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CSA 2017 – Week 4

Once again we found ourselves looking up at the skies today.

This afternoon, Amy was in the tomato patch, suckering & tying. I was transplanting lettuce seedlings into the field. But both of us were eyeing the clouds, marvelling at the lightning and listening to the thunder.

Mostly it seemed to be going north, over the lake …

Towards the south all looked clear …

But to the west the storm was building and approaching …

When the lightning got too close for comfort, we headed in to the barn and worked there.

The storm began with a bit of rain which quickly increased in intensity & then turned to hail. The hail lasted 8 minutes (we timed it) and was the size of peas, even large peas! Looking out the barn door, we could see it build up on the ground.

Hail is always an unwelcome event. It can cause a lot of damage, even devastation in a short time. What makes hail particularly cruel is that it usually happens in the summer when crops are ready or almost ready for harvest. It can also be very local and ruin one farm & leave surrounding farms untouched. Hail does not play fair!

Today’s hail appears to have been widespread in our area & caused varying degrees of damage. Some farms in our neighbourhood are reported to be wiped out. We were fortunate and seem to have experienced less damage – mainly rips & holes in leaves. While this will make the vegetable plants more susceptible to disease we think most will be okay. But we will find out the full extent of the damage when we harvest for CSA tomorrow.

After the storm the skies continued to awe.

What’s in the box?

Beets, broccoli/zucchini, snow peas, lettuce,

spinach, garlic scapes, green onions.

  • The first of the red beets will be in your share this week. They will be baby beets, quite small, but very tender & sweet. Enjoy!
  • We are picking broccoli (in fact last Friday’s pick-up got a surprise of broccoli in their box!) & zucchini – but not a lot of either. Depending on how the picking goes tomorrow, each share will have a choice of broccoli or zucchini but probably not both. We’ll see what happens for Friday?
  • This is likely the last week for snow peas. Unfortunately they never last long.
  • Lettuce, spinach, garlic scapes & green onions will all be part of your CSA share again. Remember to wash, dry, & bag them and store them in the refrigerator.

 

Here’s last week’s box.

 

 

 


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CSA 2017 – Week 3

The skies over the farm were beautiful again this evening.

We were hoping the dark clouds contained some rain for us. The hot temperatures we’ve had & the strong winds have really dried out the soil & the vegetables.

Sure enough, a good rain of about 10mm fell, refreshing the ground & the crops.

What’s in the box?

Snow peas, kohlrabi, salad turnips, garlic scapes, green onions & lettuce.

  • Fresh snow peas are always a favourite – perhaps because they are never around too long. Often we get 3 plantings in the ground to try to extend the season. This year we managed only 2. And both plantings are ready at almost the same time. So it will be a short season again! Enjoy your snow peas raw, steamed or stir-fried – but cook them only briefly to preserve the colour, flavour & texture.
  • Kohlrabi is a strange-looking vegetable – sort of like a cross between a little cabbage and a turnip. It is usually considered a root vegetable, though the edible round globe grows above ground.Kohlrabi is usually eaten raw – just peeled & sliced. The taste & texture resembles fresh, crunchy broccoli stems, with a bit of radish thrown in. Use on raw vegetable platters and serve with a creamy dip. Grated kohlrabi can be added to slaws. Kohlrabi can also be steamed or boiled but don’t peel until after they are cooked. When the bulbs are tender, peel skin, and season with butter, salt, and pepper, a cheese sauce, or just enjoy plain. They are good for mashing with other vegetables – parsnips, carrots or potatoes. Kohlrabi absorbs the flavour of other ingredients making it ideal to add to soup, stew and stir-fries. If the leaves attached to the kohlrabi bulb are fresh and green, they can be enjoyed as a cooked green. Wash the leaves and remove the ribs. Blanch in boiling water until just wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze excess water from leaves. Chop leaves, then sauté in a little olive oil or butter. Season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of vinegar or squeeze of fresh lemon juice. The bulbs should be stored, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the fridge. They will hold for a week.

Our favourite way to eat kohlrabi (other than raw in slices) is to sautée it in butter & garlic scapes               for just a few minutes. Then add just a dash of nutmeg. Delicious!

  • Salad turnips are small, round, white turnips that resemble radishes, but without the bite – usually! This season, due to the recent heat, the turnips have a similar bite to 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.
  • 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 usual recipe for garlic scape pesto which is quite popular.
  • The first onions of the season are green onions, also called bunching onions or scallions. Use the whole thing – the green leaves & the small, bottom white bulb.
  • Enjoy more lettuce in your share again this week.

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.

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Here’s something to look forward to…

Our blackberries came through the winter healthy & well. The canes are in bloom now, and full of bees. We anticipate a good crop of these dark, juicy, delicious berries – starting in early August.


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CSA 2017 – Week 2

Monday mornings are always a surprise.

Because we do not work on Sundays (other than making sure the chickens have fresh water & enough food, and watering the seedlings & pots of vegetables in the greenhouse & around the yard), I usually don’t go out on the farm that day. In fact I try not to even think about the farm on Sunday (a day of rest means a day of rest!).

And so on Monday it’s always a surprise to see how much the vegetables have grown, especially this time of year. You wouldn’t think 1 day would show such a difference, but it does.

These 2 rows of beans, for example, were hardly starting to poke through the ground on Saturday. Today they’re all up.

The broccoli is starting to form heads & the green onions are almost ready.

Snow peas are not only blooming – but there are little pea pods hanging thick on the vines.

The zucchini that we planted on black plastic & under row covers also has tiny fruit – almost ready.

The kohlrabi stems are swelling & forming their turnip-like bottoms.

Some surprises were not good!

The fava beans are covered with black aphids, perhaps enough to cause damage.

Something continues to chew on the broccoli stems – both the small, new plantings as well as the larger plants.

And of course the weeds! How they grow! Everywhere we look, there is a carpet of green magically appearing.

But the onions got weeded today. Now they look great!

We’re starting to mulch the tomatoes. The straw will keep the weeds in check, hold the moisture in the ground & keep the tomatoes cleaner.

This year we are experimenting with ground cover. This black, woven plastic fabric allows some water in, but should keep the weeds from growing. Eggplant & peppers are planted here as they should benefit from the extra warm soil that the black covering provides.

What’s in the box?

Green garlic, arugula, pea shoots, lettuce, spinach, radishes.

  • Green garlic is a young garlic plant harvested now – in spring before the large garlic bulb has formed. It resembles a scallion or green onion – lots of flat green leaves with a very small bulb at the bottom. Green garlic is milder than fall garlic bulbs. Use them raw (eg. sliced into salads or mashed with goat cheese for a spread) or cooked (sautéed with scrambled eggs)  anywhere you would use garlic. They are also delicious coated with olive oil & tossed whole on the barbecue. Store green garlic in the fridge.
  • Arugula is a spicy salad green. It adds quite a punch to a spring salad, so use it with caution. Arugula makes a very flavourful salad all on it’s own. We also like it in sandwiches in place of lettuce.
  • The box of pea shoots in your share this week is meant to be eaten – not planted!  Place the box outside in partial shade or inside near a window. Keep them well watered & use as needed. Simply cut what you need and add them to your salad or sandwiches. Let them reach about 10-12 cm. Then cut them about half way down, leaving stem & some leaves. They will grow back – slowly – and you can harvest them again. Cutting them all the way down at soil level gives a larger harvest – but only once.
  • Enjoy more spinach & radishes & lettuce again this week. The lettuce may be the same salad mix as last week, or lettuce heads and the radishes might pack a bigger bite due to the heat. Remember that all greens have been rinsed once. You will want to wash them more thoroughly & then store in the fridge.

 

Here is a picture of last week’s share.

Please remember to bring your box back each week to hold your fresh vegetables!


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CSA 2017 – Week 1

Thursday 25 May – Our 1st farmers’ market of 2017, North York. The weather – lots of rain all day, very windy, and cold. The results – just enough sales to pay for our gas & our coffee, but not wages … (lots of time to take pictures though!)

Thursday 1 June – Our 2nd farmers’ market of the season, North York. The weather – no rain, but extremely windy, and cold. The results – pretty good sales …  (but no pictures – we were too busy hanging on to our tent to keep it from blowing away!)

Saturday 3 June – Our 3rd farmers’ market of the season, downtown Georgetown. The weather – sunny, no wind, and warm. The results – excellent sales … (but no pictures – we were too busy serving the crowds of customers!)

Tuesday 6 June & Friday 9 June – Our first week of CSA for the season. The weather – chance of showers both days. The results – we already know that our CSA members will be here, excited to pick up the first vegetables of the season. And we’re excited too – excited to see our friends again from other years, and to meet the many new CSA members that are joining us for the first time.

With both markets running, and now our CSA too, the rhythm of the season has begun. Planting, weeding, harvesting, marketing … these will be our main activities for the next 5 months.

We’re ready!

What’s in the box?

Lettuce mix, spinach, bok choy, radishes & rhubarb.

  • Lettuce & spinach – it’s salad time! We will have rinsed it once to remove most of the field soil. You will want to wash it a bit more thoroughly, bag it & store it in the refrigerator.
  • Bok choy grows best when the weather stays constant & a bit cool. When temperatures fluctuate bok choy can quickly go to flower. That’s the story of our spring this year, so your bok choy is a colourful mix of green leaves & yellow flowers. These flowers are beautiful & totally edible along with the green leaves. Flowering bok choy might be less tender though. The simplest way to cook bok choy is to stir-fry it in sesame oil. Or include it in your favourite stir-fry recipe. We will have washed the bok choy once – it will probably need additional washing.
  • Yes, the radishes are big! They could easily have been harvested last week – but nothing else was ready. They are plenty hot too! Soaking them in ice-cold water for 20 minutes will cut some of the sharpness & also make them crisper. Add them to the lettuce & spinach salad. For something different, try roasting the radishes in the oven – see recipe suggestion below.
  • Who remembers munching on raw rhubarb as a child? Now, I prefer my rhubarb in a pie. There will be enough rhubarb in your share this week to make a pie. Or, make a crisp – much quicker & easier and almost as good!

ROASTED RADISHES

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 – 2 bunches medium radishes
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
    • Coarse kosher salt
    • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
    • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

PREPARATION

    1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Cut off all but 1/2 inch of green radish tops; reserve trimmed tops and rinse them well, checking for grit. Coarsely chop radish tops and set aside. Cut radishes lengthwise in half and place in medium bowl. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and toss thoroughly to coat. Place radishes, cut side down, on prepared baking sheet; sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. Roast until radishes are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes. Season to taste with more coarse kosher salt, if desired.
    2. Melt butter in heavy small skillet over medium-high heat. Add pinch of coarse kosher salt to skillet and cook until butter browns, swirling skillet frequently to keep butter solids from burning, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in fresh lemon juice.
    3. Transfer roasted radishes to warmed shallow serving bowl and drizzle brown butter over. Sprinkle with chopped radish tops and serve.
Per serving: 101 calories, 11 g fat, 0.4 g fiber  (from epicurious.com)

Aunt Elvira’s Fruit Crisp

Cut up rhubarb (or any fruit) and half fill a pie plate.

Mix together …

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup flour

¼ cup rolled oats

½ tsp cinnamon

3 TB butter

(adjust the amounts to suit your preferences)

Cover fruit with this mixture.

Bake for approx. 12 minutes in the microwave.

(We sometimes bake it in the oven – 350 F for approx. 30 minutes. The topping gets crispier & browner)


The farm this week …

Tomatoes are planted!

 

 

 


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The view from here

This is the view we have while sitting at our kitchen table eating our meals – the beginning of our farm, along with the road out front & the railroad tracks in the background.

It’s much the same view I’ve had my entire life – except the crops have changed through the years.

When I was growing up, this area was a sour cherry orchard. I remember massive old trees covered in white blossoms in spring and bright red, tart cherries in early summer. When the crop was off we would play in the trees. These cherries were eventually replaced by peach trees, then another peach orchard, followed by raspberries these last 20+ years. When most of the raspberry canes succumbed to the drought last summer, we yanked them out.

Now our view is vegetables – the first vegetable crops of the season. Daily we can see change as the plants grow & the green rows become more visible from our window.

Going outside & looking from the train tracks back towards the house, we can see more. Along with the peas, lettuce & spinach …

… there is kale, beets, more onions, kohlrabi, cauliflower, & broccoli.

Sowings of arugula, more spinach & lettuce are just germinating after this last rain on the weekend.

A closer look at the vegetables reveals their beautiful colours & shapes!

We are trying more intercropping this year. Our head lettuce is planted between our cauliflower plants. The idea is that the lettuce will mature, be harvested & gone by the time the cauliflower has grown big enough to need all the space.

Our green onions are growing between the broccoli plants with the same plan. But this combination might be a mistake, as the onions may not be out of the way before the broccoli has filled in. Guess we’ll find out! (Looks good right now though.)

Overall, our view of the vegetable gardens – from the kitchen table, or outside, or close up – is a beautiful sight! And we are enjoying it very much.

But even better will be eating these vegetables … soon!!

 

 


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This week on the farm …

As the temperatures outside increase, so does our work.

Here are some of the things that kept us occupied this week …

We spread a lot of straw! All the raspberries & blackberries got mulched with straw. The purpose of this is to control the weeds & preserve moisture. Often we use hay but last year’s drought caused a scarcity of hay. Straw works just as well and it looks fresh & clean too!

The berries are leafing out quickly now. Raspberries will be in short supply on our farm this summer. Most of our patch didn’t make it through the drought. We are replanting but the new canes will take a few years to reach full production. The raspberries that survived look short, but healthy.

The blackberries are looking good & we anticipate a great crop!

The rhubarb & currants also got a layer of straw tucked around them.

In the small greenhouse we continue to seed.

A part of each day is spent in the big hoophouse transplanting vegetables & herbs.

Usually Amy has a helper!

Already some vegetables are outside on the trailer, getting acclimatized to the outdoor temperatures & bright sunshine. They’re on the trailer so we can drive them in the barn when the nights are cold.

Next week these onions, broccoli, cauliflower & zucchini will be planted out into the field.

The garlic, that we planted last October has come up & is growing well. It also has been mulched with straw (back in December) so we won’t have to worry about weeding it. We still have a lot of round bales of straw which will be used later to mulch tomatoes, peppers, eggplant …

Our first 2 plantings of snow peas are up in the field as are spinach & lettuce.

This picture shows the black occultation tarp in the background (see previous blog post).

In the low, white tunnels (plastic hoops covered with row cover, a fabric made of plastic filaments) we have seeded radishes & bok choy. The row cover acts like a mini-greenhouse enhancing the growing conditions inside – warming the air during the day, protecting from frost at night, and also acting as a barrier to hungry insects that are as anxious for fresh greens as we are! Crops grown under row covers can mature up to a week or 10 days sooner.

The black plastic mulch on the left in the picture was laid this week to warm the soil underneath. Next week we will punch holes in it, and transplant our zucchini seedlings. Then we’ll cover it with row cover as well. The goal is to get an earlier harvest of zucchini.

We are not usually keen to use a lot of plastic on the farm because of the waste & disposal issues. But the weed tarp & hoops can be used for many years, the row cover several times, and the black mulch is actually a biodegradable corn product.

Is the use of these materials & the extra work involved worth it? We’ll find out at harvest!

However, Oliver already gives a big paws up to the row cover!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Occultation

Here at Thiessen Farms we are now practising occultation.

Sounds a little ominous or even sinister, doesn’t it?

But don’t worry – occultation is really just a method of preparing the soil. Nothing mysterious about it!

The word occultation is most often used in the context of astronomy – when a celestial object is hidden from view by another celestial object. Think solar eclipse as an example.

On the farm, occultation means using a tarp to hide the sun – from the weeds. The ground is covered with a dark tarp for a period of time. The warmth under the tarp causes weed seeds to readily germinate, but the lack of sunlight then kills them. After a few weeks (or longer, depending on the temperatures) the tarp is removed and the ground is (mostly) weed-free & ready to be planted. It is a way to get the ground ready for growing crops without the use of herbicide or tillage.

Occultation is becoming more common & many growers have had favourable results with it.

So we are giving it a try. Here’s what it looks like on our farm …

We covered a piece of ground with a heavy black plastic tarp and held it down by laying steel grape posts around the perimeter, along with some soil filled bags. Apparently that was not enough! All was good – for 1 day. When the winds picked up, so did our tarp! Let’s just say that a 24′ x 100′ heavy tarp becomes quite a sail on a windy day. The next calm day we tried again, but added more bags & covered the edges of the tarp with soil so the winds could not get underneath to lift it. We have had some pretty strong winds since, but so far so good! We plan to leave the tarp down for maybe 6 weeks or more. Then we will remove it & plant vegetables – maybe even carrots. (Carrots are the bane of our farm & we haven’t grown them for more than a few years – good carrots require weed-free conditions, something we have not been able to provide. But our customers want them & we would like to offer them in our CSA shares.)

We ‘ll keep you posted on the results of our venture into the world of occultation.

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More signs of spring on the farm …