in architecture/design last summer, I have read a lot about it, mostly focused on smaller dwellings (see Sarah Susanka), and it feels great to start the process of creating one especially for me. I’ve designed small houses in the past, but this is a lot different, because it know what I need and want. It’s also way tinier!
If seeing something like a shelf I’ve made brings me joy, I can only imagine how great it will be to live in something that I have designed and built myself.
~~Christopher
P.S. Please enjoy these pictures of past projects of mine.

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Our New Puppy

About five months ago, the farm dog Katie had a visitor.
Not long after, six lovely pups were born. Three black and three brown. Both of their parents are a mix of a bunch of different dog breeds, but the puppies definitely have some German shepherd, pit bull, and black lab. Those may sound like fairly aggressive breeds, but both Katie and the dad, whom I dubbed Cerberus during the time he was here, are very gentle, smart dogs and that was obviously passed on.
It was, and still is, a delight to watch the puppies as they grow. Never having a dog before, it’s a brand new experience for me. When the puppies were born you could pick them up and hold them in the palm of your hand, but they have grown so big that it’s like getting a hug from a bear when they wrap their arms around you.
From the moment we realized Katie was pregnant, my family had our name down for a dog. A while after they were born, after much consideration and thought, we picked one. There are only two girls, one black and one brown, and we picked the black one. It was a very hard decision, since they are all so cute, but it was the right one.
It seemed like it took longer to name the pup than to choose her, but eventually we all settled on Shadow. Tom and Judy’s daughter Josephine-who is in charge of the pups-had already named hers, and gradually the other puppies got names too. Robin helped out with the naming, and one of the dogs is called Sad Puppy Eyes.
The day before Rowan’s birthday, May 16th, Shadow moved in!
It was, and still is, a big change for the whole family. Chi Chi (our cat) still hasn’t quite gotten used to her yet, but that will come. Hopefully.
We thought it would be a challenge to keep Shadow in the yard, but due to a board across the bottom of the gate, and that Shadow likes it here (of course), she hasn’t gone out of the yard unless she’s with us.
I was also worried that Shadow would miss her brothers and sister, but she seems to be doing fine.
Shadow has a large kennel in the backyard, where her food and water bowls are, as well as the post we chain her to at night, but she spends a lot of time on our front deck, or underneath it depending on the weather!
Today has been a rainy day, and to convince Shadow to take shelter under the deck, dad took his coffee outside and sat with her (see picture 4).
Yesterday one of her brothers, Diego, left for his new home in Saskatoon, and with Shadow here, the “dog pack” looks a lot smaller. But that’s a good thing, since the puppies are growing up, and need more space to themselves.
So if anyone is seeking a dog, there are still three gorgeous puppies looking for a home!
–C

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Planting carrots

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This week, Judy and I planted carrots in the garden. Not carrot seed — carrots. We took some 170 of the nicest nantes carrots we harvested last fall, dug a row of holes, tucked the carrots in tight and packed the earth down tightly around them. Greenhorns gone awry? Definitely not. Especially on Judy’s part!

No, the effort was part of our biennial seed patch for Prairie Garden Seeds (and our own use). Carrots, beets, turnips and other biennials do not produce seed during their first year of growth. In our climate, they have to be dug up, stored for the winter, then re-planted in spring so that they can continue their natural growth cycle. Over the course of the summer, these carrots will turn into tall bushy plants with white flowers (similar to Queen Anne’s lace) that eventually develop the seed for future carrot plantings.

I am still a novice seed-saver. Last year I did help some with the harvest of carrot seed, but this is my first time planting the roots. I have to admit, it did feel a little odd taking full-grown carrots and burying them in the garden. But I can’t wait to see how they grow, deepening my participation in the mysteries of a (largely) closed-loop farm.

Janice

Horse-Power!

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I know it’s a bit hard to see, but there is Robin, working with the beautiful Belgians. Josephine, intrepid leader of our new Catholic Worker community, is patiently showing Robin the ropes (or, more accurately, the reins!) of harrowing the gardens.

It was so amazing to walk back from the orchard and see this sight. Robin is pretty much fearless, but still … there is something deeply moving about seeing such a little person working so closely with such big beasts, no matter how gentle they are. Just for a moment, it gives me a reminder of how things may have been back in the Garden (of Eden, that is) before the fall, before the fracture of relations, when all Her creatures lived at peace with each other.

May it be so again, in the dawn of the Resurrection.

– Shawn

Full of Beans

full of beans

Beans are one of the crops that first drew me to Largo Farm. They have been a staple of my diet for the past twenty years and for the past five I have been attempting to eat locally as much as possible. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that the dried beans I had been purchasing through an organic food co-op were grown in China! Matters only grew worse when I learned that organic foods grown in China are often even more hazardous that those sprayed with chemicals, because the plants draw up heavy metals as their roots dig deep in the soil for nutrients.

Something had to be done. I had sources for local split peas and lentils, but the only beans I could find were of dubious origin. They had been packaged in Saskatchewan, but it was unclear where the beans themselves were from.

This all changed when I learned about Largo Farm. Here was a source of dried beans grown right here in Saskatchewan without the use of chemicals. I ordered a healthy supply of Great Northern and Norwegian brown beans (the farm’s preferred varieties) to get us through the winter.

I also got more interested in growing beans. Devoting space to dried beans in my tiny garden plots was really rather ridiculous. But I couldn’t resist. Beans are just too beautiful. My mother-in-law shared seed from her Tongue of Fire beans and I purchased seed for Hopi black and Annie Jackson’s pole beans. As expected, the few plants I had room to plant did not yield a whole lot of beans. My inexperience made the yield even smaller; much to my surprise, the pods spiraled as they dried, scattering beans in all directions. Dedicated as I was, I picked up as many as I could, but I’m sure that garden will produce beans for years to come (sorry Curtis!). Nevertheless, I was hooked.

Beans were a point of connection when Judy and I met in person, and now that I’m here on the farm, I’ve had the opportunity to experience the cycle of drying, threshing, cleaning and selling.
We have a very traditional way of threshing the beans. When the pulled plants are sufficiently dry, we lay a bundle in a large plastic watering trough lined with a metal screen. We stomp, jump, and dance on the plants, then shake them out, flip them over, and repeat the process. When it looks like most of the pods have ceded their treasure, we toss the plants aside and pour the beans and chaff into a screen. We use our hands to rub off any stubborn pods, then proceed to winnow the chaff by pouring the beans from pail to pail in a windy spot. Cleaning takes place on cool fall days, when we spread the beans out on the table and sort through them to remove any cracked or broken beans and any persistent debris. They are then ready to be weighed, sold and eaten. Yum!

Here are a few of my favourite bean recipes, starting with the hummous that was a bit hit at North Battleford’s Seedy Saturday last week:

Great Northern bean hummous
3 cups cooked Great Northern beans
¼ cup fresh mint, or 1 Tbsp dried
¼ cup fresh parsley, or 1 Tbsp dried
3 Tbsp soy sauce
¼ cup lemon juice
3 large cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2 small onions, minced
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp chili powder

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. (Or, lacking a food processor, make sure the beans are extra well cooked and the onions and garlic minced extra small, and mash everything together with a potato masher.)

One fine feature of Great Northern beans is that they are very soft, with a mild flavour. This means that they puree well and can be added to all kind of baked goods without affecting the flavour. I tend to replace half the fat in my biscuits with pureed beans. I also make a beany pizza crust and scrumptious beany brownies. Here are the recipes:

Beany pizza crust
1 ½ cups pureed beans (Great Northern work great)
1 tsp honey
3 Tbsp yeast
¾ cup warm water
2 ¼ cups flour (I use whole wheat)
1 tsp salt
¼ cup oil (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Knead for 5 minutes, adding additional flour as needed. Let rise 10 minutes, covered, before rolling out and adding toppings.

Beany brownies
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup bean puree
¾ cups cocoa
1 cup honey
¾ tsp salt
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup chocolate chips

Mix butter, bean puree, cocoa, honey and salt. Add eggs, one at a time. Mix in vanilla, flour and chocolate chips. Bake in a greased 13 x 9 inch pan at 350 for 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Of course, beans are also fabulous in soups, stews and casseroles. Here are a couple favourites:

Autumn Minestrone
2 Tbsp oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 ½ cups peeled and cubed winter squash
2 celery stalks, diced
½ cup peeled and diced carrots
1 ½ cups cubed potatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
6 cups water
4 cups chopped kale
1 ½ cups cooked beans (I like large soft ones like Great Northern, kidney, Tongue of Fire, Mrs. Kahl’s)

Warm the oil in a large soup pot on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the squash, celery, carrots, potatoes, oregano, salt, pepper and water and cook for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are almost done. Add the kale and beans and simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the kale is tender and the beans are hot.
(with thanks to Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special)

Tamale Pie
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
3 Tbsp garlic, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried oregano
1 to 2 Tbsp water
1 cup peeled and diced carrots
1 cup diced red and/or green bell peppers
1 cup diced zucchini
1 hot Hungarian wax pepper, minced, seeds removed for milder flavour
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 ½ cups cooked beans (kidney, pinto, or black are ideal)
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup cornmeal
1 Tbsp whole wheat flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 egg, beaten
½ cup buttermilk, yogurt, or soured milk
2 tsp vegetable oil

Warm 2 tsp oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onions and garlic, cover and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, oregano, enough water to prevent sticking, and the carrots. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers, zucchini and hot pepper, cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and beans, cover, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 400.
Grease a 2 quart nonreactive casserole dish. Spread the vegetable-bean mixture in the bottom of the dish. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk and oil. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring until just mixed. Pour the batter directly on top of the vegetable-bean mixture, pressing it down a little with a spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden and a knife inserted into the topping comes out clean.
Garnish with minced scallions, chopped cilantro and sour cream.
Note: A layer of grated cheese may be added between the vegetable-bean mixture and the cornbread topping. Also, an equal amount of seasonal veggie can be substituted for the peppers and zucchini. I’ve been using baked spaghetti squash for the past couple months!

— Janice

The Death of Chronos

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I broke our clock. It was a beautiful wedding gift that has graced our various homes for the past 15 years. I didn’t mean to break it. And yet it seems somehow fitting. A few weeks before we moved to the farm, my watch died. Now the clock accident is taking things one step further.
Even more so than the summer, winter on the farm has meant taking our cues from the world outside. Rather than rising at quarter to seven, we began sleeping until nearly 9:00. Why not, when sunrise was sometimes not until 9:20? We soon learned that it is much more pleasant to stay up a bit later in the evening, reading around the fire, than to attempt to begin a new day when it is still cold and dark. After years of busy city life, it felt odd to be eating breakfast until as late as 11:00. But the pattern made sense to our bodies.
Now that spring has sprung, we are experiencing a new rhythm. The increased strength of the sun shining through our bedroom window in the morning is notable. Rather than faintly illuminating the room, it summons us to rise and embrace the new day. Our solar power system is also feeling the change. This morning, our batteries were fully charged before we’d finished eating breakfast, even with the computer running.
And while I enjoy being outside on a sunny day at any time of year, I find that the farm is beckoning me stronger than ever. Unfortunately, I have been fighting a nasty cold and have had to resist responding as I would like. But the kids are feeling it too. All winter, I had to enforce outdoor playtime after lunch. Now, they are running out of their own volition, often without even a coat on. We don’t need a calendar to tell us that spring officially begins in 2 weeks. We know in our bones that it has already begun!
— Janice