Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Strawberry Jam - Lots of It! A new Vantreight Video and few more things

I now have about three dozen 250 ml jars of strawberry jam, if you want some get a hold of me and I will get it to you - contribution to costs very much welcome.  250-744-0866

Today I bought 5 pounds of local strawberries from the Root Cellar for $8.  These were ones that were close to being compost fodder, but still made very good jam.   I managed to get them first time in the morning and I suspect they are going to have these older strawberries available on most mornings.  I made 9 more jars with these strawberries.

My jams are low sugar, about one part sugar to four parts berries.

Here is the new video from the Vantreights:


Last night's bacon lentil soup was amazing, it is what I have been looking for.  I ate several bowl fulls for dinner and another big one for lunch today.    Wow!  Try the recipe yourself.   Though make sure you have a good stock, my latest chicken/turkey stock is quite amazing.
We went to check out the Donald Street Farm for produce last night, they will be selling on Tuesday evenings, but the weather has been so cold that they will not be opening for sales till July 13th.  Deb Heighway will not be the only person selling on Tuesdays, she said five other local people will have produce for sale as well.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lentil Soup for Dinner

We have had some good bean and lentil dishes over the last few months and this has inspired us to try and use them.   Too often I have had any bean/lentil dishes turn into heavy stodge, chilli is typical bean fare around here.

This is a Charlie Trotter Bacon and Lentil soup that I am making at the moment:

1 lb bacon julienned
1 c diced onion
1 c diced carrots
1 c green lentils
8 c chicken stock or broth
1/2 c chopped scallion

In a large soup pot over medium heat cook 3/4 of the bacon until the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the onions & carrots & cook until the onions are translucent. If there is a lot of fat drain it off. Add the lentils & 4 cups of the stock. Simmer for 40-50 minutes until the lentils are tender. Add the remaining 4 cups of stock. Season with salt & pepper & cook another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the remaining bacon until crispy. Drain on a paper towel.
Garnish the soup with the crispy bacon & scallions.

Serves 4 - 6

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Making Stock and Mayonnaise

Yesterday I actually ran out of our stock, I always seemed to have been making as fast or faster than we use it, but for whatever reason, I ran out yesterday.

I bought a couple pounds of turkey necks and chicken bones at Fairway yesterday.  I roasted the meat and then put in a large stock pot with onions, celery and carrots.  This cooked for a couple hours.

This time I decided to clarify the stock.  I was inspired from the clear consume that was made in episode 50 of season two of MasterChef Australia.   I strained, defatted and cooled the stock. I then added six egg whites to the cooled stock.   I started heating as per instructions.  At first this was not looking promising, the egg looked like it was going to cook to hard white chunks, but in the end it built the raft on the top is was supposed and the stock was clear, completely see through.   Quite amazing.
The egg whites meant I had six egg yolks left over, so what was I going to do with them?   I did not feel like more gogel-mogel, so it was mayonnaise.      The mayo has turned out wonderfully, much better than the previous ones I have made.  the flavour is very nice and creamy.  I added enough lemon to give it the acid it needed.  I also added ancho chile powder for the smoky flavour and some heat.

I used the mayonnaise with some crab to makes some open face toasted sandwiches which I am eating for lunch as I write this.
The rock crab is one that I caught the other day out in Sidney.   It was a poor day crabbing, one rock crab which netted at most 75 grams of meat.

With the carcass of the crab I made some more stock.   This stock has a very strong crab flavour.

Now I just need to can the stock, this will be happening later this afternoon

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Food and Time

One of the big issues that comes up in our house, and likely yours, is time. There is never enough time. For anything really, but with fast food and fine dining it is especially easy to fall into having others do our cooking for us.

Nutrition. It is an essential part of our lives and one that often gets shoved down to the bottom of our list of priorities. I get that. The mere thought of preparing dinner every night, for a potentially picky family, at the end of a busy day, tires me. Breakfast and lunch aren't any easier. Mornings are a flurry to get out the door and lunch is a series of temptations. I am horrible at brown bagging my lunches so I often end up out, spending money to get too many calories.

I could go on here about nutritional costs. About the horrors of super sizing it, how much more fat, sodium and calories we consume when we eat out (about 30% more of each), the cost to the earth of factory food production and the environmental damage caused by our love of meat. I am sure you have heard all of that, a lot. I am going to leave that alone to share some thoughts you may not have had about food.

Eating out saves us cooking and cleaning. It saves us having to decide what to make. It saves us yelling at whoever isn't setting the table. It saves us learning how to make things we like. It saves us teaching whoever isn't setting the table that they have responsibilities to their family. It saves us from family conversations. Are we really saving anything? Or is it costing us?

How does all of this relate to wellness or massage therapy? Having good nutrition and finding ways to put ease into you life are central to your well-being. Being obese, eternally rushed, and eating poorly are all central issues that inhibit wellness. Changing how we relate to food is a way in which we can improve our well-being and attend to a core part of our lives. No need to add an extra activity, just be more mindful of an existing one.

Dining out takes time. There is the time to choose a restaurant (or fight about it), travelling to and fro, and the time to actually eat. It is hard to eat out in anything less than an hour. Not really much better than the time to prepare something at home.

And what about the food itself? The deciding, the preparing, the trying, the failing, the succeeding. Does the process of engaging with food change how we are with food? When we move beyond reading the food porn that is the modern menu, do we change how we touch, hear, smell and taste food?

When we are making decisions about what we are going to eat hours, or days, in advance, our thinking is dominated by the front of our brains. When we simply order a meal the growling Grendel in our bellies are doing the thinking. Appetite and hunger draw us to fats and simple carbohydrates because they provide instant gratification for our blood chemistry and neuronal feedback loops. Compare that to our cool brains telling us that we will have had red meat for two nights already and perhaps a vegetarian, might be a good idea. Another night with potatoes might just be boring and maybe some brown rice or a yam would be nice. We don't sacrifice flavour when we plan, we just allow ourselves the luxury of thinking how we can get them without throwing salt and butter at everything.

If decision without physical inspiration isn't happening a trip to the store to check your options can go a long way. Peruse the perimeter. Check out the meat section for appealing proteins. Linger amongst the vegetables and think of what would taste good with those lovely looking tomatoes. Let your eyes be your appetite, and your brain the editor on your food fantasies.

How can you fulfil your food fantasies if you can't cook you fantasies? It is true that time , and skill, do interrupt fantasy. Butternut squash ravioli with sage brown butter sauce seems too tricky or time-consuming? Try rotini you serve with some squash you roasted with butter and sage. All those flavours you are looking for are in that much simpler dish. If you mash the roasted squash you will even get the lovely creamy texture you want. It may not be plated to perfection, but it should be tasty. If your skills run to mac and cheese from a box, why not start simple, make some mac and cheese from a book and see what you think.

Even if you botch the mac and cheese or the butternut squash isn't as cooked as it should be, these mistakes change our regard of food. We start to look at how to change the outcome, how to make that squash creamy and rich, how to get a nice crunchy crust on the bottom of the mac and cheese. This process of exploration and development enriches and serves a vital purpose in our lives, it feeds us, literally. Nutrition is essential, but that doesn't mean it has to be boring, or a burden. It is a celebration of you and your food.

To tie all of this back to wellness, it is about feeling better. We are more healthy when we are proud of our choices and our capabilities. By taking an essential part of survival and making it an enjoyable experience we increase our wellness. When we put in some planning time we manage our meals better and make our lives easier. If we take the financial burden of eating out away, life is simpler. Connecting on a more intimate level with our loved ones can reduce their stress – and ours. By teaching responsibility to our families, and being responsible ourselves, we model the behaviours we want to see in the world and are rewarded by even more satisfaction with how we are living.

There will always be the temptation at the end of a long day to just go out, and that is okay. There are nights when our boys are going six ways, or we are all just spent, that the knock of the delivery guy or a crackly drive-in speaker sounds oh so sweet. We try to made those the unusual nights, and mostly they are, so I figure we're doing not too bad.

NOTE: This is the first of a series on food I am writing in my work blog. The next one will be on nutrition and cancer. If you are interested you can find my website at -Sheila

Food Porn and Masterchef Australia

Sheila is writing piece of food and wellness and used a term "Food Porn" and then a few moments ago I took a look at the blog Eating Victoria and saw a post on links to some of the best restaurants in the world - web Food Porn.   We are in such a different world when it comes to food imagery and presentation than we were only 20 years ago.

Meanwhile Masterchef Australia continues one, they produce 6 episodes a week and only eliminate two contestants a week.   They produce more footage than Big Brother!   On the upside, it is actually all very well done and it is keeping my attention.   The contestants are compelling (other than a couple like Sharnee), the hosts are engaging (though Gary and George need to stop saying GORGEOUS! and BEAUTIFUL!).

If you have not been watching, you should try and catch it.   I would love to see a Canadian version.

The original Masterchef in the UK in the early 1990s was of such a pretentious style that one could only watch it drunk and as a campy version of reality.

If you can not find Masterchef Australia or New Zealand, drop me a line and I will see what I can do about getting it to you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Paprika Bistro - Estevan Village

I had wanted to go here for sometime, and last night I took Sheila here for a belated birthday dinner.

View Larger Map

The setting is nice, a number of small intimate rooms and an ambiance that is quiet and calm. The waiter was attentive but not over bearing.  He felt as if he is interested in your dining experience.

I started with a beef tartare and it was well done, it was especially good because the bread used was so good.  Sheila had a white bean soup that was smooth and silky, it had heaviness to it at all.  I could have eaten a whole pot of it.   The waiter gave a perfect red win selection for the tartare.

Sheila had a grilled albacore tuna for her main course.  I had the cavatelli pasta with a tomato and spicy sausage sauce, I chose to drink a pilsner with the spicy pasta and it worked very well.  Both of our main courses were well done and without a flaw.

Cavatelli is a pasta I had never heard of or seen before.  It feels in some ways more than like a gnocchi than other pastas.   It is much thicker and took a bit of getting used to.  When I asked more about the pasta, the waiter when and showed us the small board they use to roll out the pasta.

We both had deserts which we shared.   One was a very well done creme brulle, a perfect sugar crust and a cool interior.   The second one was a almond cake with a creme anglais. I can not remember the name of it.

One my test, could I do this at home?   Nope, I could try some of it, but most of what we had is not something I could replicate without a lot of hard work.

Paprika Bistro on Urbanspoon

CR FAIR meeting in Sooke yesterday

I finally made it out to a CR FAIR (Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable) meeting yesterday.   This was held in Sooke at the new community allotment gardens in Sun River Estates.  The plots are on land provided by the developer to Sooke for community use.

The host group was Sooke CHI, they are also the sponsors of the community gardens.   The allotment gardens are beautiful and worth a short detour down Phillips road if you are in the area.   They have an amazing shelter build by a local marine welding company from the scrap material from the old winery on Quadra street.  Even in a neighbourhood where it would seem everyone should have access to a garden to grow things, they have managed to find takers for all of the plots.

One thing I was surprised about was that apparently there is a covenant in Sun River Estates that does not allow for people to plant food gardens.   That sounds simply crazy to me, could it really be true you are not allowed to grow food there?

It was interesting to hear the interests of the people that made it to the meeting, but it was light on people active in agriculture, very light.   The whole process is an important one, but there is still a cultural divide between traditional farmers and the food security community.   Farmers have traditionally been blue collar and red neck, the food security community is left of centre and suspicious of free enterprise.   The way the people dress, the lives they lead and the language they speak do not make it easy for there to be an alliance.

The one big aspect of agriculture that the food security community does not really understand is the scale of what is needed to feed the public.   It is fine to work on a small scale but it is only a tiny niche in the food system.   There is a reason why the prairies have huge grain farms, we need need the volumes to provide food for the people.   Large scale agriculture has also found major innovations that means we produce a lot more food on less land, in fact we have no danger of running out of food globally.

More on the economics of food later in another post.

Most of our discussion was about the allotment gardens, the need for the them and the way they were created.   We also discussed the status of funding from VIHA for food issues and that it looks like the money is not going to be around this year.

I am going to try and go to more of the meetings, I think I would offer a perspective at the meetings that is missing.  

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Swan's Brew Pub is one of the best in the world

Ian Wright wrote an article in Outpost magazine and named the top ten destinations in the world, here is what he had to say about #1

1. Local pubs, anywhere: “I really love pubs. I remember one called Swans Brewpub, in Victoria, B.C. It serves local beer, has a great menu and it’s also open late! I want to go to a pub where there’s a good chance that everyone and anyone will chat—even complete strangers—and talk drunken crap all night.”

Swan' made it to the top, I am impressed.

I like Swan's but rarely get a chance to go there.  It is not really close at hand for me to walk to and I am no longer of an age where I go downtown to go drinking.   I should go there again sometime soon, maybe this is where Terry Glavin and I should go for our next beer.

The beer is what is a draw for me, they brew some of the best I have had in this city.  I like their British beers more than their continental ones.   They really do brew a good stout and their pale ale is worth writing home about.

I have always liked their beer, but my one major complaint is that is very loud in the pub.   I like to be able to talk with people when I drinking and a very loud room makes this difficult.   I have to admit I have rarely tried to the food, so I have little to comment on in that respect.

Swans Brew Pub on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Anyone want to buy strawberry jam?

My oldest son, Daniel is looking for something to do this summer for money.  A 9-5 job in retail is not something that would work for his plans for the summer and money is not great.

We talked and hit about the idea of him making and selling jam and salsa.   We make our jam with a pectin that requires very little sugar and therefore the jam is much more of a fruit flavour and a sweet red spread.

I told him I would do a bit of market research for him.

  • Would you be willing to buy strawberry jam from Daniel for $5 for a 250 ml jar?
  • Would you be willing to buy salsa for $4 for a 125 ml jar?
  • Are there other jams or sauces you would be interested in?
  • Are there other sizes you would be interested?
  • What do you think of the price?

Please let me know either here, via Facebook, Twitter or email.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Strawberries, lots and lots of strawberries! What to do?

I was at the Root Cellar yesterday and saw they had 8 pound flats of strawberries on for $9.99, so I bought 12 flats - 96 pounds in total.   They are generic California strawberries, but the price was right.

I am making jam, a lot of jam, enough for a year.   I make it with Pamona's Universal Pectin:
"Pomona's Universal Pectin" is a sugar-free, low-methoxyl citrus pectin that is activated by calcium. Since it does not require sugar to jell, jams and jellies can be made with less, little, or no sugar. Some other possible sweeteners are honey, fructose, sucanat, concentrated fruit sweetener, maple syrup, agave, frozen juice concentrate, stevia, xylitol, Splenda and other artificial sweeteners.
The Canadian distributer is in Parksville.

The jam I get from this tastes like strawberries and nothing but.

I am freezing a bunch.   Stephen is making a Pavlova.   But we will still have more berries to use today.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Blenkinsop Valley problems

MLA Lana Popham has a website created for people to register their complaints about farming practices in the Blenkinsop Valley.   She is saying it is not a place to rant about farmers, but the very existence of the site concerns me.

Farming in the area has been going on much longer than people have purchased houses in the area.   I can understand if it is an issue of pollution, but most of the areas she has for registering complaints concerns me.  

If one lives close to farms, it should be no surprise if there is a smell.   If you do not like the smell of farming, why did you buy in the area?    Propane cannons are an effective way to deal with birds eating crops, yes there are loud, but they are a normal part of farming and should be expected if you live near a farm.  

Back in the 1990s BC passed the Farm Practices Protection (Right to Farm) Act.  The goal was to protect the ability to farm in BC.   Too often residential neighbourhoods have come up to the edge of farm country and the new residents not only do not adapt to where they are living, they expect the farmers to change what they do.

A basic stand has to be taken, farmers have to be able to farm.   People living close to farms know what they are getting into and have to expect the reality of farming.   The very act of someone complaining about normal farming practices puts a chill on all farmers in an area.

There are a huge number of reasons the majority of our farmers in the Victoria area have retired in the last generation, harassment by NIMBY residential neighbours does contribute to people wanting to leave the business.

This is the final word from Lana's website:

P.S. This is not a place to rant against farmers! I am a strong and active supporter of agriculture. However, I believe that farms located deep within residential areas have a special burden to accommodate the needs of their neighbours for the quiet enjoyment of their homes.

It is not the farms that are deep in residential areas, it is residential areas encroaching on farming area. The farms were there first and the farms are much more important to us than the houses.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Milestone's at YVR Terminal A Lounge

I recently had to fly to Prince George for work and a Scouts Canada thing and therefore had to spend some time waiting for my plane at YVR in the domestic terminal.

I needed to eat lunch and dropped in on the Milestone's Palomino's in the domestic terminal. The setting was nice enough and the service was decent. Because it was busy I offered to share my table with someone else, though I was rude and ignored her because of a mild headache.

I ordered the popcorn shrimp.   The mayo with them was very good, but the size of the shrimp was tiny and it felt like they were frozen ones and not made freshly.   The portion was large, bordering on too large to be reasonable as a starter.  Still I liked them even at $9.29

My main was a burger with yam fries.   The burger was ok but forgettable.  The yam fries were well done.   The price was $13.98, a dollar more than in town.

My beer was a Stella for $7.99, steep but not as bad as the Club Soda at $2.89.

My total bill for lunch came to $36.66 before tip.

If I were not at the airport and had no other real options this is not where I would have gone.

On Sunday morning I arrived back at YVR early and needed breakfast before meeting Sheila at IKEA.   I went here again.   I had the breakfast sandwich for $10.59, totally forgetable.   My coffee was $2.59.

Forgettable food for airport prices

Milestones Grill and Bar (YVR) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The next CR-FAIR food security roundtable will be held in Sooke – June 21

via email

Hosted by Sooke Food CHI at the Sunriver Community Allotment Gardens

Meeting details:
When: Monday, June 21, 11:00am to 1:00pm
Where: Sunriver Community Allotment Gardens - 2380 Phillips Road, Sooke - map
Please RSVP by June 16th for the Roundtable to

Directions: Cross Sooke River bridge...turn right at first traffic light, at the Sooke Museum, travel up Philips Rd, past an arena, past the Sooke River Flats Camp Ground, over another small bridge, past main entrance to Sun River Estates, and we are next big field, well signed. SUNRIVER community allotment gardens. come into parking lot.

Car Pool: Car pools are recommended. There will be one leaving from the Community Social Planning Council office at 3948 Quadra Street between 9:30 and 10am (time TBD). Room for 4 passengers. Please call Mary Katharine at 250-383-6166 ext 100 to reserve a seat.

Lunch: A light lunch will be provided by our hosts, Sooke Food CHI. Please be sure to RSVP so our hosts know how many people to prepare for.

More about our hosts:

Food security roundtable meetings are an informal forum for networking and exchange of information on issues and projects related to food security and sustainable food systems, and usually last 1 to 1.5 hours.

We look forward to seeing you on the 21st. If your group is interested in hosting an upcoming food security roundtable meeting, please contact Mary Katharine at or 250-383-6166 ext 100.

Check out this and other food-related events on the new CR-FAIR regional food events calendar.

Mary Katharine Ross, ext. 100
Communications Coordinator
Community Social Planning Council
Research - Insights - Solutions
2-3948 Quadra Street | Victoria, BC V8X 1J6
Tel: (250) 383-6166 Fax: (250) 479-9411
email: |

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Call for articles and events – Making Food Matter newsletter Summer edition

This came in my email:

'SUBMIT BY' DATE: Friday, June 11, 2010

Any foodie events listings, courses offered, harvest suppers and articles about food issues or projects in BC's Capital Region and beyond are welcome. If you'd like to share what food work you are involved in, please forward a summary, article, or event info to

Our regular newsletter headings are:

  • Planning for food security in BC's Capital Region
  • Island Updates
  • Food Security Articles
  • Community Announcements and Submissions
  • Regional Food Events calendar
  • Local Foods Recipes
  • Community Stories
  • Resources
  • Newsletters
  • Links and Listservs
  • Food on Video

Thank you,

Mary Katharine Ross, ext. 100
Communications Coordinator
Community Social Planning Council
Research - Insights - Solutions
2-3948 Quadra Street | Victoria, BC V8X 1J6
Tel: (250) 383-6166 Fax: (250) 479-9411
email: |

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Another poultry swap and sale - June 13th in Metchosin

From my email:

From: Liz 
Date: June 6, 2010 11:52:37 PM PDT
Subject: Metchosin Poultry Swap & Sale JUNE 13th
Hello Fellow Poultry enthusiasts! 
Hard to believe a month has flown by as fast as it has. I am sure many of you are working at getting gardens planted, chicks raised and caring for flocks. It certainly is that time of year, too bad the weather is not cooperating as it should. 
I have been getting emails and phone calls asking when the next swap is, sorry for the delay in sending out the reminder. 
Sunday June 13th, 11am to 12:30pm 
(second Sunday each month, so July 11th, Aug 8th, and not sure about Sept as the second Sunday is also Metchosin Days and maybe Oct 10th will be the last until Feb or Mar 2011)
Metchosin Municipal Grounds
4450 Happy Valley Rd
Looks like a number of people viewing the ad on UsedVic, please pass this email on to any friends of poultry and if they would like to be added to group list: I think I have finally figured out how to transfer new emails to the Group. 
On a more personal note, last week I went out with a handful of friends to catch a beautiful rooster that apparently someone had 'dumped' along a roadside parking lot to a trail in the Witty's Lagoon area. This poor thing had been there for almost 3 weeks, fending for himself, keeping the predators at bay and was probably nicked by a speeding car as there were feathers strewn on the side of Metchosin Rd. It took a little time, but fishing nets are awesome and not just for fish! He is now living in my backyard, but is needing to be re-homed. 
The point being made is Chickens and other Poultry are social animals, the majority of us do our best to keep them living in safe environments, and know a big part of our responsibility is to provide their care, this includes knowing they must have company of other poultry. This was cruel and nasty of someone to do as I do not believe 'chickens are just chickens, who cares'. I don't know what the answer is when someone has unwanted for what ever reason poultry, but it sure isn't to let them go in the wilds to fend for themselves. 
I am not set up to have this gorgeous big black beauty. Some say Australorpe, some say Jersey Giant, one even said possible Black Marans. I don't know, but those who see pictures are all saying he is a beauty. His one downfall is he likes to crow! I do live in 'rural' Metchosin, but my neighbours don't really cotton to the sounds of 'country' life or waking up at 5am by a roo welcoming the morning. If anyone is able to take him on, I sure appreciate hearing back from you, I can send photos! I don't know if I can keep him here until next weekend or it maybe me being dumped by the side of the road somewhere! lol
Other than that! Hope to see you at the Swap next Sunday. 
Many thanks, 

Monday, June 7, 2010

The other evening we were on our way to UVic to listen to a concert by the Vis a Vis Saxophone Quartet and stopped at the Med Grill in Royal Oak.   In general I have enjoyed the food at the Med Grill, but this time things were not so good.

I started with the carpaccio, and it was reasonable but hardly brilliant.   The amount of food was too much as an appetizer, the meat was overwhelmed by a huge salad on top of it.   The amount of meat was huge.   It was enough to be a main course and that became a problem for me.   My one big complaint was that the meat was not paper thin, it did not seem to have been pounded flat, though it was wonderfully tender.

Sheila started with a an order of Med bread which was also really too big.

Daniel had the Med burger with cheddar cheese, bacon and avocado.   Being a teenager, he said very little to me about his food, though he did not finish it.

Sheila had a tuna tataki and it was good, but it would have been more than enough on its own.

I had the pulled pork flat wrap.   It is hard to say much good about it.  The flavours were muddy and it was dry.   The wrap was very dry from the baking and adding nothing to the meal.  The pulled pork was bland, no sense of the amazing crust bits it should have.  The dripping fat and  the gelatin from the connective tissue that has broken down was missing.

It seems everyone wants to do pulled pork now and almost none of them can manage something half as good as I can at home.   The carpaccio left me so full that I had no space for more food.

In the end, the carpaccio and tataki were done as well as I think I could do at home, I have not done either yet.  The Med Bread is something that would more trouble than I want to do so it is worth it there.   The burger and flat wrap were not better than what I could do at home.

We are likely to go back, though we are unlikely to order an appetizer and main again.   All the portions are simply too large.
Med Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Coombs Livestock Swap

Via email today:

From: "Ev"
Date: June 4, 2010 10:01:02 PM PDT
To: "Friends of Coombs Swap"
Subject: Coombs Farm Animal and Poultry Swap

Coombs Fairgrounds

Sunday June 6 – 11 am to Noon

The first Sunday of each month until November

This may be the last Coombs Swap as we have come to know it.

Starting soon, possibly in July, the Swap will be modeled after a Farmers Market - with vendor fees applicable.

During the last two years the Coombs Farmers Institute, who own the fairgrounds, have been generous enough to provide the venue to hold the Swap at no cost. However, since the Swap has grown to the size that it has and vendors are using it as a reliable source of revenue the Farmers Institute feel, and rightly so, that rental fees should be collected just as they are for any other event that requires a meeting room, building, or other facilities that exist at the Fairgrounds. Since the suggested donations of 10% of sales have not materialized the Swap must be put on a more firm user-pay basis so that costs, such as the rental fees and promotion, can be met.

This is presently in negotiations and I will supply you with more details in subsequent eNewsletters.

Look Who’s Coming

One breeder emails, “I will be bringing some Silver Laced Wyandottes, Rhode Island Reds, and rumpless Araucanas. I might also have some nearly day-old Khaki Campbell and Pekin ducklings”.

A local breeder will be bringing Lavender Guinea Fowl keets, excellent birds for eating ticks and other insects, chasing Ravens and sounding the alarm if any strangers come onto your property".

Another breeder is bringing:
8 week old pullets..............Light and Dark Brahma
5 week old chicks..............Unsexed....Barred Rock, Buff Orpington and Rhode Island Reds
4 week old pullets..............Barred Rock
Week old..........................Unsexed......Australorps
Khaki Campbell.................5 month Trio
Pekin Ducks......................8 weeks unsexed
Runner Ducklings...............3 weeks...unsexed
Muscovy Ducklings............2 weeks..unsexed.
Meat Birds........................5 weeks

Please Note:

Once again we will be sharing the Fairgrounds with the people attending the Annual Gun Show on June 6.  This means that we will, once again, be moving the Swap up onto the grassy area behind the barns. This is ideal in that it gives us a lot more space for vendors and for the public to park. And henceforth the Swap will be held in this part of the Fairgrounds.

To avoid congestion at the main gate we Swap people should enter the grounds by way of the South gate. I will fence it off but if any vendors get there before I do please nose in squarely to the perimeter fence in an orderly line up behind the Red Barn. Buyers and the public please use the middle of the area to park, staying away from the fences.

A bonus to having the Gun Show people there is that they put on a nice Pancake Breakfast that we are welcome to attend, and they also have a lunch menu.

Even More::::::::: the same day at the Fairgrounds in the big new building there is going to be the first of what they expect to be a regular Flea Market and Craft Show. Tables are $10.00, set up the day before because it starts at 8 am on Sunday. For more information call Chris at: 250-752-7414

So big goings on at Coombs on Sunday so plan on spending a lot more time there than usual and enjoying it all.

Chicken Feed - some information about it

This passed through my email courtesy of Melinda and is by Christine Reid of Coal Creek Farm in Union Bay.  I doubt I am going to change what I am using - the basic Borden's feed as I have generic brown layers.   Still it is interesting to read

How do I approach a feeding program for my birds and what are some of the nutritional factors that need to be considered.
 I have pondered this for some time and have discussed it with others who in the past have tried a different diet for their birds other that the standard feed mill mix. Most have been happy with the results of the more natural feed mix that they have put together. Others stopped doing their own mix more due to the time consuming effort it took on their part or the total cost of the feed when it was all said and done.
 We all have our own individual needs that are required for the type of poultry we keep, what purpose they are kept for and the environment that they are kept in.
 I realised immediately that I did not have the time or the space to mix my own feed formula for my birds and logistically it would need to be done at a mill.
After conversing for a few months with a nutritionist at a Vancouver Island feed mill I became more informed on the food I had been feeding my birds to date and what the possible impact would be by using an all natural ingredient feed.
 Before touching on the makeup of the natural food formula I want to share some information regarding the standard feed mix that you would most likely be using for your birds from the feed mills. I myself have been using the regular feed mill mix for the last 5 years and have had for the most part no health problems with my birds but I have always felt that there must be a better more natural way to provide good wholesome food for my birds and in particular my heritage birds. Like many of you I have raised both hybrid birds and heritage birds and have come to recognize the vast differences between the two.
 Here is what I learned from the nutritionist.
 The feed from the mill production line was formulated more or less as a commercial ration to be simply constructed and cost effective. It was designed to cover the large production hybrid birds that have been developed over the years for fast growth rate/ high egg production, etc. Fast cheap and easy.
 The hybrid meat chicken is day 1 a chick and 6 weeks later it is on your plate. The hybrid meat turkey is at day 1 a poult and at month 3.5to 4 is on your plate.
The hybrid egg layer lays how many eggs a day? It is spent after a year and egg producers can’t wait to toss it out to the curb and bring in the next.  I won’t go further into the immune system and reproduction of the bird as I am sure we have been informed at least once or twice on the subject.
 The ingredients of the feed to accommodate this fashion of meat/egg production consists of mainly Soya Bean with added Wheat.
All the nutrients that your adult birds or growing babies require are added to the mix after the fact and are Synthetic. The feed does the job it has been designed to do, fast, simple, end of story.
 The heritage bird has a different genetic makeup and as the nutritionist explained they are a slower developing bird with a longer lasting life span and generally a much hardier constitution. The original genetic makeup and overall performance of the heritage bird requires a second look and possibly a different approach to their nutritional needs.
There is all kinds of information on the website and in books regarding heritage birds and hybrid birds that delve much further in depth on the subject. I have touched briefly on the most obvious differences between the two.
 The basic feed mixture with all natural ingredients that is being used by a small handful of people managing heritage birds appears to be working very well with proven results observed over a number of years. As more and more people have begun working with heritage birds the question of  feed has become an important topic.
The right feed mixture is different for everyone raising poultry as there are a variety of factors that dictate what nutritional requirements your bird needs.
 For example do you mainly pasture your birds or maybe partly pasture partly feed. Do you raise your birds in an indoor environment? Do you supplement the birds’ diet with other seeds, grains or treats? What is the weather like in your area, do you have a variety of breeds of birds, etc.
 Some of the basic ingredients that can be found in a natural heritage poultry feed are ingredients in varying amounts such as oats, wheat, corn, barley, flax seed, peas, molasses, brewers yeast, calcium source, kelp, salt, alfalfa and these are just a few to give you an idea of the content.
Compare this list of items to the run of the mill feed that I explained earlier and you begin to understand what a vast difference there is.
 The other factor involved in consideration of using this type of feed for your birds is cost.
It is much more costly to buy the all natural feed. If you ask your local mill to make it up they will require you to buy it by the 1000kg batch. 
 This is a lot of money up front but more importantly you must use it up over the 6 to 8 week time period as the feed can go rancid and spoil.
 In order to sell extra bags of feed that you cannot use quickly enough the feed recipe must be registered with the Canada Food Inspection Agency which requires a number of legal steps in order to be sold to anyone else. To assist with sharing large feed mixes it may be possible to have 2 or 3 peoples names and signature on the recipe when submitted to the feed mill for processing as it is legal for the mill to make the feed requested by that specific person but not for resale to the public.
 I have talked to some people about the feed recipe and have been clear in the fact that for me it is in the experimental stage. It will take a full year of growing, breeding, egg laying and meat producing before I would feel comfortable in fully advocating the feed recipe that I have been working on with the nutritionist. In the mean time I am still in the process of improving the recipe by adding or taking away ingredients as I continue to observe my birds growth and performance.
 I have taken the time to write this piece to be able to share the information I have learned and to inspire others to do further investigation and information gathering on the subject to make an informed decision when considering what or how to feed their birds.
 Written by Christine Reid
Coal Creek Farm

Watching Masterchef Australia Season 2

Sheila and I have been watching Masterchef Australia and enjoying it very much.   How do we get it?   We download it via eMule.

In theory the show is based on the original Masterchef from the UK, which I enjoyed watching when I lived in London in the early 90s.   I have to admit my enjoyment was at least 75% because of the host Loyd Grossman and his outrageous drowning in the mid Atlantic accent and the VERY highbrow nature of the show - all of this on a very hyper modern set.   It was not about the food or the cooks.

The Beeb revamped the serious a few years back to become much more of a competition show, though I have not seen any of this program.   What I did find, and this courtesy of the Eating Victoria blog, is Masterchef Australia.

We have been watching season 2 for the last week and I am intrigued and impressed by the format.  They are seeking the top 24 amateur chefs in Aus to take part in their long and extensive process to find the Masterchef of Australia.   But they do not even start there, the first six episodes are the final round of auditions, the whittling down to 24 from 50.

The series is running right now in Australia on Ten.  They are on their 41st episode and there are still 12 cooks left!   The episodes run six nights a week and are of varying lengths from 30 minutes to an hour an a half.   The format changes on different nights of the week.

  • Sunday - Challenge:  There is some sort of challenge for all the chefs compete with the winner goes to the celebrity chef challenge.   The bottom three are up for elimination
  • Monday - Pressure Test:  The bottom three from the challenge compete to replicate a seriously hard recipe.  Worst goes home
  • Tuesday - Celebrity Chef Challenge - winner of the challenge on Sunday cooks off against one of the top chefs downunder.  Winner gets a pin that they can use to avoid elimination.
  • Wednesday - Off Site Challenge - the chefs are broken into two teams and do some sort of challenge off site (ie run side by side restaurants).  Winning team gets a reward.  Losing team has two members that will compete to see who is eliminated
  • Thursday - Elimination night - the two nominated people from the losing team compete
  • Friday - Masterclass:  I am impressed with these, I am learning new styles and techniques from chef hosts George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan.

The 'Loyd Grossman' effect is still in the Australian version in an interesting homage through the third judge Matt Preston.   His dress style could be called subdued Don Cherry.

I have been impressed with the show and look forward to watching it through to the end.   It certainly is one of the better cooking competition shows I have seen and in some ways better than my favorite Top Chef.   There are moments when the editing of the show leaves something to be desired, normally around commercial breaks and the attempt to build more suspense.   What I would say to them is to use the same thinking that goes into the food, keep it simple and keep it good.

The part that really does capture my interest is that these people are all interested amateurs and not professional cooks.   These people are like myself which makes it easier to relate and to always watch with the eye to "Can I do that?"

I wish that the Food Network would choose to do a Masterchef Canada.   If they did I would put my name in and see how I do.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Kitchen disaster and a learning moment

Today we let our son Stephen make chocolate chip cookies without anyone helping him.

Stephen is 9 and going to school via SIDES and therefore we get to decide what his school day is like.   We have been cooking with him a lot, actually baking as he has decided he wants to be a pastry chef - an award winning pastry chef    He has baked chocolate chip cookies with us before, the last time he did almost all of it by himself.

I came up as he was dishing the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet.   I thought the dough did not seem quite right but I ignored that.  In the oven they went and 9 minutes later this is what came out.

Turns out Stephen had to use eight tablespoons of butter and so he filled the tablespoon measure eight times, but the butter was heaped and not flat.  He ended up with too much butter and the cookies were very thin and crispy and greasy.

This was a great chance to teach him about the importance of accuracy in measuring in baking and the impact of more fat in a recipe.  It also gave me a chance for a math lesson as I had him figure out how many millilitres in eight tablespoons - he managed to figure it out, 120 ml.   This is also half a cup.

I am still enjoying this homeschooling thing with Stephen and I will write some more about it soon and post it at this link.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I do not watch the local news, so I missed this

This is a short piece about where Ryan Vantreight is taking the family farm.

Chicken Problems

I am having a problem with my chickens, one of them is badly henpecked by the others but is also eating the eggs.   I need to do some research on how to deal with this, I am getting people suggesting offing the cannibal.

Feel free to send your two cents.

People are also welcome to drop by and see my chickens - 3103 Harriet road here in Victoria

No word on a Chicken Tour this year.   No one has stepped up to take on organizing it.   I know that Malcolm is too busy and burned out and needs someone else to take it on, I also know that I am not that person

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Food Inc

I watched this documentary the other day online at the CBC. In many ways the story they are telling is the very typical one of the big bad corporation. They are raising fear about the corporations that are making the foods we eat.  I am not convinced of many of the points they try to make.  The film goes for a shock value and is not really about making us better informed.

Food Safety and Big Companies - Are we really worse off?
In the past when the producers were smaller, there were regular outbreaks of ecoli and other illness, but they scale was small and local and did not make the national media.  If we go back to before World War 2, the issue of small producers and food safety was bad enough that the government had to step in and regulate food production.

GMOs - Are they really bad?
The fear of GMOs is a fear of science, a fear of using technology for the benefit of humanity.

 We have done amazing innovations in agriculture over the last 100 years. These innovations mean we can grow more food on less land than ever before. We are able to produce enough food for everyone on earth, something that has almost never happened in the past. With increased innovations we will be able to feed more people higher in the food chain than ever before. There are several billion Asians about to join the middle classes and they want to be able to eat more than basic starches.

What I did not find interesting about the film was learning more about industrial farming and what is happening and how it is happening.  I am out of the loop in food production and being on Vancouver Island I really do not have the chance to see how things are done.  

Industrial agriculture has meant that in only a couple of generations in Canada the issue of people starving is gone. The cheap food of today is better than the cheapest food people were eating several generations ago. Yes, we have a lot of health problems, but the nutrition of the working classes is not the horror it was in the past. In Victorian England the diet of the working class was so bad that they were measurably shorter than the middle and upper classes.

Much of the bad food is driven by the choices people make and thereby creating a demand for this food. The amount of processed food I buy is limited because I like better quality food and I am stingy, processed foods are more expensive. Cooking from basic ingredients is cheaper than any fast foods or processed foods. 

People make choices to not cook good food.

All in all, I was not left impressed with this show, a much better series is the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution. This is about teaching people to cook good food from basic ingredients, it is about connecting people to the food as a social time and a way to look after themselves and the people around them.   I am under no illusions that the Jamie Oliver show is not cut to make the story more dramatic, TV is there as entertainment.   What I am happy with is the underlying message that is positive and empowering.

I think the time has come for a mandatory course on cooking in high school. A Jamie Oliver style one. Get the kids making food from basic ingredients, get them buying them.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Butchering my own meat

Yesterday we bought some meat at the Real Canadian Wholesale Club in Esquimalt.   This is where I normally buy large pieces of meat. (on my computer the picture is not sideways, I have no idea why it turned when I posted it here)

I bought one whole tenderloin for $13.21/kg for a total of $49.22 and two outside rounds, one 6 kilos and the other 7 kilos and costing a total of $62.16 at $4.77/kg.   This is a total of just under 37 pounds of meat for $111.38.

I cut this up myself - the tenderloin cutting I learned from Good Eats, the outside rounds I just sort of faked.

When I was done, I had about seven pounds of scraps, fat, connective issue and such which I ground up and made into dog food for Louie.  This left me with 30 pounds of meat for us to eat and here is what I ended up with:

  • 1.5 lb tenderloin roast
  • 1 pound tenderloin scraps
  • 5 pounds of fillet steaks
  • 7 pounds of stewing beef 
  • 3 roasts of 2.5 pounds each 
  • 7 pounds of marinating steaks 

By my estimates this is a $240 to $280 value to us for a cost of $111.38.  In the hour it took for me deal with, I added close to $150 value to the meat.  

The ground stuff went into the dog food for Louie.  With 8 pounds of potatoes, several pounds of onions, four cups of dry rice, I made the equivalent of 30 cans of dog food.