from all of us at Thiessen Farms
Hot off the presses, the 2017 seed catalogues are starting to arrive.
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.com) Originally 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!
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 …
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
A young apple orchard.
We stopped at several wineries – to enjoy the views even more than the wine!
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!
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 …
Our rose-bush is blooming again. Delicate pink flowers against a background of dark orange rose hips. It’s beautiful!
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.
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!
It’s a beautiful time of year on the farm too! The leaves are turning colour.
This is it!
We’ve reached the final week of our CSA for this season.
It’s no secret that this has been a challenging year. Drought, heat, humidity … all worked together to make it a difficult year for growing (though most farmers would agree that a drought is still better than too much rain).
However, with a lot of effort, a lot of watering, and a lot of encouragement & support from our CSA members, we succeeded in providing a box of fresh produce each week for 17 weeks. While the quantity of vegetables in the boxes was sometimes smaller & the variety of produce was less than we had planned for, both quality & taste were good.
You have made it a great season for us!
Last week’s CSA pick-up.
While CSA might be over, our season continues. We are still harvesting crops – albeit in smaller quantities now, including radishes, beets, bok choy, cabbage, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, beans, peppers, eggplant and of course squash. While not enough for CSA, there is enough to make a nice display at the farmers’ markets which run for much of October yet.
The tomatoes are looking weary & wild.
The final planting of lettuce & greens are growing nicely.
(we’ll send sign-up details for CSA 2017 early in the new year.)
Our customers at the farmers’ markets keep asking for winter squash. Our CSA members are wondering too. When will squash be ready?
… It’s ready!
Most of it has been ready for a while.
But we have not been ready. The warmer weather of late & the timely rains have kept the summer crops producing – we’re still busy picking other things. Plus, it just doesn’t seem right to be picking winter squash when it’s so warm (even hot) outside.
But perhaps the biggest reason we have not begun to pick squash is
fear uncertainty. We transplanted the squash into the field way back in June. We weeded & watered several times and then turned our backs on it, busy with other vegetables. Many squash plants died in the drought. Then the weeds came & overtook the plot. We avoided the squash field all summer, turning our faces away whenever we passed by. Would there even be anything worthwhile in there to pick?
Finally last week we found the courage to venture into the thicket. Surprise surprise! There is some really nice squash – not a large crop but probably ample. While we started with 29 varieties there are considerably fewer remaining, but still a good selection.
And so today we started the harvest. There will be winter squash for our CSA this week as well as the farmers’ markets.