CSA 2014 – Week 8

To spray or not to spray, that is the question.

Or at least that was the question this past week.

The potato beetles that previously were found only in our Turkish Orange eggplant, began to march throughout the patch, selecting plants seemingly at whim to decimate. Our choices were to spray or to pick them off by hand.

Because the plants were also full of ladybugs – which would eat any aphids present – and bees – necessary to pollinate the eggplant flowers, I hesitated to spray. Any chemical strong enough to kill the Colorado potato beetle would surely finish off the bees & ladybugs too. But hand picking multitudes of potato beetles, of all stages & sizes, on more than 600 plants would  take an awful lot of time.

In the end we decided not to spray. Instead, every other day we walk through the patch with jars of soapy water & remove by hand any beetles we find.

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While time consuming, it’s good to hear the bees buzzing and see the lady bugs crawling around doing their thing. We seem to be gaining ground on the potato beetles as well. Hopefully victory is ours!

And then there are the rabbits! Those hungry little rabbits!

We have never seen so many rabbits throughout the farm as this year. Where are those coyotes when we need them? (Actually we saw a beautiful, large coyote today – in the neighbour’s strawberry patch). Our edamame that I thought was slow to germinate, was actually being eaten as it popped out of the ground. The green beans were the bunnies next target.

After considering our options, we put a net barrier around the latest vegetable plantings. So far, so good!

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Even some of the edamame is making a comeback!

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But not everything was a struggle with nature this week.

There was enjoyment & pleasure too. The fog this morning enveloped the farm in a beautiful & mysterious mist …

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What’s in the box?

Green beans, onions, lettuce, zucchini, raspberries, maybe tomatoes, and eggplant as an extra

  • The green beans are ready – and they are beautiful!
  • Our shareholders really enjoyed the Ailsa Craig heirloom onions that we grew last season, so we grew them again. They’re still a little small, but each week the size will increase. These onions are a sweet treat!
  • Your box this week again contains lettuce & zucchini and raspberries.
  • We have been picking a few early cherry tomatoes for a while now ( not sufficient quantities for our CSA, but the customers at our farmers’ markets have been enjoying them), but the large red beefsteak tomatoes are a bit slower to ripen. We picked the first of them today. Not enough for everyone, but some boxes will include a tomato. Next week the rest will have a tomato. And soon there will be plenty of tomatoes!
  • Eggplant is something we grow for our markets but don’t often offer in our CSA basket. It seems many of you don’t eat eggplant. This week it will be available as an extra for those who want to try it.

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The bean patch.

 

 

 

CSA 2014 – Week 7

The farm on Monday 14 July, 2014 …

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 What’s in the box?

 Raspberries, sweet cherries, broccoli, zucchini, lettuce, beets (maybe).

  • Raspberries!  At last Friday’s pick up, shareholders were surprised to find some raspberries in their box already. This week everybody gets raspberries. They are good this season – but not great! As the berries are ripening, we can see that the plants are suffering from the cold winter. They just don’t have the energy to ripen & size the berries the way they should. So while the quality is good, the quantity is lacking.
  • The sweet cherries are almost finished now. It was a good news/bad news story this season. We were able to pick almost all our cherry trees – which we have not done for a few years – but lost much of the fruit to birds, and to splitting & rotting because of the rains. They sure taste good though!
  • The Tuesday boxes this week will get the last of the broccoli. Now everyone has had broccoli twice. Wish we had planted more!
  • Zucchini & lettuce continue. Our goal each year is to have lettuce last longer through the season. So far it’s still doing well & tasting great – and there is more coming.
  • The beets are finally ready. Lorie will pick the first of them tomorrow – here’s hoping there will be lots!

See you at pick up!

 

 

CSA 2014 – Week 6

Nature is always fascinating, putting on an incredible show. Here on the farm we are privileged to have a front row seat!

Some examples …

1. Remember the black yum yum tomatoes that the groundhogs were feasting on a few weeks ago?

This is what they looked like then …

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Once the groundhogs moved on to other treats, the plants recovered and today they look like this …

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Slightly smaller than the other tomatoes, but catching up fast! Really, there are no other signs of the damage they suffered.

2. We are growing 35 varieties of eggplant this season. One of those 35 is infested with Colorado potato beetles – only 1! (yes, the potato beetle if given a choice, prefers eggplant over potatoes or tomatoes). None of the other eggplants has even 1 potato beetle (yet). Why do the bugs prefer Turkish Orange eggplant?

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At first we thought to pull out those eggplants. Then we reconsidered. If we remove that variety, the potato beetles will move on to other plants – maybe lots of kinds? So we left the plants and picked off the beetles. We’ve done it twice now, and the plants are growing out of their damage quickly. We recheck the plants every day & squish any potato beetles we find.

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3. Cutting the grass in the orchards the other day, the tractor was surrounded by a flock of barn swallows. They followed me for hours, swooping & diving, eating insects that rose up from the grass as I mowed.

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But when I was cultivating the soil and getting it ready to plant, it was the blackbirds that were tailing me – red wings, grackles … They were finding the worms & bugs in the newly disturbed ground.

The birds knew what I was doing and when & how they could benefit from my actions.

4. The cherries are ripe!

While the first variety had a poor crop (about 5% only) due to pollination & birds, the quality was pretty good. The mid season cultivars that we are picking now have a heavier load, but have been significantly affected by the rain.

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The later cherries are still looking okay, but we are hoping for no more rain!

What’s in the box?

Sweet cherries, broccoli and/or zucchini, snow peas, garlic scapes, lettuce mix.

  • Everyone has been waiting for the fruit. Here it is – sweet cherries!
  • Everyone’s box should include a head of broccoli (the little bunnies are quite enjoying it too!) and/or a zucchini.
  • Your share this week includes the last of our snow peas. They have been great this year.
  • Garlic scapes & lettuce continue. Thanks for your comments on the different lettuces & which ones are preferred. This helps us decide what to grow next season.

Remember to return all containers that come with your produce. We can reuse them.

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This is not a skunk under the orchard mower! It’s Meesha hunting for a groundhog that is hiding here. This time of year the young groundhogs are been sent away from home to make their own way in the world & we find them in some unusual spots. Try as she may, Meesha could not get this one.

 

 

CSA 2014 – Week 5

Today was a day for …

… Weeding is of course, an ongoing task. We’re doing better at keeping up this year, but with all the rains and now the hot, humid weather, it’s a constant war with the weeds!

Hot peppers & cucumbers are nicely cleaned but the eggplants are still looking for some attention. Bales are standing by to mulch this area before it explodes with weeds again!

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While weeding this crop, I found a surprise. Perhaps this will help you identify these mystery plants?

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… Seeding is also an onging process. Today we seeded a bed of collards & kale, for late summer/fall harvest.

… Thinning is the big orchard job right now. We have completed the pears and have begun to thin peaches. It will take several weeks to complete. Never look at the ground during thinning time – always look up! What’s important is how many peaches are on the tree, not how many are on the ground.

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… Suckering & tying tomatoes always vies for our time against the peach thinning. The tomatoes are growing like weeds. We are suckering & tying the plants for the 3rd time already.

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The plants are loaded with fruit.

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Both the cherry tomatoes & the full size ones.

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… Picking was also on the agenda today. Among all those green tomatoes we’re beginning to find …

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What’s in the box?

Zucchini, lettuce, arugula, Asian greens, garlic scapes, snowpeas, and maybe broccoli, & salad turnips.

  • The zucchini is just starting and there should be at least 1 in your share this week.
  • The arugula was grown under row covers to keep the chewing insects at bay – they managed to get in anyways & so your arugula has a bit of a lacy look to it. Still tastes like arugula though! Add it to your lettuce salad for a spicy kick. Same goes for the Asian greens - the leaves may have some damage.
  • The snowpeas are still going strong. Remember that they freeze well if you want to save some for later. Simply blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes, then plunge into ice water for another 2 minutes, dry & then freeze in bags. They are great in stir fries later in the summer or next winter.
  • There will be lots of garlics scapes yet, but salad turnips are almost done.
  • Broccoli is beginning to head – some boxes may have it, some will have to wait until next week.

Those shareholders who pick up on Friday are probably beginning to realize that things ripen between Monday and Friday, and sometimes the produce in your box can be a bit different then what we list here. We try to accurately predict what will be ready, but sometimes we are all surprised.

Not everyone on the farm was busy today.

Some recognized that it was a long weekend  & enjoyed it in other ways.

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Happy Canada Day!

 

 

CSA 2014 – Week 4

A young boy ran up to us at market last week and said, “Please sir, can you make the peaches grow any faster?” Than he laughed and scampered away before we could answer.

The much desired peaches are beginning to size up. The crop is variable – some varieties are heavy with peaches, while others have very few.

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We are waiting for the trees to drop the small ones before we begin to thin out the crop to leave just enough for maximum size & quality.

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The early cherries are starting to turn colour.

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The crop is light on most of the early varieties.

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The later kinds have a heavier load of cherries.

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Unfortunately the birds are as anxious to taste fresh fruit as we are, and causing a lot of damage!

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Plums are the same – some have a good crop & others have less.

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Pears too …

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We are satisfied with the fruit crop as a whole. After the incredibly heavy crop last year, followed by the long, harsh  winter, we didn’t know what to expect.

The orchards overall are looking lush & green – enjoying all the rain, & now the sunshine & warmer temperatures.

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But the fruit is all in the future.

What about now?

What’s in the box?

Snow peas, garlic scapes, lettuce, salad turnips, radishes.

  • The snow peas are ready! Actually they surprised us and those of you who picked up your box last Friday already got a small taste. They are coming on stronger now so everyone gets a box in your share this week. Enjoy!
  • Garlic scapes are a favourite of garlic lovers. They are the tops of the garlic plant which we cut off so the energy is put into sizing up the underground bulb. Use the whole thing. They are slightly milder than garlic bulbs, but with lots of good garlic flavour. Many people enjoy garlic scape pesto, so I have included 2 recipes. The 1st is an easy basic pesto recipe, while the 2nd includes spinach & several more ingredients. It comes from one of our CSA’ers last season.
  • The lettuce this week is a loose head – either green or red. This is a brand new kind of lettuce that looks beautiful (we posted pictures of it last week on the blog), grows vigorously and is supposed to taste great! But you can be the judge of that. Please let us know what you think of this lettuce.
  • Tell us how you enjoyed the salad turnips last week. We love them & eat them daily – maybe because they require no special preparation. We just pick them, wipe them clean & eat!
  • The radishes are soon coming to an end. The warmer weather means they will taste a little stronger.

 

Garlic Scape Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice (or lime)
  • 1/4 pound roughly chopped scapes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt to taste

Directions:

Puree scapes, olive oil, & lemon juice in a blender or food processor until nearly smooth. Gently stir in cheese. Taste & adjust juice & salt to taste.

Serve as a spread on bread or crackers, a dip for vegetables, or on pasta or pizza.

Store in refrigerator for 2 -3 days. Pesto can be frozen for longer storage.

 

Spinach & Garlic Scape Pesto

Ingredients:

• 1 pkg. (10 0z.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained or 3 cups packed fresh spinach leaves

• 1⁄2 cup parsley leaves

• 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

• 1⁄2 cup walnuts

• 8 chopped garlic scapes

• 2 tbs. basil

• 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions: Process until smooth. While motor is running, drizzle in oil. Makes 2 cups.

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CSA 2014 – Week 3

What’s in the box?

Salad turnips, lettuce mix, radishes, spinach (probably!).

  • Salad turnips are small, round, white turnips that resemble radishes – but without the bite. Mild in flavour, crisp, and quite tender, they are best eaten raw – simply wash, cut off the tops and enjoy! They can also be stir fried, sautéed, or steamed – both the turnips & the green tops.
  • The lettuce & radishes continue – thay are loving this cooler weather & all the moisture. Remember that the lettuce has been rinsed once to remove some of the field soil. You will want to wash it again.
  • The first spinach patch is about finished. There should be spinach in Tuesday’s box. The next spinach planting is coming slowly. There may be some ready for Friday’s box, or maybe not.

Long-time shareholders are looking for snow peas, broccoli, even raspberries. Often we are picking these vegetables and berries by now – but not this year.

The snow peas are finally blooming – all 3 plantings! That means peas in a couple of weeks – lots of peas. We try to space the 3 plantings out so they mature in sequence and provide a longer harvest. But this year Mother Nature has fooled us & they are blooming together. The result may be lots of snow peas all at once – we’ll find out shortly.

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The broccoli is growing daily – but so far no sign of heads.

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Raspberries are forming – we’re anxiously waiting for the first signs of pink!

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Here’s an update on some of our other vegetable crops … (we’ll provide a fruit update next week).

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So far we’re (almost) keeping up with the weeding!

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Zucchini

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Most of the tomatoes are mulched, staked & tied now.

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Garlic – expect green garlic & scapes in your CSA box soon.

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 The recent downpours have left the eggplant & peppers dirty. We’ll cultivate them a few times to encourage quicker growth, then mulch them.

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Some amazingly colourful (and hopefully tasty) lettuces are almost ready to pick!

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… and our mystery crop – growing well too!

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CSA 2014 – Week 2

One of the things I like about farming next to the railway tracks is all the wildlife we see there - rabbits, groundhogs, mice, muskrats, sometimes skunks, all sorts of birds, & occasionally deer and coyotes.

One of the things I don’t like about farming next to the railway tracks is all the wildlife we see there – and the damage they cause.

The other day a family of very young groundhogs scurried into the underbrush as we came by. We were able to count 3 little ones before they disappeared. Unfortunately their home happens to be just opposite our newly planted tomato patch. They have been tasting the various tomatoes.

Discerning little creatures that they are, they tried and rejected Peron Sprayless, as well as Red Pearl, Green Tiger & even the always popular Sungold tomatoes.

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Their favourite was Black Yum Yum (obviously well named), a new to us heirloom. However, the plants are trying to keep on growing and we may still be picking Black Yum Yums if the groundhogs move on to something else – perhaps eggplant or sweet peppers or cucumbers?

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Growing conditions have been great this past week, with plenty of sunshine & some rain as well. The nights continue to be on the cool side. These are all things that plants & trees like!

What’s in the box?

Lettuce, pea shoots, spinach & radishes

(more herb & tomato plants are also available).

  • The lettuce is finally ready – a nice mix of colours that are beautiful in a salad.
  • The peas shoots are for cutting and adding to your salads or sandwiches. Place them outside in the sun, keep well watered and they should last another week or more. If you cut them down only about half way or so, most will regrow enough for a 2nd cutting.
  • Spinach & radishes continue… Here are 2 recipes for radishes you may want to try.

ROASTED RADISHES

Serves 2 or more

  • 1 bunch radishes, trimmed, very large ones halved/quartered, if desired
  • olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for serving
  • small handful fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
  • some thin sliced red onion
  • sea salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • crusty baguette
  • blue cheese, if desired
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place radishes in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and scatter butter pieces over. Strip thyme leaves off stems and sprinkle over the radishes. Season with salt and give everything a good toss.
  3. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until radishes are wrinkly. If your radishes are small or skinny, watch them carefully, so as not to overcook them.
  4. Midway through cooking, give the pan a shake.
  5. Let cool slightly. Slice radishes into fat rounds. Place on a serving dish, drizzle with olive oil and dress with thin slices of butter. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and, if you like, some black pepper, too. Scatter red onion slices over the radishes. Serve with crumbled blue cheese or with hunks of crusty baguette and additional butter, salt and thyme.

ROASTED RADISH & POTATO SALAD

For the salad

  • 10-15 radishes (your favorite variety, rinsed, trimmed, and halved or quartered depending on size)
  • 3 medium Yukon potatoes (rinsed and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 red onion (thinly sliced)
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dill Sour Cream Sauce

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 lemon (juice)
  • 2 tablespoons dill (finely chopped)
  • Salt
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine potatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. Empty potatoes onto a foil lined baking sheet, and place in the oven. Cook for about 20 minutes. In the same mixing bowl, toss the radishes in olive oil, salt and pepper. Empty into an oven-safe saute pan, or another foil lined baking sheet, and pop into the oven for about 10 minutes, or until radishes are softened.
  2. As the potatoes and radishes are roasting, mix together your dill sour cream sauce in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Remove the potatoes and radishes from the oven and let cool. Once cooled, combine the roasted vegetables, fresh onion and 1 cup of the dill sauce. Let cool in a refrigerator and serve on a nice spring day!

(both recipes are from Food52.com)

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