Keep updated on all that is happening around Thiessen Farms!


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Meet Sage …

Introducing Sage, the newest member of the team here at Thiessen Farms.

Sage came to the farm a couple of weeks ago and quickly stole our hearts! Technically she belongs to Amy which means Amy has all work & expense & time & trouble … of training her and ensuring that she grows up to become a useful member of the farm.

The rest of us get to simply enjoy her!

Sage’s mother is a Bernese Mountain dog and the father is unknown. Her paws indicate that she will likely be a good size dog. Sage appears to be quite intelligent and has easily learned basic commands. But being a puppy, she also obeys selectively and at her whim. She is loads of fun!

Good pictures are limited as Sage does not prefer to stay still.

She is excited to make friends with the cats. Oliver has reluctantly accepted her & mostly ignores her, but the 2 Flynns want nothing to do with her.

Sage loves the security of her porch. Here she sits and watches the farmyard and all that’s happening.

Sage looks forward to meeting everyone when our CSA program begins later in spring!

 

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Winter eating

An extremely robust squash plant enveloped our compost pile last summer. When the fall frosts killed it, the fruit was revealed …

It resembles a pink banana squash (a variety we have not grown in several years), but who knows! The squash had several smaller siblings which we took to market where they sold quickly. This monster was too big – takes up too much room in the truck, plus a little awkward for someone to lug home on the subway!

So it has been sitting in the barn since fall, waiting …

There are now 2 small, dark spots appearing on the side & the stem end is getting soft. Before it spoils it will have to be eaten – either by us or the chickens. Most likely it will be both us and the chickens. Seems there should be plenty for all! It will be interesting to see what it’s like inside & what it tastes like.

We still have other “fresh” vegetables left in the barn that we are eating. There’s a few assorted squash – mostly butternut, some onions, garlic, a handful of wilted carrots & several large, winter kohlrabi (the same as the kohlrabi we had in the summer, just way, way larger). And tucked into our fridge is a bag with 2 Chinese cabbages.

The onions & garlic are always useful & a welcome part of our meals, but the rest … let’s just admit that we lose our excitement for these roots by the new year. Fortunately we put a lot of vegetables into the freezer last summer including peppers (sweet, hot, & roasted), roasted tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, kale, corn, edamame, squash, and some herbs. We also dried some herbs & hot peppers, made some jam & jarred a whole lot of tomato sauce & salsa. We definitely will not go hungry!

But that doesn’t stop the craving for fresh-from-the-field vegetables. This season’s seeds are arriving in the mail daily. As I unpack the boxes and check the packages I dream of juicy, warm cherry tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, crisp lettuces and even eggplant. They suggest not grocery shopping when you’re hungry. Similarly, it’s not helpful to choose your crops & shop for seeds when you’re desiring fresh food! The result is more seeds, of more varieties, of more vegetables, than we had planned to grow!

It felt good to spend a few hours outside on the farm this week. We finally got the garlic patches mulched with a thick blanket of straw. We prefer to do this when the ground is frozen but without much snow. The straw will then keep the soil frozen throughout the freeze/thaw cycles of our winter and prevent the garlic cloves from heaving & being pushed out of the ground. When spring finally comes and the garlic sprouts & grows, the straw will prevent the weeds from growing too, and competing with the garlic.

We like to stay warm & cozy in the winter – and so does the garlic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The beginning of winter.

And now it is winter! Cold temperatures, biting winds, snow covering the ground …

At least that was the weather last week.

Now we’re back to milder temperatures, melting snow, and slush – normal winter weather for Niagara!

I love it!

After a seemingly endless and mostly pleasant fall, it’s nice to settle into winter. The first snow signaled the end to our outdoor work.

Now we can move inside  …

  • to the office – to catch up on our bookkeeping. This is also the time to review our notes & evaluations of the crops etc that we made all summer and to begin planning for next season. (The seed catalogues have arrived).
  • to the shop – to clean, tidy & organize and begin winter maintenance & building projects.
  • and to the comfy chair to relax, read & perchance to nap even.

 

Seems like everyone has moved inside for the winter!


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No, we don’t miss the peaches!

Rarely does a week goes by that I’m not asked the question – the same question. The wording might be different or it’s asked another way, but it is basically the same question …

Do you miss the fruit?

It has been exactly 2 years now since we removed our fruit orchards – cherries, peaches, apricots, plums, nectarines, pears – to focus on growing vegetables. And people continue to ask about it.

(for a bit of background, check these blog posts from when this happened.  https://thiessenfarms.com/2015/11/11/changes,                      https://thiessenfarms.com/2015/12/21/thiessen-farms-our-new-look, https://thiessenfarms.com/2016/03/03/lost-on-the-farm).

I think what’s often meant by the question is – did we make the right decision? After all, ripping out a few thousand fruit trees, some of which had been in the ground for well over 50 years is a big thing! And once it’s done, there is no going back.

These past 2 years have been difficult & scary!

We always considered vegetables to be a supplement to our tree fruit. Now they have become our main enterprise. That means growing the quantity & quality required to make a living. There are no peaches to fall back on! The first year was extremely dry while this past season was too wet. Both of these were challenging conditions for scaling up production. On the marketing side, we immediately lost many of our CSA members who were there for the fruit. Others tried the new “vegetables only” CSA for a year, found they really missed the fruit and moved on. At the farmers’ market, our customers’ reactions ranged from disappointment to anger. Not a market day has passed in these 2 years that they have not reminded us that our fruit is missed. It continues to be a struggle to regain our customers & their loyalty.

But these past 2 years have also been exciting & fun! After a lifetime of growing tree fruit, it’s been a great change to concentrate on vegetables.

  • The miracle of planting a tiny seed in the soil, watching it sprout and grow, and then harvesting a crop in as little as a few weeks – that never gets old for me!
  • I like that every year is a fresh start. We can grow the same vegetables again or try something new. We are not bound by what we grew last year. A few dollars for a pack of seeds and it’s a whole new adventure!
  • If a crop is damaged or lost to insects, disease, weather, even our mistakes … we can replant and try it again. Unlike fruit where there’s only 1 opportunity each year, vegetables offer more chances.
  • Vegetables respond rapidly to their growing environment. Nutrients or the lack of, water (enough, too much or too little), weed pressure, temperature, cultural practises … all have an immediate effect. It’s fascinating to see how we can so quickly influence their growth, and learn to provide optimum conditions for the best vegetables.
  • I enjoy the task of planning and the challenge of timing our seeding & planting to hopefully result in a harvest – the right amount of the right vegetable at the right time… (The fruit trees mostly set their own schedule which we could influence very little).

We are probably working harder physically & mentally now than when we grew fruit. Part of this is because we have fewer workers around to help, & partly because we’re still learning better & more efficient way to do things. But we also work fewer hours, spend more time observing, and take more coffee breaks!

So … do we miss the fruit? Not at all! It was the right decision – a great decision!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Fall

Planting garlic. Late October. Warm weather & sunshine. T-shirts. Beautiful leaves. It doesn’t get any better!

Garlic is always the last thing we plant in the year. Once tucked in the ground it sends out roots & gets established, then waits through the cold winter until the warm spring temperatures return, when it sprouts and grows.

 

This is our last week of farmers’ markets. We finish the season on Thursday 26 at North York. We’re excited to be done!

For the end of October we have an amazing amount of vegetables & herbs to pick for our final market – lettuce, spinach, arugula, radishes, winter radishes, carrots, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, sweet & hot peppers, kale, baby kale, parsley, cilantro, chives and pawpaws. Other crops stored in the barn include squash, baby pumpkins & garlic. And it will work out well – there should be enough of all these for the market and then the fields & the barn should be about empty.

We’re also working at cleaning up the farm. Yesterday we pulled all the posts in the tomato patch & mowed down the plants, and disced lightly. We’ll spread a layer of manure or compost yet, seed cover crop if conditions allow, and this field will be ready for winter.

Other parts of the farm that were cleared earlier & seeded to cover crops are showing new green shoots. We’re pushing ourselves to get the fall clean-up and other work done. The temperatures have been so nice lately that we tend to forget next week is November and cold weather could soon be here.

But until then, we will enjoy this beautiful fall!

 


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Haha Pawpaw!

Back behind the barn, past the chicken house, beside the ditch, is our pawpaw orchard – and by orchard I mean 9 small trees.

Pawpaws are a “tropical fruit” native to North America, growing in the Carolinian forests in Kentucky, Ohio and north to Southern Ontario – around Lake Erie & in the Niagara peninsula. Once popular with indigenous people & early settlers they began to disappear as the woodlands were cleared for farming & development. Now they are considered to be somewhat rare.

I planted our pawpaws about 8 or 9 years ago, mostly on a whim. Reading a nursery catalogue, I came upon the description …

This unusual small native pawpaw tree is not only strikingly ornamental with its delicate purple blooms in the spring and its long drooping leaves, but it produces clusters of custard-like oval fruits that ripen in the fall. The trees are insect and disease resistant. The leaves and twigs have anti-oxidant properties as well as insecticidal uses. (www.grimonut.com)

So I immediately ordered 10 seedlings without much thought or planning. When they arrived in spring I had to find a place to plant them. Back behind the barn, past the chicken house … seemed like a good spot.

They struggled to survive as pawpaws are difficult to transplant. And being out of sight (back behind the barn …) they were neglected. But 9 grew and became lovely small trees, about 8-10′ tall now. They have produced a few fruit in the last couple of years – just enough for us to devour & enjoy!

The spring blossoms are indeed beautiful – a dark bronzy/purple colour.

This year’s crop of pawpaws is larger. They are hanging thick on the trees.

Some hang singly, but most are in flat clusters of about 5 fruit. They bruise easily, have an extremely short shelf life, ripen unevenly, vary greatly in size and tend to drop readily. For these reasons they will never be a commercially viable crop.

But the taste – the taste is heavenly! Distinctly tropical like a banana/mango/pineapple with a soft, mushy, custard-like texture. I slice them in half & scoop out the delicious flesh with a spoon. Each fruit has a lot of large, hard seeds.

This year we finally have enough pawpaws to take to market. The first couple of baskets came to North York with us yesterday. People loved them! They were snapped up in a hurry! We will have a very few more for the final Georgetown market tomorrow.

It’s fun to grow an uncommon & unusual fruit like pawpaws. It’s even more fun to eat them!

If anyone’s looking for me, I’ll be back behind the barn, past the chicken house, beside the ditch in our pawpaw orchard – slurping on delicious pawpaws!

 

 

 

 


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CSA 2017 – Final week!

This is it!

The final week of CSA for 2017.

Thank you for giving us the privilege of growing your food this season, and for placing your trust in us & our farming. We appreciate it!

Thank you for all your encouragement, comments & critique!

What’s in the box?

Salad turnips, leeks, squash, carrots, peppers, onions, garlic, baby kale.

  • A new planting of salad turnips is ready – just in time! Remember them from earlier in the season? They are white, small, & round, resembling radishes. 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.
  • We grew leeks several years ago – and vowed we would not grow them again! But we did! To end up with thick, long, white leeks requires a lot of work & technique. We didn’t do that! We grew them like onions to see what would happen. The results are acceptable (not amazing) – smaller, white leeks that will make a terrific soup.

  • As we mentioned in last weeks newsletter, the squash crop is poor this year. Many farmers around the province are experiencing the same. The wet weather earlier in the season meant poor pollination and a light crop. There will be another squash in your share this week – a small squash.
  • Your final box of this season will also include carrots, peppers, onions, garlic & baby kale.

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While our CSA might be coming to an end, our farmers’ markets continue – Georgetown for 2 more weeks until 14 October, and North York right until the end of the month, October 26.

Much of the farm is looking empty …

and increasingly so, as we mow down the crops that are finished. But the warmer, sunny days have brought out a lot of bees & insects, so I have left a lot of the late-blooming weeds, wildflowers & even vegetables to give them a source of food.

There are still vegetables growing for our markets …

… and weeds too!

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Thank you for being part of our CSA this season.

We hope you enjoyed the taste, variety & surprise of a new box of fresh vegetables each week! 

Thank you for making the commitment to drive to our farm each week to pick up your box, and the commitment to then use the vegetables (including the less familiar & perhaps less liked ones).

See you again next year!