Tag Archives: Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

A Pooh Bear Needs Honey

In a previous post (Culture Shock) I wrote about the Immigrant Welcome Center, part of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Center (CVIMC).  That is where I was told that there was a name for everything that I had been experiencing in Canada, and that name is culture shock.  Doh!  I was also told that I am an “immigrant.”  Now how did that happen?  It shouldn’t be a shock.  I am in the process of “immigrating” to another country, I am not Canadian, I am an immigrant.  But I resisted that label.  I want to be home, where ever and whatever that is.  On the advice of the CVIMC staff I signed up for fieldtrips with the center in order to meet other immigrants and maybe make friends.  The first outing that CVIMC was doing was to a local honey farm, Fredrich’s Honey, in the nearby town of Cedar.  If you have any spare space for a late summer read, this is a good one.

 Not that we could have left the house without him, but particularly since Little Man and I were going to a honey farm we had to bring along Pooh Bear.  To keep him out of trouble, Pooh Bear waited in the car while we were learning about bees.  Before anyone tries to report me for animal endangerment, Pooh Bear is a teddy bear not an animal.  He is, however, almost “real” in the Velveteen Rabbit sort of way.  The important thing for our story is that I didn’t want Little Man or Pooh to get any ideas about balloons and little gray storm clouds.  I’ve learned from experience that Little Man has a good arm and can launch his teddies with surprising speed and accuracy.

Little Man and his tether.

Little Man and his tether.

 Partly because of the way the trip was structured and partly because I was preoccupied trying to keep Little Man out of trouble I didn’t have as much time to chat with my fellow immigrants as I would have liked, but I did start on the road to friendship or at least to having people recognize my face when I come by.  That was a good first step, and I’ll write more about this at another time.  In the meantime, let’s talk honey…

Visitors asking Margaret questions about bees, beekeeping and honey.

Visitors asking Margaret questions about bees, beekeeping and honey.

 The “farm” itself is mostly an occupied farm house with their Honey House shop located up the hill from their home.  For our “immigrant experience” we were met by Margaret Friedrich, a wonderful woman who is an immigrant from Ireland herself, though her experience in Canada began back in the 60s.  She and her husband, Theo, have been in the honey business ever since, and now her son and daughter-in-law are learning the ropes.  For anyone interested, Fredrich’s Honey also conducts workshops on beekeeping.  You can also read a bit about the ups and downs of urban beekeeping in a book I mentioned in a previous post by Novella Carpenter about urban farming in Oakland.  Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer is an amazing story about her own experiences as a farmer in the middle of urban sprawl and ghetto as she raises pigs, all sorts of fowl, and yes, bees in a small midtown apartment.

An empty beehive.  It will be added in to the active hives if a swarm is found to fill it.

An empty beehive. It will be added in to the active hives if a swarm is found to fill it.

 Margaret is an amazing trove of bee-based knowledge.  Some of it I had heard or read about before, but other parts were new.  For the case of their “farm” the bees were currently up in the mountains since it is summer time and that is where the water is.  They will come back in the winter, stay through spring when everything blooms, and then make their move again.  I was a bit distracted by Little Man during much of Margaret’s presentation, but that was to be expected.  I had him on a short leash, literally.  Little Man has a much beloved tether that he wears when out and about in crowded outside areas, like large zoos, farmers markets and fairs.  People often laugh or scoff at the leash, but I do not care.  It keeps him safe, it keeps him with me, and he loves it.  So there!  J  Normally at a place like a small farm with so few people I wouldn’t use the leash, but in this case I wanted to keep Little Man a safe distance from any fascinating bee hives, or other things that a toddler should not be sticking his hands into.  Did I mention that Little Man likes to run around trees and get hopelessly tangled in his lion leash?  Yes… that was much of my morning.

Tools of the trade.  Little Man wanted the bee keepers hood in a bad way.

Tools of the trade. Little Man wanted the bee keepers hood in a bad way.

 The Honey House was admittedly my favorite part of the trip.  It is open year round, so anyone can come and purchase Fredrich’s honey and other bee-related products no matter what season.  I bought a lovely large jar of wildflower honey, and Little Man was given his own tiny jar of blackberry honey.  One of his and Pooh Bear’s favorite snacks is honey toast.  I will remind him of our visit to the farm each time he gets to bring out his little jar. 

Little Man inching his way towards and active hive.

Little Man inching his way towards an active hive.

 Fredrich’s Honey rotates in different types of honey throughout the year as different plants come into bloom.  Later this fall they will have a Fir Tree honey that I must go back to try.  I am a huge fan of tree syrups; maple is my favorite but Indiana’s Shag Bark Hickory syrup is a close second.  It is lighter in color than maple syrup, but is not as sweet and has a light smoky finish.  Always up for new tastes, I am excited to try a tree pollen-based honey.  I also want to call soon to see if they have any dandelion honey in stock.  This honey is not produced by their bees and they were out of stock when I visited, but woman at the Honey House described it as rich and dark, gotta try it!

Two younger visitors in front of the Honey House.

Two younger visitors in front of the Honey House.

 My final purchase from Fredrich’s Honey was a pair of two beeswax candles.  The scent was of warm honey and bees; not cloyingly sweet and definitely not artificial.  The candles smelled like what I want “home” to be.  Now I just need to find the box with my candle sticks in it so that I can enjoy that scent in the evenings while I write.  Maybe it’s in that large stack over under the stairs?  Oh bother…

Pooh Bear's dream... honey toast for life.

Pooh Bear’s dream… honey toast for life.

Ladies and Gentle-Chickens!

OK, I’ll admit it…  I’m totally turning into a farm-geek.  Harvesting and gathering your own food is just plain fun (particularly since we were not involved in the hard work of prepping the garden or planting anything… just reaping the benefits).  It’s like Easter egg hunting.  Digging through the potato hill, not sure if there is anything left until your hands start raking in the ruby red tubers.  Little Man loves pulling up root vegetables, especially beets.  He grabs the leafy greens and then leans back with all of his might until either the root gives way or the greens do.  I have had to start restraining myself at the farm garden, always reason to come back tomorrow.  We have free reign in the garden, but it is not our’s and I don’t want to abuse our privileges there.  Even so I often find myself making excuses to go back to the garden or asking Little Man if he wants to go say “hi” to the chickens just so that I can say “hi” too.

After "shopping" in the garden

After “shopping” in the garden

 My favorite thing to do is gather eggs.  There is something about walking into the chicken coup, the scent of sweet hay and a little bit of chicken funk, but it just makes me smile.  Novella Carpenter in her hilarious discussion of urban farming in an Oakland ghetto (Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer) describes chickens as the gateway animal to urban farming.  After a couple of weeks living on the farm I can totally see her point.  We plan on staying here for quite some time, but when we do eventually leave… don’t tell Dave, but I would really like to be somewhere that we could have chickens. 

Dinner

 

 Speaking of Dave, a couple of days ago he came home from working at the university to be greeted by a happy toddler who invited him to go say “hi” to the chickens.  We went to take the short cut to the chicken coup through the back yard, which Little Man calls the “hair cut.”  He heard us call the short path to the garden behind our house as the “short cut,” but didn’t know the word so now it is “hair cut.”  Usually when Little Man greets the chickens he says “Helloooo Laadiessss.”  Today was different.  He walked up to the coup, threw his arms wide and yelled “hello ladies and gentle-gnomes!”  Dave and I smiled at each other and in unison said “good evening ladies and gentle-chickens!”

 We went into the coup and were greeted by Little Man’s “ladies.”  Our plan for the eggs was built on yesterday’s botched brunch.  Little Man, while trying to hold it together in a marathon grocery shopping expedition said that he would like pancakes for brunch.  I made a rookie mistake and promised my beautiful, curly-haired boy that he would have pancakes… and then we got to the restaurant 30 minutes after they stopped doing breakfast.  Oh bother!  So to atone for my error, dinner that night was a pancake breakfast.  Specifically we had pancakes made from a Bauder Camp recipe (I miss those cocktail cruises!), homemade turkey sausage patties and oven-roasted home potatoes.  I’ll share those recipes at another time.  For our purposes in this post I am going to share the recipe that came the day after our pancake breakfast for dinner.  We ended up having a good amount of sausage and potatoes left over, and in our house that can only mean one thing… frittata.

 A frittata is like a large omelet, but it’s even better since you don’t have to flip or fold it.  That means it can be easily turned into a fast, delicious dinner.  I have included a link to the frittata recipe below, and it is based off of the left overs that we had in our house that evening.  You don’t have to make a pancake breakfast for dinner in order to prep for this meal the next night… but it’s a great excuse to do so.

 One “trick” I use for frittatas is something that I learned from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites: Flavorful Recipes for Healthful Meals cookbook.  To make a frittata that provides four servings (the leftovers are great the next day!), I start with eight eggs.  If the eggs are small I might add another to round it out.  The trick is to only use four whole eggs and four egg whites, ditching four of the yolks.  My brother is moaning right now, but by getting rid of those yolks I can decrease the amount of fat and bad cholesterol in the dish.  Dave and I are both a bit rounder than we would like, and lowering overall bad cholesterol in our diets is another goal.  So there you go.  You can keep or ditch those four yolks as you see fit.  I haven’t found any loss of flavor, richness or overall awesomeness in my frittatas since I started doing this.

 One last frittata trick…  Many of the recipes that I’ve read and seen demonstrated on TV require that you get out an extra plate, flip the darn thing when it’s mostly cooked onto the plate, and then invert it again into the skillet to finish cooking.  It looks simple on TV.  I’m sure my issues with this have been a result of a lack of patience or my overall clumsiness, but I have burned my hands and splattered my stove (and countertops… and cupboards…) enough that I gave that technique up.  Instead, I cover the frittata pan with a lid immediately after I add the eggs.  This lets the top set up through the steam released from its cooking.  Once the eggs are set up nicely I remove the lid, sprinkle on a bit of grated cheese and pop the thing under the broiler for a minute or too to brown it up.  That way you get the crispy browning of the top that you would otherwise miss from not flipping it.  No more burned fingers (or at least less), no more messy stove and surrounding area (or at least less), and the resulting frittata is stunning in its caramelized cheesy glory.

Sausage and Potato Frittata

Left over roasted potatoes and sausage patties for the frittata

Left over roasted potatoes and sausage patties for the frittata

The frittata flavor base of onions, roasted potatoes and sausage

The frittata flavor base of onions, roasted potatoes and sausage

The flavor base after adding the smoked paprika, my favorite spice

The flavor base after adding the smoked paprika, my favorite spice

After adding in the egg mixture

After adding the egg mixture put a lid on the pan to help cook the top

Once the top is almost set, you can add the cheese

Once the top is almost set, you can add the cheese

The top is almost set and I had run out of cheese to grate.  Luckily I did have slices of Colby.

The top is almost set and I had run out of cheese to grate. Luckily I did have slices of Colby.

The finished product.  Be careful with broiling your frittata.  I have been known to walk away from the oven and "caramelize" my frittatas more than intended.

The finished product. Be careful with broiling your frittata. I have been known to walk away from the oven and “caramelize” my frittatas more than intended.

Best kitchen helper ever!

Best kitchen helper ever!