Thiessen Farms

Keep updated on all that is happening around Thiessen Farms!


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Crop planning & choosing seeds

 

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Brad’s Atomic Grape Tomato

“Elongated cherries in clusters. The color (and flavor!) is a full-blown assault on the senses – lavender and purple stripes when immature, turning to technicolor olive-green, red, and brown/blue stripes when fully ripe. Really wild! … this amazing variety a good candidate for market growers …” (from http://www.rareseeds.com)

When we saw this new tomato in a seed catalogue it immediately became a must grow variety for Thiessen Farms in 2017. It looks & sounds amazing!

And when we found seed for the hottest-of-hot peppers – Ghost, Carolina Reaper & Trinidad Scorpion – there was no doubt that they would be on the list too, along with Glass Gem corn, Superschmelz kohlrabi and Golden Wa Wa cabbage.

I’ll admit it. We’re suckers for a cool sounding name & a fancy description. That’s why our seed list has grown to more than 450 varieties of 60+ different vegetables & herbs. But it’s really a cheap thrill. For a few bucks we get to try something new. Sometimes it will turn out great & become a favourite. Other times it’s a disappointment & we never grow it again. But it’s always fun experimenting!

The first week in January is always seed ordering time. We pour over the seed catalogues devouring the particulars of all the vegetables, herbs & flowers, choosing the varieties we will grow in the upcoming season. The selection of seeds is overwhelming making it a delightful yet daunting task.

Here’s how we make our choices …

  • We know what we grew in previous years. We keep a master list – a spreadsheet that names each crop & variety we grew last season, the amount of seed we have on hand, the year purchased, the company it came from, and the number of days from seeding until harvest. This gives us someplace to start. When the seeds are ordered, all this data is updated & any new varieties are added and those we will not be growing are eliminated.
  • We keep good records – an awful lot of records. We have a chart where we record every seed we sow in the greenhouse – the date we seeded, the amount, the date the first seeds poked up through the soil, the date we transplanted them & how many, and a spot for random comments. We have more charts where we record everything that gets planted out in the fields – whether it is direct seeded or transplanted from the greenhouse, the variety, the amount, the date. Throughout the growing season we make written notes – both quick observations that we jotted down on the run and more formal evaluations of the different vegetables and how they grew, and produced, their yields, taste, plant health … Photographs are also very helpful for this & so easy to take with cellphones. We find these records invaluable & refer back to them often.
  • We look to our customers for information – what crops sold well & which ones did not, what caught the customers attention, what vegetables are they asking for … We have more charts. For each day at the farmers’ market we record what we brought, how much we sold, the prices & the weather for the day. There are similar charts for each CSA pick-up. These give us a clear picture of what to grow & how much based on actual sales.
  • What would be fun & interesting to grow! We always try to grow something new that we have not done before. Recent examples include kalettes (https://thiessenfarms.com/2016/12/12/kalettes-anyone/), caulifower (https://thiessenfarms.com/2016/01/24/cauliflower-is-big-news/), artichokes & fava beans. 

The seeds are arriving almost daily now, close to 500 packets of seeds – different sized envelopes, some paper, some foil, even a cloth bag or two, and at least one larger 25 pound sack (snow peas). Add in any leftover seeds from other years, various jars of seed that I saved myself, and we end up with well over 600 different containers of seeds.

That’s a lot of seed to deal with & to keep organized!

Proper storage is necessary to keep the seeds viable – cool & dry being the most important conditions. We keep the seeds in our workshop in small, plastic shoe boxes. A label on the lid notes what seeds are inside. These plastic boxes are then stored in larger plastic bins all with secure lids. This keeps them dry, clean & safe from curious animals (ie cats, or even mice – in case the cats are not doing their job!).

And there the seeds wait until it’s time to plant them.

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The fields are waiting too.

 

 

 

 


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CSA 2017

I’m getting hungry – hungry for fresh produce. Our own fresh produce!

Yesterday I used the final Chinese cabbage from last season. It was still crisp & delicious inside! We are still eating garlic, onions & winter squash too.

But I’m craving a fresh tomato, or eggplant … zucchini …

The fresh vegetables are still some months away, but we are busy planning for the upcoming growing season.

We are now accepting applications for our 2017 CSA program. All the information & the application form are available on this site or email us at thefarm@thiessenfarms.com. Please consider joining us!

Here are a few pictures of last years CSA boxes to remind us of what is to come …

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Kalettes anyone?

Hot off the presses, the 2017 seed catalogues are starting to arrive.

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That means it’s time to start planning for next season – already!

Most of these catalogues have a page or two at the front featuring new varieties of vegetables, herbs & flowers – perhaps a tomato that isn’t supposed to crack, an easier to pick green bean, or a new colour of zinnia … Glossy pictures & grand descriptions are used to try & entice us to grow the latest & greatest. And sometimes it works and we’ll try a new variety, especially if it promises some improvements that might be beneficial – maybe a lettuce that won’t go bitter as quickly in the heat, a zucchini that’s more disease resistant, peppers that turn red sooner …

But it is not often that an entirely new vegetable is offered – something that has not been seen before.

Almost 20 years ago broccolini was introduced. A cross between broccoli & kai-lan (Chinese broccoli), it featured smaller florets & longer, thinner stalks. We grow this great vegetable and it is very popular at our markets.

Now there are kalettes!

Kalettes were bred by a British company who worked for 15 years using traditional breeding techniques (not genetic modification) to come up with this cross between kale & brussels sprouts. “The result is a truly new vegetable with fantastic flavor which combines the best flavors from brussels sprouts and kale, resulting in a fresh fusion of sweet and nutty.” (from http://www.kalettes.comOriginally called flower sprouts in Britain, they were rebranded as kalettes for North America due to the popularity of kale. The seeds were first available here in 2015.

We grew them this past season for Chef Justin at Vineland Estates Winery Restaurant. The plants were impressive, growing tall & vigorous even during the extreme heat & drought of summer 2016. (We did not water them). Similar to a brussels sprouts plant, kalettes have a single, thick stalk about 3′ tall or more, with heavy, waxy leaves growing from it. We planted them in early spring but not until late summer did we see small buds growing at the junction of the leaf & the stalk. It took until fall for the bouquets of miniature kale to appear. A rich green with pink/purple veins, they were certainly beautiful!

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Kalettes can be eaten raw or stir fried, sautéed, roasted, or grilled. The flavour is milder than brussels sprouts & the frilly leaves are more tender than kale. They are very nutritious – especially high in vitamins C & K.

Will we grow kalettes again?

I hope not! The plants are large & take up a lot of space for a long season. They are slow & difficult to pick & the harvest is small. So many other crops could be grown that would be quicker to mature, easier to harvest & more profitable.

However, one season is not enough to make an accurate assessment of a crop … Plus, it’s exciting to grow a new vegetable … And Chef Justin did like them …

Kalettes anyone!?


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Orange is the new blue

It was not totally unexpected.

The tractor was old & ailing. Addicted to ether, it wouldn’t start without a shot or 2 (or 3 or …) of the smelly stuff. Once running, it spewed so much smoke from the exhaust & from the engine that I could hardly see to drive. And how it leaked oil – from everywhere and all the time.

But the end was sudden – a sputter & then it stopped. I sensed that it was final. Our mechanic came by, checked it over & confirmed that the tractor was finished. It had served us well for 35 years.

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The replacement has arrived – a brand new tractor that is nothing like the old one. It is smaller & less powerful, but quicker & more nimble, easier to drive, and most importantly everything works!

But the biggest difference? It’s orange instead of blue.

 

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Any new tractor we have ever purchased (there’s been 4 or 5 in the 70 years our farm has been around) has been blue. Until now. Our neighbourhood seems to be turning orange when it comes to tractors, so who are we to buck the trend! But actually they supposed to be an excellent tractor & it seemed to best fit our needs on the farm now & for the future.

I’ve been breaking it in spreading manure & compost these last few days. So far so good!

Here’s hoping for 35 years of good, dependable service from an orange tractor!

 


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Going west

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not much for traveling. Sure there’s a whole world out there, but I’m content to let someone else explore it. Someone needs to stay at home and keep things going – I’d rather be that person!

However, 30 years of marriage warrants a celebration – a trip – or so I was told.

When markets finished at the end of October, Lorie & I caught a flight to Calgary. From there we drove through the Rockies to Vancouver to see our son & daughter-in-law. Then back to Alberta to visit with my brother & sister-in-law. It was great to see family & to visit Vancouver for the first time.

But a highlight of the trip for me was touring around the Okanogan Valley in BC. It was amazing to see farms clinging to the hillsides – fruit orchards & vineyards. Who would dare to climb a ladder to pick cherries when the ground is so steep? And who could even concentrate on work when the views are so stunning?

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Cherries are a big crop. The orchards are huge – the farm we visited was around 50 acres of sweet cherries. Others are much larger.  The trees are planted very close together. Because this area is so dry there is far less disease pressure than we experience here in humid Niagara. As a result the cherries are top quality and extremely big & firm. Most of the crop is exported to Asia with only the smaller fruit – which are still usually bigger then our cherries – sold locally.

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A young apple orchard.

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We stopped at several wineries – to enjoy the views even more than the wine!

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Closer to Vancouver, blueberries are the main crop. It’s a poor picture but they looked spectacular in their fall colours of different shades of red. And lots of water standing around – something we didn’t have this summer!

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An amazing background to the farms in Alberta, just west of Calgary near Cochrane.img_8554

It’s always great to check out other farms & see how they do things. We learn a lot & bring back ideas for our own farm.

And after 2 weeks away it’s good to be home.

I’ll admit I enjoyed our trip a lot! I may even do it again sometime …

 

 


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October or …. ?

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Our rose-bush is blooming again. Delicate pink flowers against a background of dark orange rose hips. It’s beautiful!

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Is it October or ….?

Last week we experienced the first frosts of the fall. On 2 nights the temperature approached the freezing mark, but it was not enough to cause much damage.

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Now we have returned to unseasonably warm temperatures. It’s back to shorts & T-shirts again.

And harvesting vegetables! We are still picking peppers (both sweet & hot), lettuce, bok choy, beets, salad turnips, cabbages and even eggplant. It’s great to have fresh vegetables to display at our farmers’ markets. While the Georgetown Market ended last Saturday, Oct.15, our North York Market continues this week & next.

We wondered earlier if we would have produce to sell, but our worries were unfounded – the tables are full & colourful!

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It’s a beautiful time of year on the farm too! The leaves are turning colour.

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If this is October, I’m all for it!