Friday, February 27, 2015

Organic Box - organic foods...delivered

Organic Box statement

Organic Box is one of our biggest supporters and is a great venue for us smaller, organic farms to distribute our products. Organic Box is a tremendous success story and a proud Edmonton, family-run business. They have consistently expanded in a sustainable way and have grown their team of energetic staff over the years. We love dealing with Organic Box in every imaginable way!
In addition to regular home deliveries within Edmonton, Organic Box also delivers to surrounding Northern Alberta communities. Below is a list of towns and the pickup locations. This is a great way for folks to obtain organic food in areas where an organic food store may not exist.

Morinville and Sturgeon County - Our home town and county!
Saturday pick up only at Highstreet Interiors Inc. 10031-100 Ave, Morinville, AB

Athabasca - Pick up at the Train Station - Sundays (biweekly)
Our farmers daughter in the Spelt field

Peace River
Peaceful Pantry 9911-101 Ave - Wednesdays (biweekly)

Ft. McMurray
Two locations for pickup only on Thursdays
Wood Buffalo Food Bank - 10117 King Street
Sangsters Organic Market - 395 Loutit Road

Stony Plain
Saturday pickups
Multicultural Heritage Centre, OpportshauserHouse, 5411-51 Street

Cindy on our first seeder and tractor! I miss that outfit.
To find our products on the Organic Box website simply click on the Catalogue then click the Pantry category. Finally, click the Flours & Grains icon. Or...just click the link that I've taken the time to set up for you. lol

There are many options for purchasing quality organic foods, but as always, reading the details about the product will help you make the best choice for you and your family. We hope you'll choose our heirloom, organic, stone-milled, fresh, whole flour and grain products.


John Schneider
Gold Forest Grains Inc.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Parkallen Home Kitchen Double Chocolate Cookies

Another great recipe from Jacquie at Parkallen Home Kitchen

Whole Grain Double Chocolate Cookies
Photo courtesy Parkallen Home Kitchen
I see that Jacquie has chosen to use GFG Soft White Wheat flour. This is NOT white flour, a common question from our customers. Instead, it is an Entire Grain flour stone milled from Soft White Wheat as opposed to Hard Red Wheat.

Tip: An interesting thing that @gfgcindy does with our cookies at home is to add a little whole or ground flax to the batter. She insists on getting as much "health" into our food...and it actually tastes great!

Friday, February 06, 2015

A new stall at Strathcona Farmers Market

We've been at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market for about 4 years now. We started the first few months being shuffled around a bit and eventually found a permanent home along the wall on the East side of the market next to August Organics. It was a standard 8' stall and served us well for a few years. However, I was sure starting to find it cramped in there. Our products somewhat limited because we just didn't have the shelf space. Over a year ago, I applied for a corner stall. These corners are highly sought after and almost never become available. A couple weeks ago, the market manager Stephanie let me know that there was a corner available and would I be interested in being considered for it?

Our old spot on the east wall
The new corner spot...under construction
It would seem like an easy decision, but one thing I've noticed is how customers are used to seeing things in their particular place. I was a little worried that once we moved, there would be folks who would see our usual stall occupied by someone else and then just assume we've gone from the market altogether. After assurances from the market and talking to several other vendors who offered to help spread the word about our move, I've gone ahead and pulled the trigger. Yesterday morning, before the big storm, I spent several hours moving our fixtures, painting and setting up a new layout on our corner. I still don't have it exactly the way I want it, but I also didn't spend a dime (other than paint). It will be a work in process for awhile until I can figure out an optimal layout.

The plan now that we've moved is first to make sure our customers are aware of the change and then to implement some new products and to maximize the available display space. I hope to add a couple video monitors to be able to show our customers how we farm organically, how the grains are milled and how our farm is progressing.

There is a process to be able to add products to our stall, but they are all related exactly to what we are doing currently so I am not anticipating a problem there. New products will include poultry feed, new pancake mixes (buckwheat, etc.) and perhaps other mixes like cookies and muffins. These products will compliment our existing flour and grains.

So...when you arrive at market this Saturday, we will be at the far North end of aisle #2. Right across from Gull Valley Greenhouses and immediately behind/beside Peas On Earth. This is still the same alley, just at the far end, away from the large doors.

I hope you'll help us spread the word about our products and our new location. We're still a small, growing company and we rely on as much help as we can get from our amazing customers! Thank you.

John Schneider

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A new store!

photo courtesy Amaranth Whole Foods
Cindy is putting the order together today and will be delivering to Amaranth Foods in St. Albert! This will be our second store in St. Albert so we're excited to have a really good foothold in one of our home towns (we have 2 home towns...Morinville and St. Albert). Grapevine Deli, located in historic downtown St. Albert has done very well for us in sales for 2 years now, but Amaranth Whole Foods Market located in the Enjoy Centre will help us cover all of the bases for customers in St. Albert.

As our retail locations expand, we are happy to be able to introduce new customers to our whole and healthful grain and flour products. I do know that Amaranth has ordered our Einkorn Flour as well as other popular products that we produce. Please help support these great local businesses as well as our own. And if you don't see something that you want in their stores, I know they appreciate hearing from you.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Royal Palm Turkey

This is our prize Royal Palm Tom. He's so beautiful and such a show-off. We hatched him ourselves along with his two siblings. We actually lost another Tom earlier to a fox. But he and his brother and sister are still doing fine. Easter supper I suspect.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Einkorn Fettucini

There are few things in the culinary world that are easier to make with flour than pasta. The ingredients are as simple as they come. Flour. Eggs. A pinch of salt...and then a little kneading.

If you cannot make fresh pasta with our flour then you just aren't trying. 

Here is a great recipe for fresh Fettucini made with our own organic Einkorn Flour.

2.5 cups of fresh GFG Einkorn Flour (you can also use Red Fife or Park)
4 eggs
Salt (pinch)

In a mixing bowl the flour and salt can be combined. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the eggs. At this time an optional ingredient can be added - 1tbl of olive oil. I don't think this is necessary, but it doesn't seem to hurt and probably gives the pasta a little buttery texture when all is said and done.

Knead the ingredients together until a smooth consistency is reached with the dough. At this stage you can set your pot of water to boil. I always add a splash of olive oil to the water.

Come back to your dough and proceed to roll it out onto a floured surface. You need to roll it very thin so perhaps dividing the dough into two balls is better. You can use a rolling pin or the bottle of wine you happen to be sipping from while you cook to roll the dough.

Once the pasta is thin enough go ahead and cut strips that are fettucini sized...about 1cm. I used our pizza wheel to cut the pasta. It occurred to me after that you can simply fold the sheet of pasta over itself a couple times and then cut the strips! Duh. Once you have your pasta cut into strips, the water will be at a rolling boil and you can toss it all in. It will cook very quickly, perhaps 2 minutes, so be ready!

Served simply with a little butter, lemon, salt and pepper it is a remarkably simple lunch or dinner. Of course it also goes along beautifully with any pasta sauce you can dream up. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Nana Schneider's Pie Crust

Here is a great pie crust for you to try out. This recipe is used extensively in our home and works great. It is a more traditional, rolled pastry crust and is super easy.

Nana Schneider's pie crust. A rolled pastry that works every single time with most of our flours. I usually use Park for this recipe and I sift it before it goes in the mixer. Nana didn't make a lot of pies that I remember, but she sure made butter tarts at Christmas time. As I grew older, that was my annual Christmas present from her. A tin of homemade tarts. Even now I can still smell the aroma as I lifted the lid off the tin. As far as I know, this recipe is her never fail pastry.

Nana (Marguerite) Schneider's Pie Crust
2.5 Cups flour (I sift our Park flour for this recipe)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 lb lard (I always use butter)
2.5 tsp water
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 egg

Dry ingredients go into the mixer bowl and are blended well. I use the kitchen aid.
Cut the lard into small cubes and incorporate into the dry ingredients with the mixer until it is coarse looking. Stop the mixer.
Add the egg and vinegar and start mixing once more.
Add enough water as you are mixing so that the dough just starts to come together. It may be less water and it may be more. Don't worry about it.

At this point, take the dough out of the mixer bowl and shape into 2 small flattened balls. These can now go into the fridge for about 15 minutes or you can go ahead and freeze one for later use. Depends on how much dough you need for your baking project.

On a floured surface, roll the dough as thin as practical. You will need to add small dustings of flour to keep the rolling pin free of dough. The thinner the pastry, the more tender and flaky it will be. Now you can go ahead and use in your favourite pie or tart recipe!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Back to hunting...

After an absence from hunting of about 6 years, I finally accepted an invitation by Kevin Kossowan and Jeff Senger to join them in Southern Alberta for a few days of shotgun swinging and bowstring pulling. What an amazing time I had and something funny happened on the way to the field.

I've hunted for most of my life. For whatever reason, since I can remember, I have wanted to hunt things and eat them. Some of my fondest memories of childhood include wandering the nearby forests with bow in hand and a folded section of tin foil in my pocket. The hope was to be able to get an arrow into some form of small game and then cook it up.

Over the years, my hunting evolved into something different. Evolved is perhaps the wrong word, for it evokes a sense of improvement or development in a positive direction. That is simply not the case though as I discovered on my most recent trip with food minded hunter friends Kevin and Jeff. For whatever reason, my hunting over the years had morphed away from food and became strictly trophy based. The meat became almost an inconvenience, something that had to be dealt with by law so as not to be wasted. I eventually became both disconnected and disappointed with my hunting activities. Switching from efficient compound bows in the mid-90's to more and more primitive weapons kept things interesting for sure. But the hunting became a chore, something that kept me from my family and made unsuccessful trips all the more unacceptable. Eventually, I quit hunting altogether.

Enter this most recent trip. Traditional bow in hand, the joy of good friends and laughing. A chance to get away from a hard Fall season of business and harvest. But most importantly...a chance to make some food! Back to my youthful feeling of the joy of the field with the prospect of getting to eat something I had a hand in harvesting from the wild. But the bow, an heirloom Bear Kodiak from 1956, while beautiful and easy shooting, was viewed by one particular friend as "pretentious". What?! Me pretentious? While the comment was made in the most friendly of contexts, it really hit home. Here I was with only 3 days available and desperately wanting to make some ingredients for charcuterie with a weapon in my hand that made it ever more difficult to achieve my goal.

Kevin Kossowan's Photo

The day after I arrived home from such a great trip, the laptop opened Ebay. Within two more days I had purchased my first modern compound bow since more than 20 years ago. I look forward already to enjoying next year's hunting season with a much more efficient weapon and a greater chance at putting something in the charcuterie cabinet...and friends that find me ever so slightly less pretentious.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Winter Cooking Classes - #1 Indian Cuisine

I am proud to introduce the first in our series of winter cooking classes. On Sunday, November 2, 2014 we happily introduce you to Michelle Peter-Jones and Addie Raghaven. Michelle and Addie are both passionate foodies and expert cooks. It also helps that they are both of Indian origin and both have studied Indian cuisine during long stays in exotic India! You will learn the art of Indian cooking from two true experts on the subject. You will also enjoy learning about India and it's amazing culture of flavour.

The classes will be held in the warm and cozy kitchen of our Strawbale Farm House. A gentle fire rolling in the wood stove will make you feel right at home. The kitchen not large, so class sizes are limited to 8 participants. We will also utilize the outdoor cob oven for much of the menu...the taste of wood-fired dishes are beyond compare.

The day begins at noon and will run until we are finished enjoying the days cooking. Fine refreshments are included, the food will be amazing and the things you learn will be with you always.

To register for the class RSVP to 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

GFG's Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookies

This is a family favourite on our farm. I like them crispy for dunking in my afternoon coffee. This instantly brings me back to when I was a kid on Nana and Papa's farm where the same ritual was played out 40 years ago. Cindy and the kids like them a little more chewy and with Chocolate Chips. So, take your pick how you like your peanut butter cookie. Either way, they're pretty darn good.

1/2 cup butter - room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter - It has to be crunchy peanut butter or it's not a peanut butter cookie.
1-1/2 cup GFG Park or Red Fife flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1 - Cream the butter and sugars
2 - Add egg, vanilla and peanut butter and beat well
3 - In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients
3 - Add dry to wet and mix until incorporated

Drop suitable spoon fulls of dough onto a cookie sheet and make a criss cross pattern with a fork. Again, if you don't do's not a peanut butter cookie.

In the meantime, you will have pre-heated your oven to 400 degrees. Once the oven is ready, bake your cookies. This is the tricky part. The cookies go from chewy to crispy really quick. So if you like chewy cookies they will cook in about 8 mins. Once they just start to turn colour around the edges. Leave them to colour fully for another 2 minutes or so and they will be crunchy when they cool, ready for coffee.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Rain, glorious rain!

With seeding about 1/2 complete I was getting nervous about the lack of rain in our area. It was dry...very dry. While that made the seeding operations steam along, it did nothing for my anxiety over whether we would get to harvest anything that we were busy seeding. 

With organic farming, the weather and timing are absolutely critical. A good, quick germination immediately after a light tillage means that the crops will get ahead of any possible weed infestation. It is all about competition for resources at ground level. Seed the wheat too early or when it is too dry and it sits in the ground waiting while all around it existing weed sprouts happily push to the sky soaking up the snow's valuable moisture. At times, it is a very complicated process for me. I am glued to the computer monitor watching the latest radar tracking timing the seeding process as precisely as I can. 

This year has been especially crucial as there simply has been no moisture to contend with at all. Luckily, we had a fairly good snow pack and our clay loam soils have retained a lot of moisture. The seeds that were sown earlier are now starting to show themselves. First up is Buckwheat!

This Buckwheat was seeded about a week ago. It is only intended as a plow-down so it was sown earlier than Buckwheat normally would. Buckwheat is a short-season crop, maturing in as little as 90 days under ideal conditions. Normally, I would till the fields from time to time getting rid of the weeds until early June and then seed the Buckwheat that would then be harvested in October. 

Finally, the rain came today! After days of rain all around us I was ready for a psychiatrist. Overnight last night, we had some moisture. Off and on all day today we've had good periods of rain. This will go a long way towards germinating the wheat and flax that have also been seeded.

Nothing stresses me more than a drought...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How to Order and some Pork!

We are getting a lot of questions about how to order products so I thought I should post something formal. All of the products that we have for sale are listed on the Products and Pricing page. If it isn't listed there, we don't have it for sale.

To place an order for pickup at either the farm or Strathcona Farmers Market simply refer to the aforementioned page and then drop us an email with what you'd like to pick up. It will require up to 4 days to fill your order! Please don't order products with the intention of picking up the next day. That makes us feel bad that we are letting you down. We do not keep an inventory of milled flour. We mill fresh to order.

Pork...we now have a limited selection of pork for sale. Inspected. Organically grown/fed. We have chops, cutlets and ground pork for sale. Prices are in the mid to high teens per kg. so it's comparable to other similar pork products around.

One other thing...we are a small farm. We have modeled our farm on our ability to grow just enough grains of various species to mill in to flour for sale direct to consumers. This adds the most value to the grain farming side of things and enables us to at least try to be profitable. If you'd like to purchase grains for home milling, we will still have to charge the same price as we would achieve for our flour products. This is simply a function of supply/demand as we only grow what we anticipate needing for flour sales and future seed supply. We rarely have more than that. The only grains we have enough of to be able to offer for sale at reduced "grain pricing" are Rye and Park Wheat. We hope you understand.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tis' the season...Butter Tarts!

I am a huge Butter Tart fan! Butter Tarts have always been a family favorite and my Nana was awesome at making them every Christmas. Christmas for me would not be the same without those syrupy, sweet treats. As I got older, that became my present from her. For as long as she could bake I received a tin of butter tarts each year. That is a very fond memory for me.

I don't think that I have her recipe anywhere...I have flipped through the family's All-Star recipe book that my Mom put together for us. But, this recipe comes close and is really easy to prepare.

I used our Soft White Wheat for the pastry. It is still an Entire-Grain flour, but you wouldn't know it. The pastry is light, tender and flaky....but, it is SO flavourful; beyond anything available at any store.

So, here is the recipe for you that I use from

For the pastry I don't use a recipe. Here is my description of what I do.

1) A certain amount of Soft White Wheat flour...perhaps 4-5 cups.
2) A pinch of salt
3) A certain amount of lard. I'd say around a cup
4) Ice cold water

I use our Kitchen Aid with the whisk beater. I add the salt to the flour and stir. Then I add the cold lard that I've cut into small pieces.
I start the mixer on medium and let it blend in the lard until it is starting to break down into smaller pieces. The ideal goal with be to have "pea" size pieces of lard in the flour
I then turn the mixer to low and slowly start adding the cold water. I add very little at a time and I let it mix well. Add enough water so that the mix finally comes together into a dough consistency. It will take awhile. Ball up the dough and keep in the fridge until you need it.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Memories of Fall '13

Fall is past. Winter is most definitely here. And I am not prepared. This was such a hectic fall once again and my winter preparations were left to the last minute. With our farming properties spread out so much we are able to mitigate any damage from any one particular storm that usually occurs somewhere around us. The downside to this situation is the amount of time it takes to move equipment and get parts for repairs. We seriously need to consolidate our land holdings. The other thing that really hampered our harvest was breakdowns. There were two periods when the main combine, our Allis Chalmers L2 was down for days at a time with major repairs necessary. The end result though was that we did indeed finish our harvest. It was tough though. Many difficult days.

My daughter showed me this picture though the other day. I didn't know that she and her friend had taken some photos out in the Spelt field. They were beautiful! It made me realize that even though I had had a difficult Fall, she had enjoyed it. It brought me back to my days as a farm kid in the Fall and it made me smile.

Friday, June 21, 2013

market mob!

I am so proud of Slow Food Edmonton and the initiative of some determined members. Amanda VanSpronsen came up with a great idea...a market mob! The very first ever Slow Food Edmonton Market Mob was held last Wednesday, June 19th at the SW Edmonton Farmers Market. What a great idea and a remarkably easy way to become more involved with Slow Food here in Edmonton.

The very first Slow Food Edmonton Market Mob gang!
I would like to encourage everyone to get involved with this remarkable organization and help promote slow food across the globe!

Monday, June 17, 2013


I love pie. I love to eat pie. I don't love to make pie crust. Here is the simplest, easiest and our family's favorite pie crust recipe. It is courtesy of and I've been using it for about a year now. You can change it up by adding a little vanilla or cinnamon, or both...or you can just leave it alone and enjoy the taste of Gold Forest Grains fresh milled flour to come through in your baking.

Rhubarb Pie with a spelt crust and crumble topping on a summer's eve
This pie crust recipe lends itself especially to open top type pies...pumpkin, lemon meringue, etc. However, with a crumble topping of flour, butter and sugar it does a remarkable job of pies that need a top like apple, blueberry and the like. 

At busy times of the year when I don't have even 5 minutes to bake a pie we'll buy them from the farmers market...they're never the same and the family complains how bland they are. White, processed flour will definitely be bland.

The best part of this pie crust recipe? You don't even need to dirty a bowl. All of the ingredients are mixed in the pie plate and you're ready to go! 

Friday, May 31, 2013

CBC Radio - Alberta At Noon

This week we were invited by Holly Preston, the host of Alberta @ Noon to come in to the studio to talk about Organic Farming. It was a terrific experience and we are grateful to have had the chance to be heard across the Province!

If you want to skip ahead and hear our portion of the interview and call-in segment it starts at about 27:38 and runs the duration of the show. Let it buffer a bit before you try to skip ahead...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Certified Naturally Grown?

I am terribly interested to hear what our customers would think about this type of certification vs. organic certification? I have found lately that the paperwork and fees for certified organic status has become quite overwhelming and exhaustive. Not to mention the cost. We spend more than $1000 in fees and that doesn't count my hours of paperwork completion which could easily triple that cost if counted. 

The other issue I have with organics is the increasing leniency of the standards to accommodate large corporate farms. And let's not even get into talking about the organic farms and corporations that helped to fund the Anti GMO Labeling campaign in California last year which defeated Bill 37 which would have required products containing GMO's to be labelled on grocery shelves.  

Enter Certified Naturally Grown...

I've been watching this Certification Body for the past 5 years or so. I have wanted to see how they would grow...or if they'd grow. Certified Naturally Grown has seen a steady march of organic devoted farmers join their ranks over the years. 

There's not much for me to write about this subject. The link above is the FAQ page and pretty much sums it up. My question to my customers and readers of this blog is "what do you think about this?"

While I remain completely devoted to organic principles and have an immensely anti-gmo attitude, I am quickly becoming disillusioned about the process that takes away significant resources to prove I am doing the right thing. I will never use synthetic inputs of any kind including pesticides, herbicides or petroleum based fertilizers and at the end of the day, whether certified organic or not, my customers have to choose to believe me or not. 

My father, John Fraser, was a farmer who used chemicals on his farm and who worked at the fertilizer plant in Ft. Saskatchewan. Considering he died of cancer at the age of 23 when I was 8 months old, I hope you'll believe how organic we really are. 

Decision pending customer feedback. 

An update - We have ultimately decided to stick with our organic certification. While it is frustrating at times to have to deal with the paperwork and bureaucracy, in the end, it is the best system we have for assuring customers of a certain standard. Certified Organic means that the food you are eating is free of GMO and has not been grown or treated with any man-made chemical inputs of any kind. Period.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

A Family History of the Schneiders - More than a Century in Sturgeon County

I discovered this book while on a recent visit to my parents house. It is entitled "Leaves Of Yesteryear - A History of the Bon Accord District". It was written in 1967-69 by Jean Chubb and Hilda Milligan.

Here is a history of our (Schneider) family and how we ended up in Sturgeon County.

Carl Robert Schneider and Clementine Bertha Seidel sittin in a tree...

"Carl Robert Schneider (my Great Grandfather) was born on November 20, 1859, in Reichenbach, Saschen, Germany and when he reached his mid-twenties he married Clementine Bertha Seidel, who was born June 17th, 1859." - I just found out that they were married on my birthday March 7, 1886.

"It was also during the year 1890 that Mr. Schneider emigrated to the United States (alone). He settled in Wisconsin and went to work in a mill. The following year he sent for Mrs. Schneider and the three children, and they arrived in August, 1891."

"In 1892 Carl came to the Edmonton district, arriving in Edmonton by swimming the Saskatchewan River. He did not file on a homestead at this time, although the land office offered him the opportunity of filing on land which is now part of Jasper Avenue. He thought that Ft. Saskatchewan would be the main site of a city and that this land on the north side of the river was "a little far north". Instead of filing on a homestead, he returned to Wisconsin."

"Early in the spring of 1893, Mr. Schneider moved his family to the Plumas area of Manitoba where they farmed for the next 12 years." It was during this time that my Grandfather was born (November 10, 1898). "Around this time Carl became a naturalized Canadian."

"However, in 1905 Carl once more decided to return to the United States. Due to the ill health of Mrs. Schneider (Great Grandma Clementine) he thought the change of climate might help her recover (not sure what was wrong with her, it doesn't say). This time they settled on a farm in the State of Washington, near Spokane. They remained here until 1907 and then returned to Canada (again!). Once more back in Canada, they settled on a quarter section of land near Spruce Grove. After farming there for three years they moved to the Cardiff area, where they rented a half section. (So this means that we came to Sturgeon County in 1910!!) In 1915, Mr. Schneider moved to the Bon Accord area." (This is why I thought we had a few more years until 100 anniversary).

Eventually Great Grandfather Carl bought 9 quarter sections around the area where my family still owns the land, 4 miles north of Bon Accord . He passed away in November, 1924 following a stroke. So that means he was 65 when he died. Too much moving around Grandpa! That much moving in that era would've given me a stroke too.

And whatever happened to Great Grandma Clementine? Well, my dad, Ken still remembers her as "always cooking something" and that "she made the best fried potatoes"! She passed away less than a month shy of of her ninetieth birthday on May 19, 1949, also of a stroke.

So there you have it. Some documentation about our arrival in the County of Sturgeon north of Edmonton. It was fascinating to read the book and learn so many things that people had forgotten about our family.

One other interesting thing I learned was about my Grandfather Harvey McLean who settled in Sturgeon 1911. Again, I thought it was later than that, but I was just guessing. Harvey MacLean (my Mom's dad) was actually a "fourth generation Canadian" farmer. That means that should my kids farm they would actually be 7th Generation Canadian Farmers! Wow. That's quite a long time to be farming in Canada on that side of the family. My mom is texting me now telling me that the MacLeans were one of the 4 founding families in PEI. Which makes sense if Grandpa MacLean was a 4th generation Canadian like it says in the book. She is going to spend some time digging up that story and our living relatives still back in PEI.

I still don't know much about the Fraser's yet. John Fraser is actually my biological father. He passed away when I was 8 months old of cancer. He was 23. I think they settled in the Gibbons area in the 30's, but again I need to do some digging to figure that story out.

A few days later...

Well, was I ever wrong about the Fraser side of my family. Reading the book "Our Treasured Roots-A History of Gibbons and Surrounding Areas" I quickly learned the facts surrounding that side of my family tree. It turns out that my Great Great Grandfather William Gibbons is whom the town of Gibbons is named after. He was a tremendous pioneer who was on the very first train to ever arrive in Edmonton from Calgary. The track wasn't even finished so they had to get off the train to help lay the last few lengths of track in order to arrive at the new station in Edmonton! He arrived in Gibbons and homesteaded on the banks of the Sturgeon River in 1892. So, as it turns out, my family has been in Sturgeon County since well,  before it was a county. 121 years to be exact. My Grandmother Betty married into another pioneer family, the Frasers, and that's where my original family name comes from. There are lots of great family stories in these two books, I am so happy that I was able to re-connect with some great family history.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

New sourdough starter for a new year

One of the new projects that I decided to start this year was a sourdough. I've done sourdough in years past, but my baking projects never really seemed to ever work out. The bread was always tough and dense...I lost interest. 

However, over the past year, I have really hit my stride when it comes to bread baking. I would like to say that I read this or that classic bread baking book, that a glowing light descended from the heavens, and I suddenly learned how to bake bread. The truth is that I just kept at it and something clicked. I now know what the dough feels like when it is ready to go in the loaf pan or on the hearth. It turns out that it really isn't that hard. If you can remember back to when you learned to ride a bike, it is sort of like that. Seemingly impossible at first and then rather quickly you just do it without thinking. That is the best analogy that I have for my bread baking experience. 

There are some basic bits of knowledge that I can pass along though. 

Don't necessarily pay attention to any recipe. The fact that you didn't use exactly the right amount of yeast has very little to do with the door stop sitting on your cooling rack. Trust me. 

What I have found to be the biggest single factor in my successes is the hydration and gluten development in the dough. This is especially true when it comes to using our Entire Grain flour. In simplistic terms, you need to knead. And you need to knead more than you think. Leaving the dough to rest between kneading is a good trick too. I use our Kitchen Aid with the dough hook for 95% of my kneading. It works well and saves me sore arms and time. I leave that dough kneading for a good 10 minutes and I keep adding flour until I have a really stiff, dry dough. This stiff dough gives me the nicest, lightest bread. Whenever my dough has been too wet and floppy the bread turns out like a brick. Trust me.

This newest incarnation of sourdough on our farm actually got its start when a friend came over for dinner before Christmas and brought us a bottle of homemade hard Apple Cider. At the bottom of the bottle is the layer of yeasty type tailings that don't taste very good. When I was building my starter I used a couple Tblsp of Apple Cider, but not the cloudy yeast tailings. You can follow any sourdough starter you like. Googling "sourdough starter" will give you more results than you know what to do with. 
Apple Cider Starter - 1 month old

I think that people like to make things fancier than they need to be so I simply use equal parts of water and flour and a little of the cider. Keep the starter out at room temperature and wait till it starts bubbling. Once this happens, every day for about a week take out about half the starter and replace it with an equal amount of the flour water mix. There should be some critical mass with your starter. I use a jar that holds about 2.5 cups of starter. Once your starter is really humming along you can put it in the fridge and repeat the feeding process once every week and a half or so.

When you want to bake some bread, simply take a cup of starter and mix it in with your dough ingredients. When baking sourdough without adding commercial yeast it is important to note that the dough will take significantly longer to rise. Patience is the key to a good sourdough. I usually have to leave my bread proof for the whole day. Adding proofs within an hour, maybe 2.

All in all, baking bread is pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Taking things a step further and playing around with sourdough is another bit of enjoyment too. Don't be afraid to give sourdough a try.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

New Year on the farm

Another year is upon us. As I get older, the time just slips by faster and faster.

I lovingly remember, not all that long ago, Christmases as a kid on my Parent's and Grandparent's farms. A touch of sadness with fond remembrance of times past and people missed. Christmas Eve was almost always spent at Nana and Papa's with Aunt and Uncle and Cousins up from Calgary. Then we'd drive the two miles home before Santa was due. I remember watching the sky with anticipation, but perhaps more than that it was just simply beautiful. Winter skies in the country, away from the light-pollution of a million road lamps, are amazing. To this day, my favorite holiday activity is a quiet, lonely walk at night.

Mom and Dad made sure that Christmas Day was always the highlight of the year in our house. We were lucky, I realize now.

Mounds of gifts surrounded the tree in the morning and the pain of having to wait until everyone else in the house awoke was excruciating. Often, I would be up in the middle of the night and sneak down the stairs to the living room where I would turn on the tree lights and catch my breath at the sight of brightly coloured parcels and bulging stockings that weren't there when I went to bed. With my blanket on the couch I'd fall asleep again. Eventually, the house would creep to life with brother and sister first, then Mom and Dad. Punishable with death was the act of opening a present before adults were awake and coffee'd up...again an excruciating wait.

After the presents were unwrapped, Mom would almost always make waffles and bacon. For whatever reason, this was the only time she made waffles. Or at least that's what it seems in my memory. That must have been the world's oldest, most pristine waffle maker. Wondering now, if it is still in use? I'll have to check. 

Nowadays however, this time of year is a time of planning and hope.We are creating wonderful memories for our kids here on our farm. Our Son, like clockwork almost every winter night, puts on his coat and boots and heads outside. No doubt, one day in his forties, he will write an article very similar to this one.

The farm will undergo more changes in 2013. We are planning more landscaping and building improvements. More garden. More animals. More fencing and work for sure. Like a piece of artwork, our farm is slowly taking shape and is becoming what we want of it...a self-sustainable oasis of environmental stewardship, love and happiness. We're getting there.

Right now, my thoughts are with our customers and their families too. I hope that all of you know how much we appreciate your support. Without your help in spreading the word about our farm and products we would be elsewhere in our lives for sure. I smile when I think about our regulars at Strathcona Market and I am really looking forward to being there again in a couple days. Cindy and I were talking this morning of different ways that we can share our farm with more people in the near future. But in the meantime, here's hoping that all of you enjoy a wonderful 2013! 

John Schneider

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Explore Local Foods, Local Markets Event

I still miss our pigs...
Myself and Ron Erdmann of Erdmann's Gardens and Greenhouses will be headlining this event on January 16th near Barrhead. This is an event being hosted by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and should be very interesting for anyone thinking of starting a farm based, direct sales business. It could also be a great venue if you are a well established marketer to be able to share your experiences and perhaps pick up some tips from others. I know that I am looking forward to learning as much or more than I share. Here is the link to the event

I will be speaking about our experiences in starting our farm business. The information I have learned through experience about small scale farming, marketing, sales and social media. The importance of selling and more importantly what are we actually selling? The answer may surprise you.

One of our early ventures...potatoes
I will also share some of the stories of the trials in my transition back to farming after leaving the large grain operation that my Dad had going. I'll let you know about the livestock we've tried, the crops we've experimented with, the equipment we've gone through. Most of these stories are amusing I can assure you. I will also let you know where we are now and what are our plans for the future of our farm.

I am hopeful that I will be able to give everyone some good ideas on achieving sustainability for your farm and maybe provide some additional ideas for direct marketing your products. 

Here is the google map of Summerdale Hall. I hope to see many of you on January 16th!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Ruiskakut Cookies - Traditional Christmas Favorite

Ruiskakut Cookies
These cookies originated in Finland (one posting I found said they originate in the land of Karelia, which includes parts of Finland and Russia) and as far as I can tell they are a winter/Christmas treat. They are sometimes called Estonian Rye Cookies.
They are mainly made with a whole grain rye flour and are often served as appetizers with a cream cheese spread or fruit preserves. ""

The few recipes that I found were all pretty much the same. I took the simplest one and made it as "100 mile" as possible.
1 cup of softened butter
2/3 cup honey (the original recipe called for granulated sugar)
2 cups whole grain rye flour
1 cup soft wheat flour (Spelt Flour would be a great substitute)
3 tbsp water 
NOTE: I didn't add the water as my dough was still quite soft. Instead I added a touch more flour and let it firm up a bit in the fridge before rolling.

Beat the butter until smooth. Add honey and beat until fluffy. 
Add flours and mix until just combined.
Add water if needed to hold dough together OR knead in additional flour if dough is too soft to roll out. Wrap in plastic and chill if needed.
Roll dough about 1/8" thick. Use a 3" wide scalloped cutter and then a 1" round cutter to create a "wreath".
Pierce all over with a fork. Add red and green decorating sugar crystals if desired.
Bake at 350F for about 8 min. They can become over done quite quickly so check at 7 min.

They are a thin, crisp yet tender cookie with a wonderful earthy flavour from the whole grain flours and honey.
A definite worth while cookie to add to your Christmas traditions!

The above recipe was submitted to me by Deb Krause. She has a beautiful blog entitled Simple Pleasures Deb is also known as @DebTheLocavore on Twitter!