Spring-ing into action!

With the change in the weather, things on the farm are really moving – including us!

In the orchards …

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Lots of tree pruning is happening – making up for time lost during the prolonged winter.

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The grass seemed to turn green overnight.

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While the peach buds have barely changed yet,

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the sweet cherry buds are swelling & turning green.

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The open ground has been cultivated and is drying up nicely. We managed to seed snow peas, spinach, lettuce & beets last week.

In the berry patch …

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Blackberries are being pruned,

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and the raspberries too.

In the greenhouse …

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Amy is busy transplanting – while Oliver is busy resting,

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and the pots of vegetables & herbs are starting to line up.

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The nights are still quite cold so we cover them each evening to keep more of heat in.

In the gardens …

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The rhubarb is popping up,

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and the herbs are coming to life (angelica in the background, yarrow in the front).

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From a distance there’s nothing to see in the garlic patch,

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but a closer look reveals rows of green poking through the straw.

 

I have plenty of company on my morning walks around the farm. Seems everybody is enjoying the warmer temperatures and is happy to be outside & moving again.

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Spring yet?

Winter appears to be finally losing it’s grip on our part of the world, though there are few signs of spring out on the farm yet.

The snow has mostly disappeared, melting its way across the orchards leaving only a small strip along the railway tracks – always the last to go because it’s on a north facing slope shaded from the late winter sun by the trees & scrub growth there.

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By this time the cherry buds are usually swelling & showing traces of life – but today I saw no change yet. (Last year on this date, we had lightly worked the ground, and planted the first of the vegetables outside.)

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Many, many people have been asking how the fruit trees and buds came through the winter.

Apparently they survived quite well – at least in our area.  While the winter was extremely cold it was consistently so, which is better than the temperature fluctuations we often experience. There was plenty of snow cover which insulates & protects the tree roots as well. Official bud counts indicate sufficient buds are alive for a decent crop. We did some of our own checking too and the results look good!

The only tools required for checking the fruit buds are a sharp knife and good eyes (or at least good glasses).

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Slice cleanly through the lower part of the fruit bud. Live buds will be green and dead buds will be black. The day we cut these I could not even find any black buds to take a picture of (though of course there will be plenty). This makes us optimistic for a good crop.

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So while the orchards are not showing much spring movement, the farmers are coming out of hibernation.

A lot of tree pruning has been done in the last few weeks and we will start pruning raspberries this coming week.

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And in the greenhouse it is definitely spring!

Seeds continue to germinate and grow. The continuing cold night temperatures mean we often have to carry the trays of seedlings back into the warmer barn in the evening – but even the nights are beginning to get warmer.  Growth has not been too affected though – if anything it might make the plants tougher?

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The vibrant colours, smells, shapes and textures of the new plants are so exciting & encouraging! Each one holds so much promise of the season ahead.

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The only one on the farm still clinging to winter is Meesha – still enjoying the cold, still relishing the snow!

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Dreaming of CSA 2014

Onions, garlic and and a few apples.

That’s all that remains from last year’s harvest.

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The onions are good – still firm & pungent. The garlic is the smallest of the small but not yet sprouting. Many of  the apples – not super crisp anymore – are firm enough to eat. The softer ones we make into apple sauce, the even softer ones are enjoyed by the rabbits, and the chickens feast on the apples that are spoiling.

Of course there are fruit & vegetables preserved in jars on the shelves of the fruit cellar in the basement, and bagged in the freezer. But how I long to bite into a fresh, ripe & juicy peach! Or grab a handful of sweet cherries as I walk through the orchards …

We’re doing what we can!

Along with our dreaming about fresh fruit & vegetables, we are also planning and planting. The first seeds are already germinating and growing – tomatoes, eggplant, peppers both sweet & hot, and lots of different herbs …

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The details of our CSA (community supported agriculture) program for 2014 are finalized and posted here on our blog.

Here are some pictures to remind us of last season, and what we are looking forward to …

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Remember - 1st CSA pick up is in 2 1/2 months!

So, what do you do all winter?

There’s a story my father used to tell, a true story that he never got tired of repeating.

Two elderly women came to the farm to buy some peaches. They were standing and admiring the orchards when Dad overheard one gush to the other, “Oh Ethel, can you imagine what it would be like to live on a fruit farm? For 2 months you get to eat all the fruit you want, and the rest of the year you can be in Florida!”

I think of this story when people ask, “So, what do you do all winter?”

This question we hear most frequently in fall when the customers at our farmers’ markets are saying good-bye for the season, or on the last day of CSA pick-up. But we get the question throughout the winter as well.

It’s a fair & reasonable question.

But there isn’t an easy answer, at least not a short & quick answer. My stock answer that I give is as follows … I prune the fruit trees, I maintain & fix equipment, I catch up on my office chores/book work, and I relax & take it easier.

This winter with all the snow we’ve had and the colder temperatures, not much pruning has been done  - actually I have not even picked up a pair of pruners or my saw. But once the weather breaks and there’s less snow to trudge through, we’ll be out there!

Maintaining & fixing equipment is not a favourite task of mine. I do it – grudgingly – but I don’t enjoy it. Getting dirt on my hands is a pleasure, but grease & oil is something else.

Office work – it never ends! Often it is government paperwork – filling out forms, and keeping up with regulations etc. Far more stimulating is dreaming about and planning for the upcoming season - the what, when, where, why & how of growing, harvesting & marketing. Much of this exercise is completed now & we’re just filling in the details.

I’m getting particularly good at the relaxing & taking it easier part of my answer. What a treat not to get up at 3:30 am to go to market, or even at 6:00 am to work on the farm. And drinking a morning coffee while not being in the truck is way more enjoyable. Cold & snowy outside? Maybe I’ll just stay in and read today …

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I always say that winter is a good time to be a farmer – even if I don’t spend it in Florida!

January

January is a different sort of month here on the farm.

Instead of being filled with action & activity like the other 11 months – i.e. the work of growing, harvesting and marketing our fruit & vegetables – January is a time for dreaming.

We dream about growing, harvesting and marketing our fruit & vegetables.

We dream of what we’ll do differently, and better. We dream about new ways to grow our crops, new crops to grow, how we’ll become more efficient and definitely more profitable, and on and on ….

When I walk around the farm in January, this is what I see …

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but this is what I dream of seeing …

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or this …

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The fruit orchards look like this …

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but I picture them like this …

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While the blackberry canes look barren & cold …

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I dream of an abundance of berries …

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We also dream about the sunshine & hot weather – and this year we experienced it in January – in Cuba!

Our son Darren married Katie there, and we enjoyed 7 glorious days of warmth and sunshine. It’s not often that we get to relax and not work when the weather is warm, so we made the most of it!

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Merry Christmas!

I love the snow!

As welcome as a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night, the snow protects the fruit tree roots. It will provide moisture for the farm when it melts.

And of course snow is beautiful! It covers all the flaws – the weeds, the messes, the junk … and transforms everything into a clean, white, wonderland. Admittedly, I don’t have to battle snowy, slippery roads to get to work each day.

The ice storm on the week-end was also beautiful. While extremely damaging & dangerous for many, it did transform the farm into a work of art.

Here are some pictures of the farm during the past few weeks – in all kinds of weather …

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Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

from all of us at Thiessen Farms

Fall work

It worked out good.

Saturday afternoon as I was spreading the last of the manure,  the first of the snow arrived – a few minutes of intense flurries followed by sunshine, then more flurries - a reminder that fall was about over and winter was arriving.

The good part was that I finished spreading the manure and thus finished the last of the big fall jobs here on the farm.

It has been a full November.

After markets were over at the end of October, we concentrated on cleaning up the farm and getting it ready for winter.

The first job was cleaning up whatever vegetables were left. Most could just be mowed down and the ground worked up. Tomatoes were more work as we had to remove the string, yank the bamboo stakes, and pull the steel posts (with the tractor). Then they were mowed and disced under.

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The only vegetables remaining in the fields now are a few rows of kale and some swiss chard. (We used some fresh kale in our lasagna tonight!)

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Next we removed almost 300 peach trees. Because peach trees only last a dozen years or so, we remove a percentage of our trees each fall & each spring we plant new ones. This way we maintain a healthy & productive orchard. Not all 300 trees will be replaced next spring though – we are downsizing our peach orchard slightly and using the ground for more vegetables for our CSA.
Twenty four cherry trees also hit the dirt. These will definitely not be replaced! With weather becoming more uncertain, a good harvest of quality cherries seems to happen less frequently – in other words, we’ve tired of losing money and getting stressed by this crop. The land will be better used for other things.

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After we cut down the trees, a backhoe pulled the stumps.

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We gathered roots, then plowed the ground and gathered roots again. Some of the cherry trees were more than 50 years old – they had a lot of big roots!

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The tree branches, stumps & roots were burned. Because there were so many windy days this month it was difficult to burn safely. In the end we put a lot of the stumps in a windrow and will burn them later.

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Trees gone, roots pulled, and ground smoothed.

The last major task of the fall was to spread manure, lime, compost & leaves – on the open ground & throughout the orchards. Manure & lime are trucked in. Leaves & grass clippings are dumped all season by a lawn care business – they get a free place to dump their waste, and we get lots of good stuff to feed the soil!

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And so it was the final few heaps of manure I was spreading on Saturday when the reminder of winter fell from the sky. This week – still lots of odd jobs, mostly small tasks that need to get done. We won’t run out of work just yet.

But the weather is colder, and the first seed catalogues have already come in the mail … It’s must almost be time to light a fire in the wood stove, put on the coffee and start dreaming planning for next season.

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