Thiessen Farms

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CSA 2015 – Week 9

This week finishes off the month of July, and begins August. That means summer is about half done.

A lot of our crops are done as well, and we are beginning some new vegetables & fruit.

Raspberries, broccoli, snow peas & lettuce – all finished!

Peaches, tomatoes, beans, eggplant & peppers are beginning – it’s a very good time of the summer!

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Here are a few random & educational peach facts …

This is mostly a rerun of a blogpost I wrote last summer, but I will repeat it especially for our new CSA members.

  • Peach season here in Niagara begins at the end of July or in early August, and finishes around the middle of September – depending on the weather.
  • On our farm we grow 25 varieties of peaches. Each variety ripens at a different time, making for a longer peach season.
  • We pick a peach tree 3-5 times, usually every 2 or 3 days, choosing only the ripe, mature fruit each time. A ripe peach will have a yellow background, not green. It will still be firm but not hard. While a soft peach will be the ripest & sweetest, it will not stand up to picking, packing & shipping to market.
  • A peach will continue to ripen & will soften if left at room temperature. It should only take a day or 2.
  • Ripe peaches can be stored in the fridge without affecting the flavour.
  • Each variety of peach has a name. It comes with this name – we don’t name it! The name often indicates the origin of that variety. Peaches that were bred at the government-run agricultural research station at Vineland have names beginning with “V” such as Vivid, VeeBlush, Vinegold. (Now called The Vineland Research & Innovation Centre, it is again breeding peaches which is very exciting).  Names beginning with “H” were developed at the Harrow Research Station (Harrow Diamond, Harrow Dawn, Harbrite… ). New Haven, Michigan is the home of Redhaven, Sunhaven & all the other “haven” peaches. Lately, new peach varieties come from private breeding programs in Michigan including the “star” series of peaches (Starfire, Blushingstar, Coralstar …).
  • Redhaven is the most widely known variety of peach. This does not mean it is the best, or tastes the best, or even looks the best. To reject a peach simply because it is not a Redhaven means you are missing out on an abundance of good peaches.
  • “Freestone” is not a variety of peach. Freestone means that the flesh of the peach is not tightly attached to the pit or stone. “Clingstone” means that the flesh is tight to the pit. To reject a peach because it is not freestone means that you are missing out on an abundance of good peaches. Sure it is a bit more work to cut or chew around the pit – but it’s worth it! Most of the earlier peaches are clingstone. Peaches ripening from mid-August on are mostly freestone.
  • Most peaches grown in Ontario are for eating fresh, not for canning or processing. Except for a few small peach processors, there is no canning industry left in the province. The last canner shut it’s doors in 2008 sending production overseas. Any canned peaches on our supermarket shelves now come from other countries. Babygolds & other similar clingstone varieties that were grown for the canning market have now been mostly removed and replaced with other kinds of peaches (or grapes).
  • Our peaches are sprayed with pesticides – fungicides for rot & disease, and insecticides for insects & bugs. We use both organic & chemical sprays. The weather is the main determining factor in how often & what kinds of pesticides we use.  Orchards are monitored for insects & diseases and sprayed only as necessary. (Organic fruit is also sprayed – but with only organic pesticides). Growing peaches without any pesticides in our humid climate is not possible!
  • Peaches can be canned, frozen, made into jam, grilled on the BBQ, used in baking (think peach pie, peach tarts, peach cake…), smoothies & milkshakes, ice cream and of course eaten fresh. No matter how you eat them, peaches taste great!

What’s in the box?

Peaches, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, onions.

  • It is exciting to have peaches for the first time this season. The variety is Harrow Diamond, an early, colourful, & delicious peach. Our peach packing line also washes them & brushes much of the fuzz off, leaving a smooth, ready to eat peach. Storage tip – peaches that will be eaten within a day or 2 can be left at room temperature to finish ripening & soften. The others should be stored in the fridge & brought out a day before eating.
  • Their are enough tomatoes ripe now that we can begin to offer them in your CSA box. There will be a combination of large & cherry size, and possibly many colours.
  • The 3rd new item in the share this week is green beans. The hot weather is bringing them on quickly.
  • Zucchini & onions continue …

Here are 2 recipes that CSA members shared with us this week that feature zucchini. Thank you Taryn & Tamara!

Zucchini Fritters

1 large Zucchini

2 cloves of Garlic grated

¼ cup of onion grated

1 large Egg

¼ cup of Parmesan grated

¼ cup of flour

Salt and Pepper to taste

  • Grate the zucchini, salt and place in colander or cheese cloth to drain as much as the liquid as possible, you want dry zucchini
  • In a large bowl combine zucchini, flour, parmesan, garlic, egg, salt and pepper
  • Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Scoop tablespoons of batter for each fritter and flatter with a spatula for even cooking, until golden brown – about two minutes. Flip and cook the other side – about 1-2 minutes.

Tips

  • I’ve used green, yellow, and red onions, I tend to use whatever I have lying around but they are both tasty
  • I’ve completely omitted the cheese and they still taste delicious (if I do use the cheese, I generally need to add less salt)
  • You can swap out regular garlic for garlic scapes, just chop them up finely
  • I’ve used white flour, whole wheat flour, rice flour, and also Italian breadcrumbs and panko breadcrumbs instead of flour and they all work, you may just have to adjust the amount you add, you want to make sure the batter will stick together in the pan and not fall apart on you (or alternatively be really too wet and fall apart on you)
  • Feel free to add anything else you may think taste delicious! I tend to use these “fritters” as a base to help use leftover CSA basket items!

Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake

The link to the recipe is – http://cake-decorating.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-vegan-chocolate-zucchini-bundt-cake-344598

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Everyone was warm & weary today due to the hot, humid temperatures.

Keeping hydrated was important!

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Some of us had to work regardless of the heat while others were able to take it easier!

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Thank you for continuing to return all boxes & containers!


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CSA 2015 – Week 8

We don’t usually give organized tours of our farm. I always feel that our farm is pretty boring – just rows of trees & vegetables .. lots of grass & weeds in between … a few chickens, ducks & 1 rabbit. Nothing too exciting.

But last week was the exception & we gave 2 tours.

On Tuesday a group of 4-H club members from Saskatchewan together with their Ontario hosts visited, and on Saturday we had our CSA open house.

Unfortunately for the 4-H group the day was rather rainy & wet. We took a quick walk through the orchards as many of these students had never been on a fruit farm before. A highlight was eating cherries off the tree. One of the trees we had not picked still had some very ripe & very sweet cherries (with a lot of rotten & cracked fruit too). We let them eat all the cherries they wanted – they did not find that boring!

Our CSA open house on Saturday was extremely hot & humid. Thank you to those members who came out to have a look around anyways! It was good to show you how we grow the fruit & vegetables that appear in your CSA box, and to visit together.

For those that could not join us, here are some pictures of how things are looking on the farm right now …

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Everyone is excited for peaches! We hope to begin the harvest later this week.

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Right now we are scrambling to keep up with suckering (pruning) & tying the tomatoes

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They look good when we are finished – at least for this week!

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The tomatoes are ripening too …

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We transplanted cabbage into the field the other week. Of course the rabbits found it & started to feast, so we replanted & then fenced the cabbage patch to keep those bunnies out!

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Other vegetables growing include …

onions – part of your CSA share this week,

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peppers, beans & cucumbers,

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Swiss chard,

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fennel bulbs,

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& winter squash.

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What’s in the box?

Onions, zucchini, beets, snow peas, lettuce, raspberries …

  • Everyone enjoys the Ailsa Craig heirloom onions that we have been growing the last few seasons. They’re still a little small, but each week the size will increase. These onions are a sweet treat!
  • Zucchini & beets are a part of your box again. We hope you’re still excited to see zucchini – they are really just starting & should be around for a while.
  • Snow peas don’t usually last this far into the season but the cool nights last week prolonged the harvest. We’ll see what effect the hot temperatures of the past weekend will have for the harvest later this week.
  • The lettuce still tastes good, so keep eating your salads!
  • We picked the raspberries today – the warm weekend made for an abundant harvest! But they are rapidly coming to an end. We hope there will be a good amount for Friday’s pick-up as well – but no guarantees!
  • … we have begun to harvest some other vegetables. There’s not a lot of them yet, but maybe enough for a taste … ?

 


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CSA 2015 – Week 7

Of all the jobs that we do on the farm, the one that puzzles people the most, the one that causes head shaking, the one that is least understood, is fruit thinning. Since growing fruit is our business, why would we deliberately remove fruit – sometimes lots of fruit – from the trees. We’ve been called crazy (or worse) & it’s been suggested that we have lost our minds when people see us thinning the fruit trees.

But there are good & sound reasons for thinning fruit. Often a tree will set a lot of fruit – more fruit than it is capable of growing to a marketable size. So we remove a portion of the crop.

We thin both for tree & for the fruit. A too large crop could cause the tree to use all its energy to bring the fruit to maturity, leaving it without the necessary strength to keep growing. If there are added stresses such as hot & dry weather or too much rain, insects or diseases … the tree could die. Additionally, the weight of all that fruit could cause branches to break. Too much fruit also means smaller fruit. It is preferable to have less but larger fruit – they look better, sell better & are worth more money.

And so we thin. On our farm we thin pears & peaches almost every year & often plums too. But all fruit can benefit from thinning if the crop is heavy – pears, peaches, nectarines, plums, apples, grapes & even cherries. Before we thin we wait for the tree to do its own thinning. It’s called the June drop. Most trees will drop a portion of their crop in mid-June – often fruit that is deformed or not properly pollinated, or just because there is too much! If we thin before the tree does its thing, we risk losing more fruit than we want. But when we see little fruit scattered under the trees we know we can safely finish the job.

Large pears are what the market wants, and they grow slowly, so we thin them first. We use small clippers to cut the pears off & try to space them about 8 or 9″ apart on the branch. Yes, it’s a slow & somewhat tedious job!

Here are the pears in mid-June ready to thin …

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The pears today …

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Peaches are easier to thin as they can be flicked off with your thumb & index finger. (The issue with peaches is the fuzz. The peach fuzz builds up between your fingers, in your elbows & especially in your neck. Mix it together with sweat on a hot, humid day & things can get rather itchy to say the least). The early maturing peaches that ripen before the middle of August don’t have as long to grow so we thin them about 8 or 9″ apart. We don’t thin the earliest varieties until their pits have hardened. Peach pits are soft & juicy until about the end of June when they begin to solidify & turn hard. If we thin before this happens, the pits will split apart as the peach grows and the peach will be open at the stem end allowing rain to enter & the fruit will rot. Insects will also take advantage of the opening & move in. Timing is critical! Later peaches have longer to achieve their size so we thin them about 6″ apart on the branch. When the crop is especially heavy, some farmers will use plastic baseball bats or pieces of hose to break the clumps of peaches, and follow with hand thinning. We just use our hands – it’s too easy to get carried away with a hose & whack the whole crop off! Thinning can be done by feel – it’s almost not necessary to even look at the tree.  But a good thinner will look at the fruit & try to remove the smallest, the blemished & misshapen fruit.

Some peach thinning before & after shots …

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We try to finish our peach thinning by mid-July. This season we are a bit behind, as all hands have been busy picking cherries & now raspberries. But we’re hoping to catch up soon. Everyone is anxious for big, sweet, juicy & delicious peaches!

What’s in the box?

Raspberries, broccoli, lettuce, zucchini, beets (red or golden), garlic scapes, basil plants.

  • Raspberries are at their peak this week, so expect more of these sweet, red & delicious berries in your share.
  • This is the 4th week for broccoli – and maybe the last. We hope you are still enjoying it. Has it been too much or just enough? We have included a recipe below for broccoli slaw courtesy of one of our CSA members (thanks Shelley!).
  • The lettuce is tasting good so it’s part of the box again this week.
  • Back at the end of May we had that frost that damaged the zucchini and set them back. Well, the plants that made it through are starting to produce now so there is finally zucchini (green, yellow, striped or patty pan) in the box.
  • We will have beets this week. When we pick tomorrow we’ll see if they are red or orange or a combination.
  • Garlic scapes are a favourite for many. They are the top of the garlic plant. We cut them off so the garlic puts all it’s energy into forming a nice big bulb underground. Leaving the scapes to grow would produce flowers & seeds instead, which we don’t need or want. Use them wherever garlic bulbs are used – raw or cooked. Their flavour is a bit milder than garlic. We have included our recipe for garlic scape pesto – a favourite of garlic lovers!
  • Back in spring when we were offering herb plants, many of you asked for basil plants. Finally we are having basil weather – hot & sunny – so we will have basil plants available for those who want them. Plant them in the garden or in a larger pot, or just cut & use the plant as is – your choice!

Broccoli Slaw

  • 1 bunch broccoli
  • 1/2 cup each slivered red onion and thinly sliced celery
  • half sweet red pepper, seeded and slivered
  • 1/3 cup each white vinegar and vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds (optional)

 

Trim and peel broccoli stalks; chop coarsely. Cut florets into small pieces.  In a large bowl, stir together broccoli, onion, celery and red pepper.

Whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, paprika, salt and pepper. Continue to whisk until sugar melts and dressing thickens slightly.  Pour dressing over broccoli mixture; toss well. Refrigerate salad, covered, for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Just before serving, add sunflower seeds (if using). Toss well.

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.

Thank you for returning all boxes & containers!

Please do not leave your vehicle idling while you pick up your CSA box.

 

 

 


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CSA 2015 – Week 6

What’s in the box?

Sweet cherries, raspberries, kale, lettuce, broccoli, snow peas

  • We are thankful for the support & encouragement we received from our CSA members last week. Most were very understanding, and happy for sweet cherries, even if they were cracked & damaged from the rain. We continue to pick some sweet cherries – since the rain the other weekend, the weather has been dry & we have been able to salvage some fruit. The cracked cherries rot quickly, and where the crop is bigger & the cherries are touching each other, the rot spreads rapidly.

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Where the crop is lighter & the cherries less plentiful, there is not as much ruined fruit. We applied fungicides to try to stop the fruit from spoiling as well. Without these sprays there would be no edible fruit at all!

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So there will be cherries in your CSA share and probably of a better quality than last week – but still expect to find some cracked ones too!

  • The raspberries have ripened very well & we will harvest an abundance this week. Everyone gets raspberries in their box! There will even be extras available to purchase if anyone wants more.

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  • Kale has always been considered a fall crop on our farm. But we know that many of you are big kale fans & have asked for it sooner, so here it is! Expect a bunch of fresh kale in your share this week.
  • Lettuce, broccoli & snow peas continue to produce. Your broccoli may be …

… a beautiful head of broccoli,

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… or some broccoli florets. These grow after the primary head of broccoli is harvested – sort of bonus broccoli!059

… or broccoli stems (also called baby broccoli).

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While the various broccoli may look different, they all taste great!

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For our farmers’ market customers …

We will have cherries at the markets this week – some from our own trees & some that we have purchased from a neighbour.

 


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Cherry season – certainly the best of times and the worst of times on the farm.

There’s nothing so beautiful as a cherry tree hanging heavy with ripe, red cherries. And what a luxury to go through the orchard grabbing cherries & eating as many desired. Then to top it all off, they’re not only delicious but healthy too!

But cherry season is also one of the most stressful times of the year. As cherries begin to colour, they are attractive to insects, especially the cherry fruit fly (ie worms) and birds, subject to rot, and extremely susceptible to cracking or splitting from rain. The insects and even the rot can be controlled to a certain extent by pesticides. Birds are more of a challenge. Some farms use bird bangers to try and scare them. Others stretch shiny, reflective ribbons through the trees or hang balloons etc but none of these are totally effective. By far the greatest peril is rain, especially rain followed by bright, hot sunshine. This causes the cherries to swell & burst, or crack.

This past weekend we received a lot of rain again – just over 60 mm. This caused the cherries to crack … and crack ….

They end up looking much like popcorn, and then rot very quickly – not a pretty sight!

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The few cherries that we picked on Friday, before the rain, were almost perfect. The cherries we picked today, after the rain, were almost 100% damaged. It is a big financial loss for us and a big disappointment for our customers.

Some of the later cherries that are not yet as ripe were not damaged as severely. Perhaps we will be able to pick some of them. However there is more rain in the forecast …

Ripening with the cherries are red raspberries. This is probably the fruit with the heaviest crop for us this season – they look amazing! The rain is beneficial for the raspberries as it helps them to grow bigger. But it can also cause them to rot. We are optimistic for a good harvest this season.

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What’s in the box?

Sweet cherries, red beets, snow peas, lettuce mix, broccoli and raspberries (full shares only).

  • Because of the weekend damage to the cherry crop (see explanation above), there will be limited cherries in the CSA boxes and the cherries will be cracked. This means they look bad, but still taste good. But eat them quickly as they will spoil quickly!
  • The red beets are baby beets – small, sweet & delicious!
  • The 2nd planting of snow peas is producing now, so quantities are increasing. Remember that snow peas are just as good (or better) eaten raw, as cooked. We like to eat them in our salads.
  • The lettuce continues to thrive and is part of your CSA box again this week.
  • Most of the broccoli will look slightly different this week. We have almost finished our normal broccoli heads and are now picking baby broccoli or broccoli stems. They taste the same, but don’t produce big heads, but rather small broccoli stems – lots of them. They are supposed to keep producing these for weeks & weeks. It’s our 1st time growing this & we’re excited to see how they turn out. Tell us how you like them & if you taste any difference.

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  • Raspberries are just starting and there is not yet enough for all shares. Tuesday pick-up will only have raspberries in the full share boxes. By next week everyone should get raspberries. Maybe even by Friday? Depends on the weather as usual!

Please remember to return all containers so they can be reused!

A CSA pick-up reminder – If you miss your pick-up, please call us that day & we can make arrangements for you to pick it up the next day. We do not save your produce beyond the next day.

 

Looking ahead … we picked our 1st cherry tomato today. More are coming!

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Here are Flynn & Ryder, the latest additions to our farm.

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CSA 2015 – Week 4

It’s a green, green world on the farm right now … and it’s beautiful!

With ample moisture in the ground from all the rains earlier this month, and now the sunshine & warmer temperatures, everything is growing rapidly. The fruit trees, berry canes, vegetables, grass, and of course the weeds – all are lush & bright & green.

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New peach leaves & branches are a bright, vibrant green, becoming a darker green as they mature.

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With no fruit to ripen (due to the frigid winter),  the blackberries can put all their energy into growing new canes for next year’s crop

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The tomatoes are all mulched & staked & have been tied once.

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Our native shrub & tree nursery – everything’s growing well, including the weeds.

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At the farmers’ markets our stall is also green. Since our markets began about a month ago, we have been selling plants only – herbs & vegetable plants, including tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, kale … but all green. Most people have done their planting now, but thanks to the city wildlife & their appetite for greens, replanting is often necessary & our sales continue.

Last week we offered lettuce & pea shoots – still green but edible & our customers were happy.

Our CSA boxes are extremely green as well – and not everyone is happy about that. While most members express thanks & appreciation for the fresh vegetables, we do hear some mutterings & grumblings. Everyone is hungry for something besides green salad fixings – especially fruit. We are too! The early zucchini is ripening, but that late frost damaged so many plants that there isn’t enough for our CSA members. The first beets were also stunted & slowed and are not quite ready to harvest.

But the sweet cherries & raspberries have come a long way in the last few days. We hope to be picking by next week!

(And yes, that is already bird damage seen on the cherries below.)

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What’s in the (green) box?

Broccoli, snow peas, lettuce mix, Asian greens – stir fry greens, green garlic, mint.

  • Broccoli was an unexpected bonus in last week’s Friday boxes. This week everyone gets broccoli – the heads are not large but oh so delicious!
  • Snow peas are always a sure thing – but this season we have been humbled again. Sown during that dry spell, they germinated slowly & poorly, then had to compete with all the weeds that flourished when the rain finally came. We still have snow peas for your share, but not as many as usual.
  • The lettuce mix continues to grow & grow! Keep eating your salads!
  • The Asian greens are all bok choy or pac choy or … this week. Stir fry them quickly to keep the vibrant green colour & fresh flavour.
  •  Enjoy some green garlic again this week – this may be the last garlic until fall! Remember to store it in the fridge.
  • Hot, humid days call for home-brewed iced tea with fresh mint leaves. Our mint is going wild so we have included a bunch in your share this week.

Thanks for remembering to return all containers & bags for reuse!

 


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CSA 2015 – Week 3

They hang on opposite walls of our workshop, hidden among all sorts of other useful stuff. They are the old & the older, the seldom-used & the     never-used-anymore. I don’t like either, and avoid them if at all possible.

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The weed whacker has the date we purchased it scratched on the plastic housing – 1/96. That makes it quite old! But it still runs when needed and the heavy-duty blade on the bottom takes care of a lot of weeds in a hurry.

I hate the weed whacker. It’s loud, it’s heavy, and it vibrates and shakes. You have to wear ear protection, eye protection, foot protection, & leg protection … And so it has spent most of it’s 19 years hanging on the wall of the workshop.

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The scythe is even older. I remember this same scythe (and it’s partners) from when I was growing up on the farm. I also remember my father patiently teaching me the proper way to use it. Once you catch on to it, it’s actually a very efficient piece of equipment, and can take care of a lot of weeds in a hurry.

It’s safe to say that the scythe has not been used since the weed whacker was purchased back in 1/96, or probably even longer, since we had other weed whackers before this one.

Right now, there are a lot of weeds around the trees in the orchards. We prefer to use mulch – hay or straw – to help keep the weeds at bay. But we can never cover the entire farm, so we also spray with herbicides around the trees to control weeds. Between the rows we mow the grass.

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We are a little behind in both weed control & grass cutting. In our defense, the grass is growing at an alarming rate due to all the rain, and the weeds even more so. So the orchards have a slightly wild look right now! But all will be brought under control in due time.

However, when I came across a few patches of thistles the other day,  that were about to go to seed, I had to take immediate action.

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The obvious solution was to use the weed whacker … or maybe the scythe.

I chose to go old school & pulled the scythe out from it’s hiding spot & sharpened it up. It felt good to be using it! The thistles were taken care of in a hurry – without noise, vibration, & no needed ear & eye protection. Plus I got some exercise.

Perhaps there still is a place for the scythe on a modern farm …

The weeds in the vegetables are controlled with cultivation by tractor, by hand hoeing, and by hand weeding. We use a lot of mulch in the vegetables too.

The tomatoes are getting mulched & staked this week .

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The eggplant & peppers will be next.

 

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There is never a shortage of vegetables waiting to be weeded.

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What’s in the box?

Green garlic, Asian greens, lettuce mix, spinach,

radishes (maybe), rhubarb (Friday only).

  • Green garlic is fresh garlic, picked now, before the bulbs mature underground. Perhaps a little milder than fall garlic, it has amazing flavour and can be used raw or in cooking – wherever you would use garlic cloves. You can eat the entire plant. Because it is fresh & not dried, it must be kept in the fridge.
  • Asian greens can be added to salads or stir-fried. They are juicy & delicious.
  • This week’s lettuce is a mix of various kinds & colours of leaves. It looks & tastes beautiful! As usual we have rinsed it once but you may want to wash it too.
  • The spinach plants have regrown so we are cutting them again & spinach will be in your box this week.
  • There are still  a few radishes  at least enough for Tuesday’s boxes. No promises for Friday.
  • But Friday gets the rhubarb this week -last week it was in the Tuesday shares.

Here are the beautiful Asian greens …

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The snow peas & broccoli are maturing & should appear in your CSA box by next week (or sooner?)

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Here is something to make your mouth water!! The first cherries are making their move & showing some colour!

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