Wednesday, March 30, 2011

lessons learned?

This past winter (and I use the word 'past' with hesitation) has been very trying for Cindy and I. While there have been many positives with the farm business, there have been just as many setbacks and hardships. I certainly want to avoid complaining. Our children are healthy. We have a warm bed to sleep in and food to eat. Our entire farm has not been washed away in horrifying fashion as so many were in Japan. Those events that we watched in awe from so far away have served to remind me that things could be so much worse. 

Still though the hardships we've faced were stressful enough and have helped to remind me that I need to be more pro-active and work harder still to be prepared. The snow this year was just too much to handle and wrecked equipment and made it difficult if not impossible to perform farming business at certain times. I have not been able to get to the grain bins for most of the winter. The cost to repeatedly bring in the snow removal company would have simply been too great. The strong winds also blew in under the eaves of the steel grain bins and I had to shovel snow off the piles of grain. Of course, a lot of grain got shoveled out along with the snow. Lesson Learned...plant more fast growing trees and stuff the gaps with something that vents but keeps snow out and figure out better snow removal equipment. 

Even feeding the cattle has been hard. For most of the winter I was able to get the tractor out to the bale pile in the middle of the field. We have a rather large chore tractor with dual tires on the back, even so I had to borrow the neighbour's small tractor with attached snowblower to make a path to the bales. Of course, a week later the wind would blow for 4 days and that path would be rendered invisible. I just couldn't bring myself to keep borrowing equipment so I did my best to pack the snow with the tractor to get back and forth to the bales. Finally about a week ago the tractor became stuck and there is no way to get it out until the snow melts. So, that means feeding 9 cattle by hand from stacked round bales twice a day...not fun. Lesson Learned...stack the bales close to the house and keep the cattle close too (or get rid of the cattle).

This has been a tough winter. Our new property is so vulnerable to wind and bad weather. We need to focus on improving our land through the planting of as many trees as we can possibly handle. I am completely embarrassed for the previous generations of landowners in the area who actually went along with plans to eliminate trees from the ditches and fencerows to allow more cultivatable land. Supposedly our area was treed quite nicely prior to the 70's. I was told this by a family we know that have owned their farm for 100 years. Now I will have to try to fix that as best I can on our own property. 

We have so much work ahead of us to build proper out-buildings to shelter bags of grain and equipment. To plant trees and care for them. To gravel the yard and build or purchase proper snow removal equipment. To landscape and beautify our farm. Most of this work I look at as a challenge and I look forward to. But there is just so much to do and that is a little daunting. 

The weather now holds the promise of Spring. The snow is receding and with that comes renewed energy and optimism. We are so encouraged with all the new friends we are meeting with the flour business and that encourages us even more. See you at market tomorrow at Alberta Ave.!

Monday, March 28, 2011

wheat beer - guest post by Mark Senior

Making Wheat Malt


I recently got a 50 lb bag of wheat from John, with the idea to experiment making my own malt for use in homebrewing beer.

The short version of how this works is that you get the grain to begin sprouting, during which it produces enzymes that make the stored energy in the seeds available to the growing plant. Basically sprouting converts the starch to sugar.  Once the full amount of enzymes is produced, but before the growing seedling has had a chance to consume much of that stored energy, you stop the process by dehydrating the seeds under moderate heat (too hot and the enzymes break down).  When you're ready to brew, you'll set up conditions for the enzymes to convert the starch into sugar for the brewing yeast to consume.


The long version of how it works can be found in a few places online. I referred mainly to this page
Most of what I found online is specific to malting barley, but I found a few references to differences in approach when you're dealing with wheat (mainly, wheat sprouts quicker, and there is an extra step with malted barley - a higher temperature kilning after it's dried).

I started with a fairly small batch of grain for my initial trial, about 2.5 kg.

Step One - Soaking

The first thing you want to do is to soak the grain for a 6-8 hours, then drain it and let it breathe for about as long, and then soak it again.  As I was working around other things in my life, like work and sleep, I ended up soaking for about 8 hours, letting it breathe for about 9, then soaking for 5.

I use a lot of 20L food-grade plastic pails in brewing, and I have one that I've fitted a spigot to for sparging grain with.  I grabbed an extra pail, drilled a few dozen small holes in the bottom, and put it inside the pail with a spigot - this gave me a nice container for soaking the grain, that was easy to drain.

When I initially filled the pail with water and stirred the grain up, there was practically no chaff - the grain seems very clean.  I had thought I might have to pour out that first batch of water to get rid of chaff, and soak in a fresh batch, but I just left the first batch.

Step Two - Sprouting

The next step is to keep the grains evenly moise, and let them sprout until they are what's known as 'fully converted' - at this stage, the acrospire (the beginning sprout that will turn into a stalk of grass) is about 3/4 the length of the seed in most of the grains.  When malting barley, the acrospire is inside the hull, so you have to cut open a sample of seeds to see how it's progressing, but wheat has no hull, so you can just grab a handful of grain and look.

The goal is to get even conversion - you don't want too many of your grains to be underconverted (less than the full enzyme production) or overconverted (much of the starch used up).  So, you want to stir the grains as regularly as you can manage, to keep the temperature and
humidity that the grains are exposed to consistent.  I managed about twice a day.

By 24 hours after the final soak, most of the grains had a little
white bulge at one end, where the acrospire and roots were beginning to form.

By 36 hours, most of the grains had visible rootlets 1/4 or more the length of the grains.

At 72 hours, there were acrospires on most of the grains.  I figure about 90% had at least some acrospire, with maybe 2/3 of those (so, 60% of the total) in the neighbourhood of 2/3 the length of the grain. The grain also felt like it might be drying out a bit, so I rinsed it briefly with fresh water - letting it soak just about 10 minutes before draining it again.

Step Three - Drying

At 96 hours or so after the end of the soak, I decided it was time to stop the sprouting.

I weighed the grain at this point, and it was  around 3.75 kilos, about 1.5 times the starting weight.

I spread the grain out on cookie sheets and baking trays, and put them in the oven.  It turns out to be a good thing I only sprouted this small batch of grain for my initial test - it completely filled my
oven as it was.


The Oven Setup


At its lowest setting, my oven seems to swing between about 55 and 70 C - too hot for drying grain; the enzymes would be broken down (it might be useful for making crystal malt, but that's another experiment for another time).  I settled on turning on the oven light and putting a couple of little 25 W reading lamps in the oven.  This produced a steady temperature around 40 C, which is about right for this purpose.

The drying took around 2 1/2 days.  Ideally you want lots of air circulation, which my oven does not provide; if I had a food dehydrator, or one of those ovens with a convection fan, it probably
would have gone faster.  Next time around, I probably will see if I can borrow a dehydrator from a friend - as I keep going with this, I'll want an approach that dries the grain down quicker, and doesn't put the oven out of commission for days on end.

After drying was complete, the grain weighed around 2.2 kg, around 90% of its starting weight (that's including a bit of a fudge factor for the wheat I kept eating throughout the process to see how its taste and texture were changing).

You want to avoid brewing with grains that have the rootlets still on they apparently contain quite a bit of protein, which can cause your beer to be very cloudy, without contributing anything much to the taste.  I put the grains in a sieve, a handful at a time, and rubbed them to sift out most of the rootlets.  Even with this small amount of grain it was a pretty tedious process - next time, I will try using an old window screen for this part.


Mark...hard at work


When dealing with barley, there's another step after drying, kilning, in which the grain is heated to a higher temperature for a few hours, to give it its desired colour and flavour.  This can range from four or five hours at 70 C for a pale malt, to much higher temperatures for dark chocolate malts.  From what I found online, it seems this step is not typically used for wheat malt, and I didn't do it.

Step Four - Beer

I've made a very small test batch of all-wheat beer, which I'll write about another time - maybe once it's ready to drink.

Hopefully Mark will post some results of his beer project and perhaps a picture or two. I would love to see the finished product from another use for our wheat!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

why conventional agriculture sucks

A few examples of how conventional agriculture will not only fail to feed us all, it will contribute to our troubles. Our oceans are dying. Our pollinator populations are in desperate decline and chicken production is contributing to our inability to fight off disease illness through the use of anti-biotics. These are just snippets of information on topics that I think are most important for people to contemplate. These three subjects alone have the potential to cause a serious devastation of our own human population.

Every now and then I get tired of tweets and posts from proponents of conventional agriculture with their head in the sand. Follow the money people. Do your own research and please continue to vote with your food choices.

The Big Three arguments against conventional agriculture not in any particular order (and there's a lot more than three by the way).

1) Hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico from ground water run off in the agricultural regions of the Mississippi River drainages.


From the website...http://co.water.usgs.gov/hypoxia/html/newpubs.html "The effect of nutrient loading from the Mississippi Basin on the areal extent of the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxic Zone is investigated using a dissolved oxygen model. Results suggest that a 30% reduction in nitrogen loads may not be sufficient to reduce the average size of the hypoxia zone to 5,000 km2."

from the website...http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100927122225.htm In the summer of 2010 this dead zone in the Gulf spanned over 7,000 square miles."

2) Antibiotics in chicken production to render useless the world's known anti-biotics.

According to the recent Marketplace episode "Canadians are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. As a result, people are getting sicker and are taking longer to get well. It is now not uncommon for people to be administered antibiotics through an IV because the usual drugs in pill form can't fight off their infections.
While we've all heard that over-prescription of antibiotics to people is one cause of the resistance, what many Canadians don't know is that another major cause is because the animals we eat are also given large amounts of antibiotics. And not just when they're sick: healthy animals can be fed antibiotics every day because it makes them grow bigger, faster."


From the website... http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/06/17/playing-chicken-with-antibiotics/ "Disturbing data from the Public Health Agency of Canada reveals that antibiotics such as cephalosporin used in chicken hatcheries across the country is causing human resistance to the medicines, according to a startling report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal today.

3) New pesticides directly related to mass Bee deaths. We all know how important pollinators are to our own survival as a species.

From the website...http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10701335 "A new generation of pesticides is making honeybees far more susceptible to disease and may be a clue to the mysterious colony collapses that have devastated bees around the world.

Yet this discovery has remained unpublished for nearly two years since it was made by the United States Department of Agriculture's Bee Research Laboratory."
http://www.tindakmalaysia.com/showthread.php/2037-Bees-Petition-to-Save-the-Bees-from-the-Global-Chemical-Companies..."increasingly, independent research has produced strong evidence blaming neonicotinoid pesticides. France, Italy, Slovenia and even Germany, where the main manufacturer Bayer is based, have banned one of these bee killers. But, Bayer continues to export its poison across the world "

I HATE having to write these posts. I see so many other people out there fighting against conventional, unsustainable agriculture, I just can't sit back and watch. Sorry.

organics can feed the world...stop wasting food!

This post isn't going to be quoting any studies that argue the point that organic agriculture can or cannot feed the world. But, it is going to point out one thing and that is the absolute disgrace that is our modern society's wasteful attitude towards food. Read this...http://www.good.is/post/the-u-s-wastes-40-percent-of-all-food-produced-per-year-how-about-we-stop-doing-that/

Also, have a look at Bruce's post if you want to see some serious potential waste. If Bruce wasn't there, all that food would go to the landfill!

Organic agriculture produces roughly the same amount of food as conventional does. There are many studies that are sponsored by Monsanto that would refute that I am sure but I chose to believe more reputable studies by people who actually want to know the truth instead of corporations that want to produce their own truth. But let's say, just for argument's sake, that it doesn't produce as much food. How about we set up a North American society that doesn't waste up to 40% of its food. I would suspect that if we could capture even half of that waste, we'd be doing just fine with whatever organics can produce and we'd have the added benefit of reducing all the chemical pollution that is jeopardizing our health and welfare.

Why I believe that small-scale, organic agriculture can indeed feed the world...
An added story that relates to sustainable agriculture from a new friend and market customer Nancy...On March 8, Dr. Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food,released a reportarguing that the use of small-scale, diverse farming methods, which he calls "agroecology," can double agricultural production in poverty-stricken areas, increase the economic prospects of the inhabitants, and improve their local environment.  

Friday, March 25, 2011

whole wheat flour info.

By far I am getting positive response to our flour and grain products, but once in a while I get somebody come up to me and ask why their bread turns out "like a brick"? Each time I ask how they bake their bread the answer has been the same...bread machine. I don't think that it is possible to bake 100% whole wheat bread in a bread machine and have it turn out properly. Maybe someone could figure out a way to make it work and post their recipe?

I know that it is convenient to use a bread machine. We have one collecting dust in the back corner of the pantry. We used to use it all the time. But if you want the benefits of local, organic, whole wheat bread then it is probably worth 20 or so minutes to bake your loaf in the manner described below. Besides, it is good for your spirit to make your food with your hands (at least until you turn on the Kitchen Aid!). 

We have been telling folks how to bake 100% whole wheat bread in very simple terms. More liquid. More kneading. I found this quote from Wikipedia and it sums up what we have learned about whole wheat bread.

...it is possible to make a high-rising, light loaf of 100% whole wheat bread, so long as one increases the water content of the dough (the bran and germ in whole wheat absorb more water than plain white flour), kneads the dough for a longer period of time to develop the gluten adequately, and allows for a longer rise before shaping the dough. Some bakers let the dough rise twice before shaping. The addition of fats, such as butter or oil, and milk products (fresh milk, powdered milk, buttermilk, yogurt, etc.) can also greatly assist the rise.

Here is a pretty good youtube video that is relevant to our discussion here.

I don't bother with potato flour or orange juice and I get the exact same results that he does. I also don't let it rise twice although I am told by professional bakers that it is best to rise it twice. 

The Kitchen Aid mixer is invaluable for the bread in this video, but it is good physical exercise to just knead the old-fashioned way. I use the mixer and let it knead the dough for around 10-13 minutes. Let the dough get good and 'springy'. There are some other good tips in this video recipe that I want to try like the foil tenting and the braiding. 

Of course a much simpler way to enjoy our flour products is to purchase your bread from Prairie Mill Bread Co. or Treestone Bakery or Queen of Tarts! No matter how you eat our flour, we continue to thank you for supporting our little farm. We really appreciate all of your comments, questions and conversation too! 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

new products for this week

At Alberta Avenue Market tonight we will have a limited quantity of Wheat Bran available! We are playing around with the sifting of some of our products. We sifted some of the pancake mix.actually it was the Soft White Wheat Pasta and Pastry Flour. The byproduct of that sifting is wheat bran.  Rest assured that the whole grain flours are indeed still whole grain or as we like to say "entire grain". 250g packages $4

Also for Alberta Avenue and Saturday's City Market, we will have more of our pancake mix available. We have been receiving some great tweets about our pancake mix. People who purchased our limited quantity last weekend are really enjoying Gold Forest Grains pancakes! 1kg packages $8

Also, you might not recognize our table at the markets this week. We are getting fancy. Fancy new red plaid table cloths! We wanted to get more of a country type feel to our stand to better represent what we are all about...country, fresh, farm-milled whole grain flour.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

markets this week

We are looking forward to the Alberta Avenue Market again this week. Last Thursday was the best market of the year there so far. It was great to see so many people enjoying such a tremendous market. We will have our usual lineup of flour products along with the new Pancake Mix.

City Market moves back upstairs to the main floor of City Hall on Saturday. This will be our third week at City Market and each week has been better attended than the last. Hopefully some spring weather will grace us and even more people will come visit us this weekend. Again, the Pancake Mix will be there along with freshly milled entire grain flour.

Hope to see you there!

you're killing me!

Whomever is in charge of this weather is looking to get a serious beatdown pretty quick. It is March 23rd for crying out loud.

We have not had a break from winter yet, I mean come on. Snow still accumulating...Ark building continues in preparation for spring flood situation....Beyond frustrating and I don't care but the next person who tries to interrupt my bellyaching by saying something like "well there's nothing you can do about it" is going to get poked in the eye. There IS something I can do about it...I can complain.

For a limited time, I am offering you all a way to feel better too. For very little money, you can comment below and vent all of your frustrations about our Edmonton weather. Come on...I know that there are more of us out there that just want to swear and kick something and complain about a 2 day blowing blizzard at the end of March. People without some form of farmers blood in them need not apply.

25,000 pound tractor 'stuck till it melts'...feeding by hand from now on!
Looking ahead to the long range forecast and I can see plus 9 next week? I'll believe it when I see it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Seedy Sunday and Beyond the Supermarket

I just had such a great day yesterday. First, I stopped off at Alberta Avenue Community Hall to visit the Seedy Sunday festival. It was wonderful to see so many other people concerned about seed security and food safety. Also, just plain old gardening fun during a period of weather where Spring just doesn't want to arrive.

I made a bee-line over to see Lola Canola first. Patty was giving a talk about planting for pollinators. I couldn't stay to listen. Did anyone get a chance to hear her speak? I am sure it was entertaining and informative.

Next stop was to see Jim Ternier from Prairie Garden Seeds. I admire Jim's work and I've talked to him a few times about heritage grains. This was my first face to face with Jim and we got to chat about Kamut and Red Fife for a few minutes. I managed to buy the last pack of Red Fife and a packet of Medora Durum Wheat. Those were two good scores for my collection.

Jim Ternier from Prairie Garden Seeds


The real reason I was in the area though was to present and attend the Beyond the Supermarket event at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts. This was a cafe style 'tradeshow' where customers and producers could intermingle and exchange ideas and present their businesses. I found it to be a tremendous venue to really connect with potential customers and other producers. I certainly appreciated the chance to be there and say a few words about our farm and heritage grains. It was attended almost to capacity and I suspect that next year the venue will be a little bigger. Still though it was very comfortable and cozy. It was very easy, and encouraged, to eavesdrop on conversations and learn about other businesses providing local food to Edmontonians.

The very best thing about yesterday though was meeting with all of my new friends and customers. I saw a tweet from Super_Su and I sure appreciate her support all the time. All of the conversations are so enjoyable...from talking with people who are planning their new self-sufficient lifestyles to bakers and restaurant professionals to small-holding future farmers...it was a very good day.

John

Friday, March 18, 2011

pancake mix

New for the market tomorrow will be GFG's Organic Pancake Mix! Made from our time tested recipe, this mix is made with a perfect blend of freshly milled Rye and Hard Red Spring Wheat. The ingredients are all Organic so all you have to do is add one egg, a cup and a half of milk and some oil.

These pancakes are our family favorite. You will be amazed with the flavour and aroma of fresh milled pancakes. Nobody in our house ever commented on the smell of pancakes until we started making these!

I only had time to mix up a small batch today so there will be limited quantities for the market tomorrow. If they sell well and we get good feedback we'll consider adding them to the products that we offer at all markets and outlets.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

this little pig went to market...

I am off to market! A happy time for sure. I really enjoy visiting with people and trying to make a go of our little farm. Each time I sell a package of flour I feel thankful and proud that I created something that somebody is now going to take home to nourish themselves and their family. It is a great feeling for sure.

Tonight is the Alberta Avenue Market from 5-8 pm on 118th Ave and 93rd St.

Saturday is City Market at City Hall downtown Edmonton. This week the market is in the parkade Level 1. Next week and until May 14th it will be back in the main hall.

I hope to see you sometime over the next couple days!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

$6M snowplow...we can rebuild him...better...stronger

Now for something completely different. I am attempting to rebuild the snowplow after the masacre of the 2010/2011 winter. The plow was totalled, but I figured I could rebuild it and save some dough. I don't want to spend money on snow removal equipment for next year. I have enough things to spend money on trying to get this farm finished. Part 3 will follow later today I hope.


Monday, March 14, 2011

eat alberta

Slow Food Edmonton is hosting what appears to be a marvelous opportunity for folks to be able to resource local food more effectively. On April 30, 2011 there will be an event called Eat Alberta: A Celebration of Our Local Food Heroes.

Now you have the link, you can go ahead and give it a look. It will be a wonderful way for people to get to know where to source local food of all types including Yvan Chartrand of Treestone Bakery! Treestone Bakery has been a customer of Gold Forest Grains for three years now. We are very proud to supply Yvan's bakery with our local Hard Red Spring Wheat (Park variety).

you don't need no stinkin car.

I see so many new friends at the markets we now attend coming in with their re-usable shopping bags and leaving burdened down with groceries. I always wonder how they make it home without their arms falling off (assuming they didn't drive to the market).

I couldn't help but post this video! And there are many other videos just like this one that show the extreme resourcefulness of people and the flexibility of bikes. I thought that this invention was amazing for folks who live in the city. Of course, we still have so much work to do in North America when it comes to bikes vs. cars vs. pedestrians. But, we'll get there one day...probably through necessity more than advocacy. Enjoy!

what is "Kamut"?

I hear about Kamut all the time. I am asked almost weekly if I grow Kamut. The answer to that question is always "no" and that is because I am not allowed to grow Kamut. Kamut is a registered name of an ancient variety of wheat called Khorasan Wheat. I can grow Khorasan...not Kamut. That is unless I purchase the Kamut seed from Kamut International (if they allowed me). Anyways, I thought I would write a piece as there is a bit of misinformation about this grain. The nutritional qualities and the historical context of Kamut (Khorasan Wheat) is correct and what you read about it is all true. It is a wonderfully nutritious heritage variety of grain...it is truly ancient and there are many legends about it's modern origin including one that tells of how this wheat was found viable in the tombs of Egyptian Pharoahs. 


The problem with this particular wheat variety lies in its name. You see the term "Kamut" is a registered name that was patented by Bob Quinn who is the founder of Kamut International. The term Kamut has been used for this variety of wheat for decades, but it is only a common name for the wheat that should properly be known by its varietal name Khorasan or Triticum turanicum (also known as T. turgidum subsp.turanicum). 

On the Wikipedia page it states "Kamut International uses the KAMUT trademark to protect and preserve the ancient grain variety khorasan. The grain differs from modern day varieties because it has not been modified through modern breeding practices or genetic modification. Any khorasan that is sold using “KAMUT” (i.e. as KAMUT brand wheat) must meet specific qualifications to ensure purity, variety preservation and quality.[6]"
This appears to be a direct quote from the company's website.

Well woosh! Am I ever glad that Bob came along to preserve and protect this variety of ancient wheat. Of course, their extensive efforts in registering the common name had nothing to do whatsoever with licencing fees from farmers who wish to grow and sell Kamut. Well, perhaps their efforts to control Kamut production are benevolent. I can't pretend to know what their intentions are but there are other organizations that protect and promote the production of other heritage varieties of grains and livestock without patenting the name and deriving money from their propagation and marketing. I suspect that is because none of those other varieties are as popular as Kamut. On the other hand, it is just as likely that Khorasan wheat would not have become as popular without the marketing efforts of Kamut International. I like what this company is doing, I just don't necessarily agree with attempts to register and control the propagation of seed...if that is what is being attempted.

The reasons given for the trademark of the name Kamut on the company website are legitimate and it is unmistakable that the registration of the name was granted because of the company's apparent dedication to specific grain quality and purity.

Wheats were at one time commonly cross bred through design and accident; and subsequent varieties were selected by farmers right out of the field for various qualities. I still do this on a regular basis. If I happen to see a few particular heads of grain out in a field that grow heavier, or shorter, or quicker or redder or whatever, I will pick them and save them for future propagation. One day, these heads may very well grow into a new variety that works best on my farm and climate conditions or for specific baking qualities. Every modern variety of grain has been cross bred from ancient varieties at some point in their development.
"Only by the use of a trademark can customers be guaranteed that products produced with KAMUT Khorasan contain the pure ancient variety...". (quote from Kamut International)

It may be correct for the company to assure consumers that it is a pure strain from when it was obtained by Bob from a farmer in Fort Benton MT. That farmer supposedly received the seed from his airman son in 1949 when the son was stationed in Egypt. It was grown from 1949 until Bob "remembered" it in 1977. From 1949 till the mid 60's it was grown locally and was apparently sold in a 1964 county fair as "King Tut's Wheat". At that point it was supposedly forgotten. 
Unless the Ft. Benton farmer was completely meticulous about his harvesting, propagation, storage records and procedures and that Bob actually obtained this seed directly from the original farmer (which Kamut's website doesn't say) I doubt that it is pure. I am sure that it is true that it does contain the ancient variety's genes, but by 1977 there is some degree of probability that several other, more modern, varieties had been introduced also. 


So, it is an interesting grain variety...probably the most interesting! From it's ancient origins to it's modern conundrum of large corporations and copyright laws. If you choose to purchase Kamut from Kamut International or Khorasan from your local, organic farmer the choice is yours and it is a good one either way. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

2011 market special

For the entire market season this year we will be offering a special price for each and every market event that we attend. Here's the deal...if you purchase One 500g(1 lb.) bag of Organic Golden Flax plus any two other 1.7kg flour or grain products you will only pay $20. So, that's three bags of Gold Forest Grains products for $20. It could be a combination of any three products that include at least one package of Golden Flax.

1- Flax (normally $5) + 1 Whole Wheat Flour ($8) + 1 Pasta/Pastry Flour ($9) = $20 ($22 value)
1 Flax + 2 Whole Wheat Flour = $20 ($21 value)
1 Flax + 2 Whole Grain Rye Flour ($10) = $20 ($25 value)

You get the idea.

We also offer a convenient way for you to purchase your Gold Forest Grain products early in the day before we run out and then continue your shopping for as long as you like without having to lug your purchases around. Just come and buy your Market Special  early and we will give you a receipt for your purchases while your selections are stored waiting for your return at the end of the day.

city market - spring session!

If you can, I would love to see all of you at the City Market Spring Season! It starts this Saturday, March 12 at City Hall (Edmonton). I believe that the hours are 11-3.

It sounds as though there will be over 60 vendors at this market. I think I also heard that the parking is free? Please don't be mad at me if it isn't, but that is what I heard. The City Market is one of Edmonton's busiest markets with an average of around 18,000 people per day. That is an amazing number if it is accurate. Hopefully at least some of those customers will visit this Saturday and every following Saturday until the middle of May when the regular summer market starts on 104th St.

I know that we are excited about attending this market as a vendor. With the success we've had at Alberta Ave. Market, we are looking forward to doing more business with the City Market.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

trip to Calgary

I will be delivering wheat to Prairie Mill Bread Co. tomorrow, March 9th. I should be there around midday. Sorry about the short notice, but if anyone wants flour or wheat delivered to Calgary...tomorrow is the day. Please let me know sometime today. I think I am bringing down one bag of wheat at least for Gail...anyone else?

Friday, March 04, 2011

spruce park ranch


I don't normally do posts on specific businesses, but I thought I would perhaps focus every now and then on businesses that support our little farm. Spruce Park Ranch now carries Gold Forest Grain's products including flour and whole, Golden Flax!

Here is a gem of a surprise out in the middle of the country. Spruce Park Ranch is located only a couple minutes straight south of Spruce Grove on range road 273. Even though they are only minutes from the city, it feels like you are miles away to a distant country memory that almost all of us share in some form or another. 

Les and Marilyn Trautman have built themselves a wonderful little store that you just have to see for yourselves. It reminds me a an old-fashioned country store from a long time ago...and, I suppose that is exactly what it is! The website doesn't do justice to the feeling of their cozy little store. The smells and feel are very comforting and they have selected local and healthful food products to make the trip out there more than worthwhile. 

They also have a very nice selection of country-inspired home decor for sale.  

So, gather up your friends and family and take a trip out to visit Spruce Park Ranch for some local food and flair! 

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

bread night

I noticed that we were low on bread yesterday so I decided to bake a loaf. I must tell you that this recipe and methodology is the simplest way to bake bread I have ever come across. I mean when somebody says that they baked bread the image comes to mind of an exhaustive day of kneading, rising and baking. I decided to bake a loaf at around 6:30 and it was out of the oven by 8:30. Most of this two hour time in preparing the bread was spent sitting on the couch watching The Nature of Things on boxee.

Now granted, this is not the artisan bread that we are accustomed to eating from places like Bon Ton Bakery, Dauphine Bakery & Bistro or even Avenue Homesteader's latest creation, but it is a nice tasting and healthful loaf of bread that is great for sandwiches and toast. It is easy to make because if I can do it...it is easy. 

1.5 cups of milk in a sauce pan heated to around 100 degrees. Add 2 tsp of yeast and 2 Tblsp of honey once it gets to temperature. Stir in the yeast and honey till well mixed and set it aside while you prepare the other ingredients. It will begin to bubble and foam within 10-15 minutes.
In our Kitchen Aid mixer I place 4 cups of flour.
Get ready:
2 tsp of salt (don't add the salt to the flour just yet.)
1/4 cup of oil. We use organic olive oil but melted butter works too or whatever.

Now that the yeast mixture is working away there should be a layer of foam on top. Turn on the mixer with the bread hook attachment and add the milk/yeast/honey to the flour. Then add the oil. Once it has mixed a bit you can slowly add the salt.

I let the mixer knead the dough for around 10 minutes or so. While it is working I grease/flour a bread pan.
Once the dough is kneaded it will be very elastic feeling and slightly moist to the touch. Shape it to the bread pan and place the pan in a warm spot with a light kitchen towel over top. I flour the top of the loaf so it doesn't stick to the towel. We place the pan on the floor in front of the wood stove where it is nice a cozy. Last night I let it raise like that for about an hour. You can let it go as long as you like I suppose. Pop it in a 375 degree oven for 45 mins and the picture is what you should end up with.

new tarp for the grain truck

Last Fall, the old roll-top tarp for the grain truck finally bit the dust. The springs had broken and the cables were slack. The tarp was ripped and the steel supporting rails inside the box were bent and misshapen.

 I was deliberating what to do and pricing out a replacement roll-tarp seemed to indicate that that wasn't going to happen any time soon. So, in the interest of trying to become profitable in 2011 I simply bought an old-fashioned truck tarp. The kind my grandfather used his entire life without complaint. All told I spent around $100 for the tarp and a few rubber tarp straps. I removed the steel rails and bent them back into shape by wedging them under the propane tank in the yard and lifting until the needed bend was put back in. 

So, now I have a new truck tarp. It is nowhere as convenient as the old roll type, but it keeps the rain and snow out of the box and will prevent precious grain from blowing away as I travel the highways. Bottom line is that it works and I will simply have to climb up onto the box to get it out of the way for loading grain. Perhaps I will have some time this summer to figure out some sort of system to more easily get it out of the way during loading?